Bringing Montessori Outside Part 2

I already feel like winter is looming and it’s only June.  That ominous, “Winter is Coming”.  I know the next few months will fly by and I want my kids to soak up as much of beauty and nature and sun and warmth they can.  Official school activities are not priority right now, gross motor play is.  We recently started going to a new park the kids love.  No one is there during the day yet so my kids have the park to themselves.  The other parks we go to are frustrating because a school or daycare will show up with 30-40 kids and just take over the place and my shy kids fell overwhelmed or they’re older kids who are too rough and use bad words and so we leave.  Anyway, we’re trying to do school outside as often as we can.  Here are some more ideas for bringing Montessori out into the sunshine.

This DIY spindle box is so simple.  The container is from the Dollar Store.  It’s a tackle or hardware box.  I use these a lot for storing things.  And popsicle sticks, also available at the Dollar Store.  Often I change up the “spindles” for other things – straws, sticks, counting bugs, etc…

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In fact you can use nature for counting.  These are pine cones the kids collected.  The numbers are regular magnetic ones.

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Toobs are great to bring outside or any other small plastic animals.  This is Vertebrate and Invertebrate sorting.

We recently got a Backyard Birds Toob from Michael’s.  We already had the bird book.  The kids like to find the birds in the book. They also are painting pictures of the birds to make their own bird book.

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This is a sight word game from Amazon.  It’s a way to make learning sight words more fun.

This is so simple to do but it takes dexterity for the kids.  They have to remember to weave in and out.  It was too hard for Pumpkin 2 and a challenge for Pumpkin 1.  The tidy part you see was me showing her how.  It’s really great for crossing the midline and spacial reasoning.

We tried out a ball run with cut pool noodles and Boomerings (and you thought Boomerings were a baby toy).  The balls kept getting lost in the cut grass so then we did water.

Next we’re going to try building something with trough.  I need to get some more Boomerings though.  They’re super strong and sturdy.

I have lots more ideas in my head for outdoor learning I can’t wait to share with you.

 

Follow my Pinterest board for lots more Montessori ideas.

 

 

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DIY Mirror Table

As a homeschooling mother I’m always adapting, always learning, always trying to improve.  Lately I’ve been incorporation more Reggio into our lives.  I find it has many similarities with Montessori but allows more open-ended exploration and more of the arts.

Mirrors are used a lot in Reggio.  They allow the child to view themselves and to view their work from different angles.  They promote exploration with reflections and symmetry.  We had this little table in our room and I thought it’d make a great mirror table.  A trip to the dollar store later it was all set up.

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The table is this one from Walmart.  It’s only $15 CAD.

The mirrors are from the Dollar Store.  They’re $2 each and are about 9 3/4″ squares.  I also got some command strips for hanging pictures frames.

The mirrors fit perfectly on the table leaving a little ledge for the standing up ones.

What I did was attach 4 to the table with the command strips so that I could later remove them without damaging the table.  I put them on to one side so that there was a rim of the table to balance the standing up ones on.  For those I put two at a 90% angle and taped them and then taped one on either end.  I put them up on the table and taped the backs to the table.  Two strategically placed pieces of tape on the front two end pieces keep them from sliding back.

And now the exploration can begin.  The first thing Pumpkin 1 said was, “Mommy I made a star!”

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Follow my Pinterest Board for more Reggio homeschooling ideas:

Bringing the Montessori Classroom Outside

Finally, beautiful weather.  Anyone who lives in a northern area where they suffer through 6 months of winter + 2 months of almost winter, knows that those nice days are like a drink of water to one wandering in the desert.  You just want to drink it all up and not miss a drop.  So, of course, I don’t want to be stuck inside doing “school” when the weather is nice and neither do the kids.  And, though I value lots of free play, I still do want to do some school activities.  The solution?  Bring the classroom outside!  I don’t just mean gross motor, outside activities, but actual Montessori materials designed to be used outside.

I didn’t want to take my actual wooden, expensive Montessori materials outside where they could easily get damaged and that’d be a lot to transport daily.  So I put together a set of Montessori like activities focusing on affordability, durability, mobility and washable  Many of these could be DIY or affordable alternatives to the Montessori materials for those on a budget.  This is part 1 of our outdoor classroom.

