Thursday, March 28, 2013

Montessori Manipulatives - Master of manipulation!

It is very important to train the next generation of super-heroes who will open that stubborn bottle of pickles, or jelly.

And even more important, that they co-coordinate their hands and eyes, learn about concentration, and develop their fine motor skills, all while having fun.

I tried to come up with things that will appeal to the super-heroes in training, and will have different kinds of closures - such as simple lids on the boxes and bottles, screw on lids, snap on lids, zippers, drawstring, latches...

Batman zipped through everything, I did not even get in one click. Fortunately, Spiderman took his time :)

We opened and closed an assortment of boxes, bottles, and a few other what nots. Spider-man's favorite were the hermetic jars. Surprisingly, it was the small black netted bag with string closing that was the toughest for him. Maybe it was the tiny black box inside the black bag. The picnic basket was a hit. The handle has to be just at the right position for the lid to stay close. Few of the boxes had surprises waiting for him, to reward him for all his hard work, and to keep him motivated. He loved aligning the hands just so, to close them, and thought the surprise inside was "cute". He loved the smell of sandalwood from the fan inside the green box.

Spiderman also found a sippy cup, and opened and closed that a few times, all the better to spill the water next time if so desired!

After that, we hung some fairy clothes to dry on the wash-line. The clips are kid sized ones, with just enough spring action so as to challenge Spiderman. and went on to some manly work with nuts and bolts.

Batman gave braiding a try.

Water play is always welcome. Big dropper, and then the smaller dropper to transfer the water from one bowl to another.

We then decided to do some pouring with more colored water. Tiny and medium sized pitchers, colored water, and go.

Linked up to:
Tot School Tuesday 


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Toddler Style Montessori Object Boxes

There is no reason why "big kids" like preschoolers and kindergarteners can't play and learn with these, of course, but these are geared more towards toddlers, and beginners. Both my super-heroes still use these for a variety of language work. But they are at a stage where they are more attracted to miniature ones.

Look how small the astronaut and anchor are compared to the wooden apple. I have all 3 and some more for "A", but that is another post :)

Here is a snapshot of what Spiderman played with till 2.5 years or so. You are the best judge of your child. You would know best when to introduce them, and when to graduate from these to something smaller, and more complex! These are all sturdy, does not need delicate handling, can't be swallowed, and can even take some gumming and chewing (mostly!)

A-M Toddler Object box
A - wooden apple
B - ball (from a b'day goody bag)
C - caterpillar (came with the Very Hungry Caterpillar book)
D - wooden duck
E - plastic or wooden egg
F - feather from craft stash
G - glasses from Dollar Store
H - straw hat
I - wooden Iguana
J - jar (of baby food)
K - wooden kangaroo
L - plastic leaf
M - wooden monkey

I started with one object for each letter.  They should be the short sounds for the vowels, and hard sounds for consonants like C or G. C as in cup, not as in city. G as in gum, not as in giraffe.

Once the kiddos know their letters, and are beginning to learn the sounds, you are ready! 

As a side note, both the kiddos learned their letter sounds by watching the Leap Frog Letter Factory DVD!!
They love the catchy song, and I love the painless way they learn the letter sounds. 

The letter cards shown here came with the DVD. These were already familiar to my kids, so I used them. You can let them match uppercase or lowercase letters to the cards, and then introduce one or two object with that sound, or let them choose the object. We also use the sandpaper letters occasionally, so they can trace the letters.

The toddler version of the object box I stored in the cardboard memory boxes, one with the letters A-M (shown here), and the second one with letters N-Z. I would take out a few at a time.

For smaller miniatures, you could use a metal box, like this one, one for every letter, or combine a few and label them.

Storing your miniatures

You will be amazed at how much stuff you already have lying around the house - from every day objects like clip, or spoon or whisk - for sounds ending in -sk, or fake flowers and fruits and veggies, toys, more toys, birthday goody bags, especially the ones that comes from pinata (we got alien, surfboard, maze-tiny plastic ones that don't work very well, but works great for silent e work, fake finger with nails - use it for finger or nail lol, putty, ninjas, rings from cupcakes, tiny erasers....). Raid the dollhouse, or tree-house for more miniatures. Grab a few of their vehicles. I could probably make a whole alphabet object box just with all the transportation themed stuff lying around the house (hmm...).... You just need mindful searching and pilfering...

