Montessori On a Budget

When I started off with Montessori 2 years ago I thought I needed all the materials.  They each have a specific purpose and skill they teach and they fit together in a perfect way.  I thought if I skipped one I’d miss something.  But over time I realized that a home won’t be exactly like a Montessori classroom.  Without the other children and without the set up of a specific class with only Montessori materials available, things are different.  Things work differently.  Things have to be adapted.  And most people don’t have the money or space for all the materials.  So this is what I would have done differently.  What materials I would have skipped or substituted or made myself (or which I did make myself) and which ones I’m glad I have.  Now what my kids weren’t interested in or loved may be different for someone else’s.  Each child is unique.  There isn’t one way or one answer, so these are just my experiences and thoughts.  I’ve only included the materials that we’ve reached in our journey.  There are more primary materials but we haven’t come to them yet so I can’t comment.  I highly recommend getting a set of albums to understand the scope and sequence of each material to help you decide what you need.  There are links to sites to purchase materials in the pictures and in the written text.

Language

Moveable Alphabet

I started off doing cursive because that is what is recommended in Montessori.  It’s said it’s easier for a child to write as they don’t have to take their pencil off the paper and that it activates a different part of the brain.  Pumpkin 1 learned the cursive lower case letters and picked up print letters on her own too but she really struggled with writing.  When she did start writing she wrote in print.  It seemed that cursive has too many steps to remember vs print.  She wants to write in print so I’m following her lead and have shifted my materials to print.  The print moveable alphabets are a little cheaper.  You could also get this verson on Amazon from Learning Resources set which is also magnetic

It doesn’t have as many letters as the wood moveable alphabet (and is the wrong colours) so if you do want more letters then buying two is about the same price as buying the wood set.  One set fits perfectly in this box.

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If money is really tight you could print off a paper version and the above box is a great way to store it too.

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Sandpaper Letters

I went with these sandpaper letters when I switched to print to use with Pumpkin 2.  I actually really prefer them.  The sandpaper is great, it doesn’t shed sand everywhere and they’re smaller which is helpful when it comes to storing.  They come in a nice sturdy box.  They’re not colour coded like the Montessori sandpaper letters are.

It’s also pretty easy to make your own “sandpaper” letters from sticky back felt.

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Another alternative is these grooved boards from IFIT Montessori.

These have upper and lower case letters and numbers and other symbols so it’s great bang for your buck.  You just need a stick of some sort for tracing.  I have these and they’re great quality.

Small Objects for the Sound Game or Sound Boxes

These aren’t necessary.  You can play the sound game with anything in a room or outside.  However my kids do really like them.  They like to sort them out.

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They can be a bit of a distraction though.  I had a bunch from my mother (who is a teacher) and bought a set from here.   Purchasing a set made things much easier and probably saves money in the long run vs trying to buy your own objects individually.  Their set also was carefully thought out with many of the objects able to be used for CVC words and phonograms as well as tricky letters like infant for “i” and vacuum for “v”.  One could also print off pictures.

Metal Insets 

These are great to have for developing writing skills.  They are super expensive though.  However, there is a very affordable plastic version available on Amazon.com (and ships to Canada).  I recommend having them.

Sensory

Pink Tower

I’d say it’d good to have this.  It’s still used pretty often by my kids.  I haven’t found a set of stacking blocks the same.  Having 10 is important (much of the sensory materials are in sets of 10) and the weight is very important (thus nesting boxes just aren’t the same).

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If you know a carpenter they could maybe cut a set for you.

Brown Stair

My son really loves the Brown Stair (mainly to drive cars down it which is a no no in Montessori but I gave up trying to stop him).  However, if you’re on a tight budget I’d skip it and just get the Pink Tower.  If you are going to get it go with the stained not painted version.  My painted version has chipped a lot and I wish I got a natural wood one to prevent this.

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I don’t recommend getting the mini set of either.  They just aren’t the same sensory experience.  I’d rather skip the Brown Stair than have a mini of both.

Knobbed Cylinders

For some reason I love these and find them very satisfying to do.  My kids were crazy about them from about 18 months to 2 and then weren’t interested in them again.