So the first thing for an outside classroom is the set up.  You need places to work and you need some shade from the sun. We have a table and chairs with an shade umbrella.  A magnetic whiteboard on the fence.  And a caddy that can be moved outside during the day and back in at night.  We also have a smaller umbrella that can be moved around to where it’s needed.

 

Now to our “Outside Materials”

Moveable Alphabet

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This moveable alphabet is made from magnetic foam letters by Learning Resources.  The container is the Plano Stowaway that I got on Amazon.  They fit perfectly and it makes them easily transportable and accessible.  We use them on the magnetic whiteboard on our fence.  Or we can use them on a cookie tray from the dollar store.  Being magnetic they won’t blow away when there’s a nice breeze.

We also have other regular magnetic letters that we do some upper and lower case matching with.

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Stamp Game

I really love our outdoor stamp game.  In fact, if I had thought of it sooner, I wouldn’t have purchased the stamp game at all and just used this.

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The gems are from the Dollar Store and Michaels (I had trouble finding red ones).  The pegs I already had.  You could dye them different colours with food colouring if you wanted.  You could also use plastic game tokens.  I wrote the numbers on the back of the gems with permanent marker.  The nice thing about the numbers is if you do the “1” like I did, you don’t have to worry about writing it backwards in order to look right.  The storage container is also from the Dollar Store.

I also grabbed one of our place value mats that I made. The plastic number squares are from Amazon.  I also put them in a Dollar Store container for easy use and transportation.

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The number tiles can also be used with unifix cubes for other math activities.

 

“Red” Rods

I brought out a set of our cuisenaire rods  as mini “red” rods.  I put them in a sandwich container from the Dollar Store for storage.  One could paint them all the same colour if they wanted.

 

Hundred Board

This is actually our only Hundred Board.  I never got a wooden one as this was affordable and wouldn’t shift around if bumped.  With the pieces stored in another Dollar Store container it’s easy to transport and great to use outside.  One side has numbers and the other side is a blank grid.  You can also write on it with a white board marker.

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Constructive “Triangles”

These plastic pattern blocks aren’t exactly the same as the constructive triangles but they’re great for learning shapes and how shapes fit together.  You can also print off patterns to match them to.  Dollar Store container again!

Tanagrams are also a great alternative.

Pumpkin 1 has been crazy about the Magnetic Mighty Mind.  We’ve actually had it for a few years but I just pulled it out as she was too young before.  It’s the perfect travel size and the magnets are strong so they stay in place.  The cards start off simple and get progressively more difficult.  She worked on this for about 45 mins.

 

Geo Solids

These mini Geo Solids from Learning Resources can be used to teach shapes and size.  There is 4 sizes of each.  They’re not exactly the same as the Montessori ones, mainly they’re missing the round shapes.  I threw in a little ball from the Dollar Store to teach sphere.  I worked on Small, Medium and Large with Pumpkin 2.  And I also learned the new shape – Hexagonal Prism.

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So far our outdoor classroom has been wonderful.  There’s nothing like working in the fresh air.  But there’s more!  Stay tuned for Part 2 of our Outside Classroom!

 

Paper Moveable Alphabet

After a child has worked with the wooden moveable alphabet, the child is introduced to a moveable alphabet made from paper or thin plastic with the lower case on one side and the upper case on the back.  This alphabet has about 25 of each letter so that they can begin to write sentences.  Usually two colours of this alphabet are given so that phonograms can be isolated in a different colour when learning them.  I’ve also seen some green phongram moveable “alphabets” with the main phonograms given in order that the child has all the sounds available.