Linked to Link & Learn, Living Montessori Now, Tuesday Tots, TGIF Linky Party, Show-and-Share Saturday, Weekly Kid's Co-op

Monday, March 18, 2013

Asian Inspired Montessori Pouring and Transferring

It's Raining, It's Pouring....

The super-heroes love new presentations of the same concept, but then, who doesn't? So we added an Asian flavor to our Montessori Pouring and Transferring.  

It was a big hit. If you are doing the rounds of the continents, or visiting certain countries, this could be a great activity for a tie-in.

We started  with India, with water beads in the stainless steel Karahi (Indian version of a wok), and two small steel bowls with lentils/beans. The wobbly water beads require concentration, the beans, not so much.

Indian flavored transferring activity with Karahi and bowls

For pouring, we gathered some ceramic sets. 

Japanese flavored pouring using Sake cups and pot
We had the Sake pot, called tokkuri, and Sake cups from Japan. This is an extension activity, so a good one for kids who have already mastered the basics. We added some blue food coloring for fun. Batman had no spills, and neither did Spiderman. The notch in the Sake cup has to be aligned just so when pouring.

Next was a tea service in a traditional Chinese motif, with tea-pot and the cups being just the right size for small hands. Pouring from the tea pot needs extra care, as you have to place a finger on the lid to keep it in place, making it a bit more challenging. There were quite a few drips with Spider-man, although no spills. Batman did a perfect job.

We finished it with some play food from Japan and China, and chopsticks.

Transferring with Dimsums and Chopsticks
Montessori Transferring with a chopstick

The play foods gave Batman ideas! So we also served pizza and transferred nachos...
We are global citizens after all.
Montessori Transferring with pizza slices and nachos

For this and other great ideas, visit:

Montessori Monday

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Science Behind the Shamrock Green

Science Experiment with water and colors
Here is an experiment that takes minutes to set up in your kitchen. In honor of St. Patrick's Day, we are going with the green theme!

We are going to learn some science, along with colors. 
Get three cups. Fill two of them with water, about 2/3rd.
Get your scientist to put in a few drops of yellow food coloring in one, and a few drops of blue in the other one. The two cups should have the same amount of water.

Set the two cups, with the empty one in between the two. Roll two paper towels (or cut a big one in half). Place of the first towel in the blue cup, and the other end in the empty cup. One end of the second towel goes in the yellow cup, and the other in the empty cup. The towels should be just long enough to make a bridge between the cups, otherwise, the magic takes longer.

While you wait for the magic, get your scientists to predict what might happen. What will happen to the paper towel dipped in the water? What will happen to the empty cup? What will happen to the cups full of water?

In about 6-10 minutes, hey presto!!

Blue + Yellow = Green

The  scientists just saw "capillary action" in action! The water gets absorbed through the fiber of the paper towel, and makes its way to the empty cup across the paper towel bridge!!
The water level in all 3 cups is the same.
That might be enough for younger kids. Or you could take it further. I talked to Batman about the similar process by which water makes its way from the roots to the rest of the plant. We are going to do same experiment with white carnations and some colored water next to demonstrate this principle in action. 

More variations on this theme are here.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

How do you like your eggs?

Learn science, math, literacy and more with Easter eggs!
Look at the "sunny side" of all those plastic eggs you have. They make great educational tools, and are great fun. You will be surprised by how many ways you (and the kiddos) can play with them.

1. Easter sensory bin with the eggs -Spiderman loves playing with the sensory bin

Easter sensory bin

2. Match the halves - let the kiddos open up eggs of different colors and sizes, scatter them a bit, and let them re-make Humpty Dumpty. It takes concentration and fair amount of motor skills to line them up just so, and twist or snap them together!

