As I mentioned in my “eclectic” preschool plan, we will be doing various Montessori inspired activities to work on sensory development, fine motor skills, practical life skills and to begin introducing academics such as colors, shapes, numbers and counting, and letters and sounds.
In a Montessori school, all of these activities are typically displayed on trays and baskets and placed on shelves around the classroom for the children to easily access as they are interested. I would love to have a similar setup, but since I also have a one year old who destroys everything, that will not work for us at this time. Right now, I have a small bookshelf and play table where I rotate out activities that both of the boys can access. The activities that have small pieces or are otherwise not one year old friendly, are kept in a cabinet and I either set them up at the kitchen table or we do them while Little Man is taking a nap.
I am going to take you through a “photographic tour” of what will be rotated out on our shelves inspired by Counting Coconuts “On Our Shelves” series. So here we go…
Our version of the Montessori pink tower. We purchased this toy at IKEA. It is great for working on visual discriminations of dimensions as well as visual-motor coordination.
This wooden stacking rings toy was also purchased at IKEA and works on similar skills to the toy above.
This is an activity that I made to work on auditory discrimination. These are Medela breastmilk storage bottles that I filled with rice, beans, and jingle bells to make matching pairs. I have Buddy close his eyes and shake them to match the sounds. And Little Man loves to just shake them!
These are some texture cards that I made to work on sense of touch. I purchased these small wooden cards at Hobby Lobby and glued squares of different textures…bumpy, rough, scratchy, and smooth. Similar to the game activity above, I have Buddy close his eyes and match the cards according to texture.
Some other things I keep accessible to the boys to enhance their sense of touch are a basket of ribbons and a basket of different textured fabrics and scarves.
Another great activity that works with sense of touch is good old fashioned play-doh. I like to give Buddy a good assortment of tools to open up the door of creativity.
We have an awesome box of plastic cookie cutters by Wilton that are great to play with.
The following activities are all great for working on fine motor development, which is important for children to properly feed and dress themselves as well as to prepare them for writing as it strengthens hand coordination.
Using an eye dropper is a fun way to strengthen the pincer grasp. Here I have used simple food coloring to color the water in these baby food jars. Buddy can then use the eye dropper to transfer the water into the ice cube tray. It is also a great way for him to learn about mixing colors. His favorite color to make is brown!
Another fun water activity is a pouring tray. Pouring water develops hand-eye coordination in addition to the mental development in knowing when to stop pouring to not overfill the container. This activity can also be performed at the kitchen sink while helping Mama wash dishes or at an outdoor water table, which is our favorite way to spend the Summer! Just make sure they have lots of different containers to experiment with.
Similar to pouring water, some other great Montessori inspired activities that we often do (but I forgot to photograph) are scooping, spooning and pouring dry rice and beans
This is a collection of containers from around the house that Buddy can practice opening and closing. It is also great for mixing up all of the lids and having him find the matches. This activity is a favorite with both boys!
Puzzles are an all time favorite at our house. We have a great selection of wooden puzzles. Our favorites are Melissa and Doug!
Working with a pegboard is a great exercise. If you do not have a pegboard, try one of these. It takes a lot of concentration and good hand-eye coordination to fit the small pegs in the holes. This one came from Folks.
Stringing beads is another favorite activity of ours. Buddy prefers to string them on pipe cleaners rather than string.
He also enjoys sorting beads. Ice cube trays or craft boxes are great for this activity.
I purchased these great colorful wooden beads at Hobby Lobby. They come in an assortment of sizes so they great for size discrimination as well.
I made these lacing cards last year. Buddy doesn’t love this activity yet, but it is growing on him.
Another stringing/lacing activity is this set that I purchased at The School Box. It will also be good for learning letters when we start working on those.
Working with nuts and bolts is another fun activity. Parts of our box are from a Melissa and Doug set that I purchased at a yard sale and the rest from a wooden tool set my sister gave Buddy at Christmas.
Working with tongs and tweezers are another great way to improve the pincer grasp. I found this tray at the thrift store and Buddy loves to use tweezer to transfer these tiny craft pom-poms from the jar into the tray.
Another yet another great way to improve the pincer grasp is working with clothespins. I made this game up by cutting circles out of craft foam and coloring clothespins with markers to make sets for Buddy to match. It is also great for learning colors!
Working with scissors is another important fine motor skill. I like to give him different things to cut such as magazine pages, string, yarn, and strips of paper. Buddy loves to cut!
Most of his cutting go into our collage box for future art projects.
A fun toy that we have that works on colors and hand-eye coordination is this Veterinarian Clinic that I purchased at Target. Each colored key unlocks a matching door. Buddy loves keys so this toy is a big hit!
A major practical life skill is being able to dress one’s self. My mother-in-law found this little doll at the Dollar Story. He has buttons, zippers, ties and velcro. Buddy calls him “Fred”.
I made this button snake after seeing one on Counting Coconuts. It is basically a button sewn to the end of a ribbon. I then cut lots of shapes out of craft felt and cut a small slit into the center of each one for Buddy to put the button through. It is also a great activity for working on shapes and colors!
We received this wooden shoe as a gift when I was pregnant with Buddy. It is great for him to practice learning to tie his shoes!
Numbers and Counting
A fun way to learn numbers is to use counting cards. I made this set of cards to match these foam dice that I purchased at the The School Box.
They are also great for using with counters like these craft marbles.
Another fun counting activity is this counting bears set that I purchased at The School Box. The bears are also great for sorting by color.
I also purchased this peg stacking number train from The School Box.
I purchased this shape wagon at IKEA. It is great to use as building blocks as well as working to fit the shapes back in the wagon according to the grid.
I love this great toy from Melissa and Doug to work on shapes, colors and counting.
Fun for Baby
A fun activity for Little Man is “in and out”, so I try to provide a lot of fun objects and containers for him to play with.
This is one of Little Man’s favorite toys. I think it is the Parents Brand from Target. I find these balls all over the house.
Another favorite of his are these jingle bells that I purchased at Hobby Lobby. He loves to put them in tin containers and make lots of noise!
I have been doing these types of activities with Buddy for about a year now, so I have a pretty decent collection built up. At the beginning of each month, I will try to post any new activities that may be themed with our lessons plans for that month or just something new I am adding to the rotation. I am still working on figuring out the best way to organize my rotation. As soon as I do, I promise I’ll share that with you.