Montessori Inspired Activities and Games for 3-year-olds

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The Montessori method presents such an incredible amount of learning experiences for a child. These experiences are born from a child’s natural desire to explore, curiosity, and passion for the world. I am delighted to share with you what has been happening during our Montessori cycle at home – a classroom I set up for my three-year-old preschooler – A.

May I say that I have never felt so strongly about the benefits of the Montessori method until I started to implement it with my child at home? It is truly magical; it sees the child as a whole, it is incredibly versatile. One of the most satisfying aspects of it – it offers a set of areas, materials, and methodologies that genuinely bring results.

Preschool activities hands-on

Sorting activities teach children to group, compare, gain logical thinking and recognize patterns in real life. Sorting exercises set children for success later in math. Children are naturally attracted to work with sporting activities as they are going through a sensitive period for order. It begins at birth, peaks during toddlerhood, and lasts until around age five. Children learn to organize their thoughts and think orderly. They can use all those gained skills in their everyday life. 

Land and Water activity is a fun discovery for A. Using actual soil and water brought more solid meaning, and understanding and helped her to distinguish the difference when sorting cards better.

land and water sorting cards

Matching pictures to shapes. The shape sorting activity is a fun and attractive challenge for a three-year-old.

Download from the subscriber library and print on cardstock and laminate if needed. Label each group with shapes with a different color or simply draw the corresponding shape on the back of each card.
Place shape cards in a row from left to right and name each shape slowly. Invite your child to trace each shape as you go with their index finger.
Start with only 3 cards per shape or 3 shapes and demonstrate sorting until the child gains understanding and can complete the task independently.  Once sorting is finished, invite him or her to flip the cards and make sure that the color on the back or shape images in each column is all matching.
Invite your child to gather objects from their environment that match different shapes or make “My Book of Shapes” where the child draws objects that match that particular shape.

shapes sorting cards
pin poking cards

Froebel (or push) pinning. I put together 24 pictures for pinning and am happy to share them with you to save you some time. At this stage A uses a big pin which is very handy. It allows you to apply more pressure and keeps pinning precisely on the line. It is an excellent challenge for a child which helps to strengthen their hand and improve fine motor, coordination, and concentration. After A is finished we look together to make sure there are no spaces left between holes and separate the picture from the rest of the paper which she glues into a colored piece of paper. Many prefer to print pictures for Froebel pinning on color paper, to begin with.

Sensorial – the Knobless Cylinders. It is fascinating to see how accurate movements have to be to build a tower with knobless cylinders. We love coming up with different extensions, comparing dimensions, measuring, and sorting cylinders.

a girl building a tower with cylinder blocks
cylinder blocks in three rows

We turned the preposition activity into a game. After working with cards, baskets, and a ball we give each other verbal instructions to place the ball in a different position in relation to the body: “place your ball behind your back”, “place the ball between your eyes”, etc. It is lots of fun.

ball between two baskets

Sandpaper letters with initial sound cards. I created this set of cards. The cards help her to recognize initial sounds and are phonetically assorted. I enjoy teaching my daughter in a home setting which allows more time to learn letters, sounds, and numbers without rushing through them. Tracing letter repetition creates visual and hand motion memory in her brain in preparation for writing.

child looking at cards with pictures that begin with the letter C

The metal inset activity with tracing shapes and drawing continuous lines makes a solid preparation for cursive writing and encourages a child to apply strong pressure on the pencil.

metal inset and picture with lines within the shape

The sandpaper numbers are still in good use here. I prefer not to move further until I am confident A recognizes her numbers 1-9  by heart. When doing a 3-period lesson she claps to practice one-to-one correspondence or counts the matching amount of popsicle sticks.

number cards with sticks below

We use blocks to sort shapes.

wooden shapes in two rows

This is a corresponding game with sticks – creating shapes by looking at a picture. You can download your free copy of the printable here. It gives an opportunity for a child to practice problem-solving and logical thinking.

making shapes with sticks

The geometric solids. We have done the 3-period lesson with shapes many times. Now A is working on recognizing 3D shapes in her environment. Cards from Every Star Is Different are a great help!

3d shapes and cards below

Learning to recognize emotions. Using this activity A is learning to recognize different emotions and learn their names. It is helpful when she has a rough time (or happy time) for her to be able to identify and express what she feels at the moment and communicate her emotions to us.

emotion cards for children

Learning Australian animals. I especially like activities that incorporate objects, because I find it to be a perfect opportunity for engaging in conversation, like talking about the animals, parts of their bodies, their habits, diets, etc.

animals of australia card with figurines

Creating hands-on, life experience is a huge part of what we do.

child feeding a goat
child patting a kangaroo

I hope you can grab some ideas for your classroom or home. If you are interested in downloading any of the printables mentioned in the post, click on the links provided in the descriptions. Some of them are free; some are paid. Links will take you to the printable page where you will be able to read more about them.


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  About Anastasia. Anastasia is a former Early Childhood Teacher and the founder of Montessori Nature, a blog about Montessori - inspired and Nature-based explorations. She taught in a Montessori setting for 10 years and has been practicing the Montessori way of learning and living for the last 20 years. She loves designing engaging educational printables for children. Browse Anastasia's educational resources on Teachers Pay Teachers.

6 thoughts on “Montessori Inspired Activities and Games for 3-year-olds”

  1. Wow! You and your daughter have been busy! So many great activities! I love the sandpaper letter activity and how most of the cards have pink in them (or so it looks in the post). I can not believe how big your little girl is getting!

  2. These are wonderful! I love all of these activities! I'm going to place an order for some 'real' montessori materials soon (instead of all my diy-ing), and this post really gave me some nice inspiration!

    Beautiful works as always 😉

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