Pumpkin 1 isn’t quite ready for this alphabet but I figured I’d better start making it.  I wanted it in cursive and so far I’ve only found ready made print ones available for purchase and I wanted to save a little money doing my own.  I found a PDF online and purchased it but I discovered that it couldn’t be printed back to front.  One had to print the lower-case and upper-case on separate sheets.  This would mean twice the amount of cutting and then sticking them together for laminating.  Cutting and laminating and then re-cutting 25 of each letter for two alphabets is a lot of cutting.  I didn’t want to have to add to that.  So I created my own version to print and designed it to be printed front to back.  Because I found my printer doesn’t print exactly the same depending on how it draws in the paper, I put lines on only one side for cutting, with no lines on the back so there was no worry if it printed off a little; it wouldn’t be noticeable.

I made them the right size to fit into this container sold on Amazon.  (click photo for link)

Now I’ve begun the task of printing and cutting and laminating.  It’s going to take a while.  I’ve done about 7 of each letter of the black alphabet and 4 of each phonogram.  I don’t think I need 25 of the phonograms.  I purchased a smaller container for the phonograms but they wouldn’t all fit so I put a few in the black alphabet container.


My printed alphabet PDF is available for purchase on my Etsy store.  It comes with 4 sets of alphabets in black, red, green and blue and a green set of phonograms.

A tip for those printing and laminating their own.  Put a dab of glue stick on the back to keep the pieces in place in the laminating sheet.  After it goes through the laminator the glue won’t be visible or ruin the print in anyway.

DIY “Sandpaper” Letters

To this point I haven’t bought the sandpaper phonograms.  The sandpaper letters didn’t get much use here so I haven’t wanted to spend the money.  I recently saw someone make their own sandpaper letters out of sticky backed felt and thought that was a great idea so I decided to make my own phonograms.

I purchased sticky backed felt from Amazon.  Then I created a template of the letters.  My template is available here: phonogram cards

I printed the template off and cut it out.  Then I traced it backwards onto the back of the felt and cut it out (don’t forget to do it backwards, I forgot the first time and had a backwards th).  I took card stock and laminated it to use as the base.  You could also use poster board.  Then I peeled the back off and stuck it on and voilà!  So simple.  You could make all your sandpaper letters this way though it is time consuming.  Right now I’m making my phonograms a few at a time.

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Easy DIY Place Value Mat

Place value mats are often used with the Golden Beads and Stamp Game to help organize the materials.  I wanted something simple and easy but more than just paper.  After a bit of thought I came up with this.  I made two.  The mats I got from the Dollar Store for $3 each.  I already had the white acrylic paint (Dollar Store paint) and the fabric paint (Walmart) and the masking tape.

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First I put the tape on the mat to define where the lines would go.  Then I used the paint and a paint brush to paint a line down the edge of the tape on the carpet.

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After that I used the fabric paint to write the numbers at the top and let dry.  And voilà!  All done.

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Flags for Continent Boxes

Continent Boxes are a fun DIY Montessori project and they’re something that can always be growing and changing.  You can keep adding new things to them.  If people go on a trip, ask them to bring back a little knick knack to add to it and bring back your own when your family travels.  I’m not finished all my Continent Boxes yet.  I still have Europe and Africa left to make and right now they’re pretty minimal, mainly just Toob figures and pictures to match.  So when I came across this idea in the Montessori Homeschooling Facebook group, I was really excited.  It was so simple and inexpensive.

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The flag stickers are from this book.

I already had the little wood rectangles from a long time ago.  I got them from this etsy store.  The book has two sets of each sticker, a larger one and a smaller one.  I put the larger one on the wood rectangles.  Since the stickers are reusable, they’re not very sticky so I sealed them with two coats of a glue finish (note, do a very thin coat first or the stickers bubble).  I only sealed the top, not the whole wood piece.

The book came with lovely labelled world maps.  The smaller stickers I stuck on the maps.  Then I put them in page protectors and a duotang so that it can be used as a reference.  I plan to get some little draw string bags to keep the flags in.

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Flags are not something that’s generally taught in school, but I find them fun to learn, especially in engaging ways like with the Pin Map and these little tokens.  Also, you’ll be surprised how often you see flags.  I was very proud when I could identify the flags flying at the factor near the grocery store and the other day Pumpkin 1 and I were at KW surplus and they had a ton of flags hanging up.  I was surprised when she told me the one which I couldn’t remember was the Newfoundland and Labrador flag.

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What We’ve Been Up To.