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Again don’t waste money on the mini set.  Either skip them or Montessori Outlet sells the blocks separably so you could just get 1 or 2 blocks.  If your child is 3 or older and you’re on a budget, just skip them.  I don’t know why I like them so much but my kids don’t.

Knobbless Cylinders

There isn’t really anything that is a substitute for these.  I’d recommend them.  I’d probably chose them over the Pink Tower if funds were limited just since they teach a similar concept of size difference in many different ways.

Red Rods

I wasn’t going to buy these but got them in an order mix up and kept them.  However, they were almost never used except by Pumpkin 2 as swords.  After a million times of taking them away and trying to get him to stop using them in dangerous ways or as a vacuum cleaner or lawn mower (??), I put them in the basement where they remain to this day.  Personally I’d go with cuisenaire rods.

They’re of course way smaller and different colours (so not one concept is isolated and you lose the weight difference) but they so much less dangerous and easier to store in a home.  You could paint them all one colour if you wanted.  When it comes to some of the sensory materials I feel free exploration is a better way to good.  That’s my Reggio side.  I’d rather let my kids play with a bunch of cuisenaire rods and learn through play.

Constructive Triangles

I’m going with the same philosophy when it comes to these too.  Learn through play.  I really love this Learning Resources set and so do my kids.

They’re great on the light table and so open ended.

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Another alternative is the regular pattern blocks.  There’s a ton of patterns you can print off online for kids to use.

My kids prefer the magnetic pattern blocks though.  We have this set by Melissa and Doug and it gets used often though it’s not as durable.  I also print off and laminate patterns and use them with the tiles on cookie trays.

Geo Solids

I haven’t found a set of Geometric Solids that has all the same shapes as the Montessori ones.  I’d say it’s important that they be solid wood for the weight (not foam or plastic).  The closest set I can find is this one.

But it has shapes you don’t need, different sizes and doesn’t have an ovoid.  You also don’t have the base pieces.  But if you’re on a budget this is probably your best bet.

Colour Tablets

My kids were just never interested in these.  I painted a set of wooden peg people which my kids liked better but it was tricky to get the shades right.

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Easiest thing would be to just get a bunch of paint chips and cut them and use them.  You could laminate them for durability.  Here are some more DIY ideas:

DIY Montessori Color Tablets

Sound Cylinders

These are pretty popular here.  But they’re not hard to make on your own.  See the below link for lots of ideas.

DIY Montessori Sound Cylinders

Binomial and Trinomial Cubes

There isn’t really an alternative to these however they don’t get much use in my home.  They may come in handy in the elementary years but they wouldn’t be first on my list to purchase of primary materials.  However, as I’ve mentioned, some kids really loves them so you’ll have to decide for yourself.

Geo Cabinet

Way too expensive and bulky to make practical for home use.  You can get shape puzzles and have your children trace them.

You can also make templates by tracing them for kids to match to.  When it comes to the more complicated shapes there are lots of other ways to teach those.  Smaller knobs are more desirable though as they teach the pincher grasp so have lots of regular wood puzzles with small knobs for your child to use.

Other Sensory Materials

There are a few other materials like the thermic tablets, baric tablets, fabric squares, smelling bottles, etc….  I think there are many other ways to do these sensory activities and some of the materials are easy to DIY.  What you get really depends on you budget.  Also many of these require you child to be blindfolded.  For some reason my kids always insist on peaking which defeats the purpose.

Math

Number Rods

I only have the table top number rods and those have been enough.  Honestly we’ve rarely used them.  My kids picked up numbers and one to one correspondence without them.  There’s so many ways to teach this, even just in daily life.  You wouldn’t miss them if you skipped them.

Numbers and Counters

Counters can be anything – stones, buttons, cars, blocks, paperclips, candies.  Fridge magnets can be the numbers.  Here we are using pine cones we collected with fridge magnets.
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Sandpaper Numbers

I’ve never had them or missed them.  You could get them, they’re not that expensive, or you could make your own set.  You could also get the grooved set mentioned under Sandpaper letters that contains the numbers too.

Spindle Box

It’s so easy to make your own of these with a tackle box from the Dollar Store and permanent marker and Popsicle sticks.

