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:

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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!

 

Geo Solids with Magnetic Tiles

This one kinda speaks for itself.  We used the MagnaTiles to make some of the Geo Solids.  It’s a great way to help them break down the different shapes and sides that make up the solids 3d shape.

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Home Schooling JK

We’ve been taking a break from home schooling because it was just too difficult with so many daycare kids.  But now that they’ve gone to school and I’ve got the school room/play room organized, we’re starting up again.  Pumpkin 1 is going to be 4 in November and so it’s time to take home schooling more seriously.  It’s also time to start doing more math activities.  I have a number of new math manipulatives.  I love manipulatives for math, being math challenged myself.

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This is two sets of rods from a cusinaire rod set I bought.  They’re great mini red rods.  You can do so many activities with them.  Comparing length, counting, matching, sorting.  We did one set from tallest to shortest and then I showed her how you can combine each rod with a different rod to make them all the same length.  She really liked that and caught on quickly.  This is a great pre-math activity.  I purchased this set from amazon.  The tray is from a M&D block puzzle.  It helps her to line them up without the frustration of bumping them.

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These tiles are from a game called Qwirkle.  They’re great for patterning which is an important pre-math and pre-literacy skill.  You can also do colour or shape sorting with younger children and play the game memory with them.  You can purchase this from amazon as well.

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Shape pattern pictures and tangrams are also great pre-math activities.  In fact one study found children who did tangrams before a math test scored better than those who didn’t http://www.parentingscience.com/tangrams-for-kids.html.  This set Pumpkin 1 is playing with is a magnetic one by Melissa and Doug.

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Pumpkin 1 really dislikes the sandpaper letters.  I was so excited when I found these tracing boards from Alison’s Montessori.  She really likes tracing those letters and the first time I brought it out she wanted to learn more and more letters.  Today I added the sand tray however I don’t think she’s quite ready for it yet.

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Pumpkin 1 has started working with the moveable alphabet.  She recently started to catch on that you can write words with letters.  Of course after her name she wanted to write “Elsa” (really, she doesn’t watch TV, really lol).  Then she wanted to write all the other names she know only names aren’t usually phonetic so it was….interesting.  I got the carpet from Walmart.  I wanted one with stripes for lining the letters on.  She did need a lot of help with this activity.

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Later on she played with the Discovery Toys Motor Works.  I didn’t think she’d be able to do it but she figured it out with some help and took apart the car and air plane.  This is a great activity for promoting the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) subjects, especially in girls.  This kept her busy for a long time.  It also got Daddy involved when he came home.

Geometry for Toddlers

The other day my mother was playing with a shape sorting toy with Pumpkin 1.  She held up a shape and asked my daughter what it was.  Pumpkin 1 looked at it, took a deep breath and said, “Triangle based pyramid”.  My mom was astonished.  lol.

The geometric solids are a wonderful material for toddlers.  They love to hold the bright blue smooth shapes.  Don’t be afraid of the large sounding names.  Toddlers are ripe for language learning and pick it up much easier than you expect.  You can being using the geo-solids as soon as your child knows how to be careful with them, not mouth them and not throw them.

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The first activity with them is to hold them, feel them and learn their names.  I started with a few shapes and added more over time.  Next I taught Pumpkin 1 about the base and we’d match them with the base.  She picked that up quite quickly, I was surprised that she understood what the “base” of the shape was, but she did.

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After she was able to match them well I brought out cards with pictures of the shapes on them for her to match.  This helps a child to develop the ability to picture a 3-d object in 2-d.  You can download these cards from here

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Now we are working on matching pictures of objects to the geometric shape they are.  This is a little tricky because the child has to look at a flat picture and imagine the object in 3-d and then relate that to the 2-d picture of the geo-solid.  You can download the cards used in the picture here.

Geometric Cabinet

We received some new Montessori materials for our “classroom”.  One was the Geometric Cabinet.  This consists of 35 geometric insets and frames: 6 circles, 6 rectangles, 7 triangles, 6 regular polygons, 4 curvilinear figures, 6 quadrilaterals and 1 blank.  Pumpkin 1 enjoys working with it.  Right now it’s like doing a puzzle.  She’s also learning the names of different shapes.  In fact I learned something new.  I found out that an Oval is actually an egg shape (larger at one end) and what we call an Oval is really an Ellipse!  Also a diamond shape is actually called a Rombus.  So much for mommy to learn.

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As Pumpkin 1 gains fine motor skills she can begin to trace the shapes with her fingers in preparation to eventually use the metal insets which help her learn to draw the lines and curves found in letters.  In Montessori each material builds on the previous one and is preparation for the next.  They are not random toys but specially designed materials to teach and stimulate learning.  They work in a cohesive manner to connect together skills and ideas.

If you’re thinking of purchasing some Montessori materials here are some great online stores in Canada:

http://www.montessoriequipment.ca/default.asp – Affordable pricing, free shipping on orders over $300, great quality.

http://ca.montessorioutlet.com/cgi-bin/category/0 – Lowest prices, quality is good except the sandpaper materials and boxes are sold separately, no free shipping.

http://www.affordmontessori.com/index.asp – Affordable pricing, great quality, free shipping on orders over $300, great customer service.

Of the 3 I like Montessori Equipment the best.