Pumpkin 2 is growing up fast.  Not only is he potty trained day and night, he no longer sucks his thumbs (thanks to some applications of juice from our Aloe Vera plant) and he no longer has a nap.  The no nap has meant huge changes to our daily schedule and including him in “school time” now.  It has also meant a lot of changes for me to figure out how to work with both of them but, it has been going better than I expected.  It’s also had benefits as the day can be more relaxed since we don’t have to make sure nap time is on time.  Yesterday he preferred to dump the shapes from the pattern pictures everywhere and to make the coloured peg people crash into each other, but he is also having periods of work too.  Here’s him sorting Plant and Animal Cards.

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We’ve been doing music as a group activity.  We match bells and then work on rhythms.  Rhythm is way too advanced for Pumpkin 2 but it’s something he wants to be a part of.  They really like this drum I got from Amazon.  Pumpkin 1 has been resistant to learning rhythm but she needs to for her piano lessons so the drum was a great motivation.  We did have a good talk about how to treat the drum (I could just see Pumpkin 2 trying to stand on it) and it’s kept up high to only be used with me.

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Pumpkin 1 is working on linear counting.  She got bored with the Golden beads so I thought it best to take a break and work on something new.  It worked because she was interested in them again the other day.  I also found out that you don’t have to do subtraction with them before multiplication and since she wasn’t keen on subtraction, multiplication will probably be the next step.

These are the Teens boards I printed off and laminated from Montessori Print Shop.  I put some velcro on them because I think it makes it more fun and eliminates the frustration of accidentally shifting the cards.

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We’ve been learning about Vertebrates and the types of Vertebrates and I got a skeleton of a pigeon on huge discount from Affordable Montessori.  The kids were fascinated.  Pumpkin 1 is holding a laser light I was using to point out the spine or Vertebrate.  I thought they’d be scared of it but I guess they haven’t been exposed to the idea of skeleton’s being scary.  Pumpkin 1 as been asking a lot of questions about the body and so I plan to do a unit study on the body soon.

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Here she is sorting out the Types of Vertebrates cards I made.

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I also got these from Amazon and the kids love them.  They’re quite fun and were cheaper than X-Rays of bones.

Pumpkin 2 is my cuddly boy.  He’ll sit on my lap for hours if he could.  It’s funny because he can be so full of energy, literally bouncing off the walls (yes literally, he loves to crash into them and fall on the floor) but he’ll sit so nicely on my lap and just look at a book or play with cars or watch his sister.  I try to soak it up as much as I can because I know it’s not going to last forever, but I also need to get things done.  It’s such a difficult choice, snuggle him a little more, or get to the list of things I need to do.  I usually pick snuggle.

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Cosmic Nesting Boxes

I first saw these here and thought it was a great idea but forgot about it until I saw them again.  The M&D nesting boxes aren’t very expensive on amazon.ca.  You could probably find them even cheaper at a yard sale or maybe some friends have a set they don’t want any more.

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I first painted the boxes black.  Then found the pictures on the internet and pasted them in Publisher and formatted them to fit the box measurements.  I attached them with a paper glue/finish (kinda like Modge Podge not so sticky when dry).  I sealed everything with two coats of the finish.  The boxes are from biggest to smallest – Universe, Milky Way Galaxy, Solar System, Earth, North America, Canada, Ontario, Our City, Our House and then a little peg person.

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They’re a great way to help a child understand how everything fits together when it comes to the world and countries and where their place is in it all.

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Affordable Alternative to the Constructive Triangles

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These shapes from Learning Resources are a great alternative to the rather costly Montessori Constructive Triangles.  They don’t have all the same shapes but they have other ones (circles and 1/2 and 1/4 circles) and enough shapes that I think the few missing ones aren’t a big deal.  You could make them yourself with laminated paper or cut them from heavy plastic of some sort. The quality is great (nice and thick) and they don’t have sharp edges

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These have the added bonus of being able to use them with a light table and they can be used as a sort of tanagram to make pictures with.  Tanagrams have been shown to improve a chid’s math thinking.

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The set can be purchased at amazon.ca 

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