3. Count 'em up - Use a number sticker or permanent marker on the eggs, and match them with objects. You could use pompoms, and to make it more interesting, match the color of the pompom to the egg. So arm yourself with 2 yellow pompoms to go with the yellow plastic egg with the "2" on it. For older preschoolers, spell the numbers - "two" instead of "2". We used the chicks from our sensory bin to count. Then Spiderman got the sand paper numbers, lined those up, and started putting right number of eggs next to each number...

4. Line 'em up - Use a sharpie, and write uppercase letter on one half, and lowercase on the other. Let them match the letters. For beginning readers, you could make word families, and see how many words your reader can make. C, H, R, M on upper halves, -at, -ug, -atch, and -ouse on the lower halves, for example. Batman can already read the words shown here, for him, it was to mix and match the halves of different eggs to form new words, like m-atch, or h-ug.
Word building with Easter Eggs

How many erasers in one egg?
 5. Make predictions - We had a bunch of small erasers in the sensory bin. That got us to thinking, how many could we fit in an egg? Choose big, medium, and small erasers (substitute filler of your choice). Ask them to predict how many of each kind might fit into the egg. Then count, and see how good of a fortune teller they were. They should be able to to see for themselves that they can fit more of the small erasers, and less of the bigger ones.

 6. Pattern power - Make patterns with then egg halves depending on what you have. The kids could stack them up like a tower, and the tallest one wins. Let the older ones come up with their own pattern. Given the eggs they have, they have to come up with a pattern that makes the tallest tower. 

Sink or Float?
7. Sink or float - Batman and Spiderman came up with hypothesis, and tested it out to see if the eggs float or sink. They got the empty ones will float right, but they were surprised to see the eggs filled with water stay at least partially afloat! Batman's conclusion - that's what happened to Captain Hook's ship when Sharky and Bones drilled a "small" hole in the ship, coz if it's too big, it would sink!
Then they had to think of how to make their ships sink completely, and spied some tiny pebbles in one of my vases. And out they came, as they were for a good cause, and down went the eggs...
Will the pebbles make the eggs sink?

7. Shake n Sound - A quick Montessori inspired sound set is shown below. Increase the number of egg depending on the complexity. Remember to choose eggs of the same size for each set (unlike me). I had the aforementioned pebbles, lentils, and rice. Shake, shake, shake, and then match the eggs with the same sound.

Sound Eggs

8. Speed Hunt - Ready, Set, Go!  Place the eggs in just one or two rooms. Winner - the one with the most eggs in 2 minutes! Turn the tables, let the kids hide them. Try to beat the winner. Batman actually used some camouflaging tricks when hiding his eggs!  

9. Shake your sillies out - Also called fine motor skills play. Fill the eggs with different motor skills. I added the number of reps for some good old fashioned math! So, "Hop, 5", "Jump 3". We had fun ones, like stick out your tongue, eat 6 raisins, cross the living room from the sofa without touching the carpet (aka, alligator pit). I had a pile of of pillow cushions placed right next to the sofa.

10. Water the letters - We had some with tiny holes, so we filled them up, and took them outside. Batman wrote some letters, chose one, and directed Spiderman to "water" that letter with his Eggy flowering can.  

11. Nesting (my favorite) - Batman came up with this all on his own. He gave me a big egg (with a shy smile) and told me it had a gift int it.I opened it up, to find an egg nested in it, and then to find another, and then a tiny pink eraser heart (from Batman's Valentine's loot bags from school) . Awww :)
Nested eggs with a special surprise!

More egg-cellent stuff here - Easter Fun!

I love the smelly eggs, and egg and spoon race (I am not saying "duh" to myself) Recycle Those Plastic Easter Eggs

For this post, and other fabulous Montessori ideas, and activities, check out these links.

Montessori MondayLike Mama~Like Daughter the educators' spin on it

Friday, March 8, 2013

Hop goes the Bunny!

Easter themed invitation to play
Here is our Easter play table!

It has a sensory bin (our Valentine themed sensory bin is still getting played with, in fact, the muffin pan from the table disappeared, and made an appearance next to the V-day sensory bin, full of pompoms in pink cupcake liners).

Let's take care of the nitty-gritties. Here's what is on the table:
  • Easter crafts that the kiddos have made for everyone to enjoy :)
  • Measuring spoons (for measuring, dumping, nesting, making a mess on the floor...)
  • Tongs and wooden spoon
  • Easter themed egg holders 
  • Containers for more dumping and pouring - Easter baskets for example, mine happens to be chick shaped pails from Oriental Trading
  • Assortment of plastic eggs - let the kiddos sort out the matching ends, close them with treats inside, and open and reopen them - it makes for nimble fingers!
  • Muffin pan for sorting, counting, making patters, cupcakes (don't forget the liner)
  • Fluffy chicks, bunnies - they are great for counting. Check this post.
  • Erasers galore - we used the chocolate bunnies with vests to make some patterns...
  • If you have puzzle erasers (I had the flower ones), add some in.
  • Yellow chicky bouncy balls
  • Some sticky slugs (very much appreciated by the boys) for some sensory fun
  • And last but certainly not the least, the sensory bin 

    • For the filler, I put in yellow and green lentils, and white and brown beans - I was trying to go for the garden-y sort of look
    • Big sparkly green gems
    • Bunny along with carrots
    • The fluffy chicks
    • Yellow sensory balls (use them with the tong, or play catch with them, get some exercise hunting for them under the table)
    • Plastic, wooden or fabric eggs
    • yellow feathers
    • erasers inside and outside the easter eggs, hidden under the filler ( I had some yellow, green and orange ones that matched the color theme.
Batman was not too interested in the table. Apart from the comment that it was cute. Spider-man dived right in, filling and dumping the egg holders, opening and closing the easter eggs, filling them with treats, and hiding them for me, sorting the erasers, chicks, balls etc in the muffin pan, using the tongs to pick up the sensory balls first, and later, the erasers. We made some patters with the erasers, did some counting with the erasers as well as the chicks, and made some cupcakes.

Batman did some experiment with the easter eggs, do they sink or float when they are empty, what happens if we fill them up, what happens if they have holes in it, etc....
I will put in a separate post about it.

We played a quick memory game with the easter eggs. I showed Spider-man which egg I was hiding, and where.We started from one end of the house to other. Once all the eggs were hidden (we did 6 eggs in 6 different locations to start with), we came back to the starting point, and Spider-man had to recall which colored egg was hidden where. The six eggs we started with were all of different colors. Once he is good with 6, work your way up, and train those memory muscles. You can do lots of variations. You can start with eggs of all the same color to begin with, step it up by filling some, and keeping some empty etc. The egg-hunter has to remember which ones have treats inside.

This post was linked up on:

Hosted by Multiples-Mom, Multi-Testing Mommy, Shannon’s View From Here, Baby Giveaways Galore

Friday, March 1, 2013

Learn letters and their sounds using your sense of smell

Smelly Letters!!!
Caution: This project is best done in the spring/summertime.

Now, don't hold your breath or wrinkle your nose, these smell good!!

We have made touchy-feely letters, letters that are tactile. Why not engage the sense of smell as well?

My apple tree and hibiscus had some flowers on it, which triggered the idea.

These letters are mostly made with flowers and herbs, and teas (I love tea, all different kinds). So raid your garden and pantry. I also needed to raid my local nursery.

WARNING - Before you start: make a list of flowers, and then go over to the garden section of Home Depot, or to the local nursery, and get a few flowers (remember to ask nicely, and use the magic word). Dry the flowers, and you are in business. Other options - be on the lookout for flower bouquets with the right kind of flowers, go on a flower hunt in the neighborhood...

You can paste them on cardboard letters, or paste the smelly stuff in the shape of a letter. Or just form the letters with your sensory material, and then store them for next time!Or in other creative ways that I have not thought of.... 
OK, so here's the list. I have tried to limit the ingredients to short sounds for the vowels, and hard sounds for the consonants. So for example, you can make C with cinnamon, but that is the soft sound, whereas the kiddos master the hard sound first. 

Appy A
My super-heroes made an "a", and then put the blossoms in a bowl of water!  
- aniseed, or anise flowers, apple blossoms, flower petals from flowers like azalea

a with apple blossoms

Barky B 
- bougainvillea, bark (Batman's idea), basil from your herb pot, bay leaves, brown sugar

Bougainvillea b

Clovy C
- cloves, ground coffee, cardamom pods, cumin seeds, curry leaves, candy cane sticks, chamomile
C with cloves and c with cardamom pods

Daisy D
- daisy petals (my super heroes did not want to "hurt" the flower by pulling the "pretty" petals), dandelions (again, Batman is to blame), dill

D with daisy

Eggy E
Okay, so this one is not going to smell much of anything, as these are cleaned egg shells. In that case, switch to Elderflower. You might be able get your hand on the dried stuff. For older kids, try "earl grey" tea leaves or eucalyptus! Has anyone tried Bigelow's Eggnogg'n tea? That might be an option.
- eggshell, elderflower

Ferny F
- fern leaves from the garden, fennel seeds, a collage with different kinds of flower petals (Spider-man's favorite) 
F with fern leaves

Grassy G
I have Geranium flowers aplenty, but it starts with the soft G sound, as does ginger. And the kiddos did not want to use garlic. Sooo, a trip to the nursery, and we got some Gerbera flowers! But those were too pretty to be plucked, so we ended up using some grass :)
- gerbera or gardenia flower, garlic, grass, 
"g" with grass

Herby H
- collage of herb leaves from my herb pot, hydrangea and hibiscus flowers from the garden, hay (Spiderman says it has a nice hay-y smell), honeysuckle flowers
H with hibiscus

Inchy I
Try iris flowers, or irish moss for kids who know the long I sound.
- incense sticks broken into inch long pieces, (hence, Inchy), impatiens from the garden (am I a smart gardener or what!)

Jassy J
- jasmine from the garden

Kitchy K
I have an Indian pantry. You will have to come up with your own smelly letter for K!

K with Kala Jira
- Kala Jira, black cumin seeds, some kelp next time you visit the beach
Update - after dinner today, Batman decided to make a K in his Ketchup. It smells nice, it tastes nice, and it starts with K!
K in Ketchup
Abstract K painting in Ketchup
Lemony L
- lime or lemon peel, lavender leaves or flowers from the garden, lemongrass
L with lavender

Minty M
- mint leaves, marigold or mum flowers, mustard seeds, moss, mango tea leaves
M with mints

Nutty N
-  nutmeg, Nutella (suggested by Batman as it has a nice smell, vetoed by me), Nigella

Orangy O
- oregano, orange peel, oatmeal, orange tea leaves
O with orange peels

Peppy P
- peppercorns, potpourri, peppermint leaves from the herb pot or tea leaves from peppermint tea bags, pine-cones, pine needles, pineapple tea (it smells seriously good - thanks Dad)
P with cone and leaves

Quilty Q
- a quilt made with flower petals - we want to do yellow, red and white rose petals from the garden, quinoa

Rosy R
- rose to the rescue, rosemary, raspberry tea leaves (from Bigelow Raspberry Royale tea bags)
R with rose petals

Sassy S
- saffron, sage, sandalwood paste, scotch moss

Tiny T
- tea leaves, tarragon, twigs (from Batman, some twigs can smell good), tulip

Umby U
So I googled, came up with the Umbrella Palm, and I think I remember a tree that looked like one growing near a lake close to home. On our next visit to the lake, I will liberate a few leaves.

Viny V
-  a vine from the garden, vanilla beans or sticks, violet flowers

Woody W
- wood sage flowers, any white flower, white mustard, leaves from willow tree

Your X-cellency
- make an X with cinnamon sticks. 

Yolly Y
- any yellow flower or leaf, yarrow flower

Ziggy Z
-  zinia flower petals

So there you have it, gorgeous aromatic letters!!

Older kids can help you come up with sensory materials for the letters. I got lots of suggestions from Batman. I told him to look in the garden to come up with ideas, and gave him the spice rack for added inspiration.

Please leave some comments, and help me beef up some of the letter suggestions!

Disclaimer: I have a very well stocked spice rack. It helps, but is not a requirement.

Stress-Free Sunday at Fun-A-Day!