The great thing about the one I made is you can use it on the light table.  We’ve used plastic stir sticks and plastic ice cubes from the Dollar Store.

 

Stamp Game

Pumpkin 1 much prefers my DIY Stamp Game to the original.  And it was so inexpensive to make.

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Dollar Store tackle box, glass gems (I did have to hunt and pay more than I wanted for the red ones), permanent marker and wood peg people or you could use game tokens.  I just wrote the numbers on the bottom of the gems with permanent marker and voila.  Pumpkin 1 likes glass gems.  The numbers do tend to get scratch off with rattling around in the box so one day I may coat the bottom in clear nail polish.  This set doesn’t have everything the purchased Stamp Games does but we aren’t using those pieces yet and it won’t be hard to add.

Place Value Mat

Not exactly a Montessori material but I highly recommend having one.  We use it with the Golden Beads and the Stamp Game.  It’s fast and easy to make your own.

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100 Chart

This one from Learning Resources isn’t that much cheaper but it’s magnetic so one bump doesn’t ruin all your hard work.  Also you can write on it with a white board marker.  It’s two sided, one with numbers and the other with just the grid.

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Another idea is just to print one off and use stickers.  My kids LOVE stickers.

Teen and Ten Boards

I printed off the Teen Board from Montessori Print Shop and it’s been a hit.  I find kids like velcro (I cut velcro to fit in the middle of the “0” of the 10).  I bought a Ten Board.  Big flop. Pumpkin 1 hates it.  I should have just done a printed version.

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Hanging Bead Stair

There is a 1-9 version and a teen version.  They’re not traditional Montessori materials and not necessary to have.  However my kids have always enjoyed doing them.  I think they liked the fine motor aspect of hanging the beads.  You could get the teen one instead of the Teen Board.  But again, not necessary though nice to have.

Golden Beads and Math Beads

I love the bead materials.  For the Golden Beads one could use base ten blocks but you’d need a lot for the Montessori works.  You need at least 9 1000 cubes, 45 hundred squares, and lots of 10 and 1’s.  So it may not be worth the cost in the end.  Plus the beads really give a visual of the amount.  I made my own bead materials (well I should say making, I’m not finished yet though I’ve completed the Golden Beads).  I purchased the wood numbers for durability.  You need 3 smalls sets and 1 large set.  The purchased paper sets aren’t that much cheaper.  You can also print your own small for $1 and there’s free large ones here.

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Making your own bead materials isn’t hard, just time consuming.  Just make sure you use spherical beads not pony bead or you’ll wind up with rectangles.  Pumpkin 1 likes my cheap home made beads better than the purchases ones I have because my faceted ones are more sparkly.  Here’s a great tutorial on making your own bead materials  (Just note, if you do use wood beads like she did, it’s not going to save you much money.  Faceted beads are the most inexpensive way to go).  For the wood 1000’s cubes I’d just go with the store bought ones for durability though you can make paper ones.  I’d prefer them 3D for the sensory experience.  They’re not too pricey.  For the 45 100’s wood squares you can print ones off and laminate them.

 

Geography

World Puzzle Map

My kid prefer the felt one I made to our wood one.  It was a lot of work and you can’t trace it to make your own maps but I like it and it takes up less space.  The template is from Imagine Our Life and is free.

 

Flags

We do have a world flag map which is a big hit at our house.  Pumpkin 1 knows pretty much all the flags so I highly recommend it.

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But for the flags of all the countries this is what we did.

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The stickers are from this book and there’s two sets.  One set I put on the maps that come with the book and put them in a binder and the other set I put on wood rectangles.

Puzzle Maps

I do have all the Puzzle Maps as I got a good deal on them on clearance.  But one could use a globe and an atlas to learn the countries of the world.  There are also these cardboard geo puzzles.

If you do purchase the puzzle maps you’ll need a way to store them, they are big.  My shelf is made out of an old end table.

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Globes

They’re nice to have.  They’re not too hard to make yourself.  I found small globes at the Dollar Store.  This blog’s a great place for DIY ideas.

DIY Montessori Globes

Land Form Trays

Pumpkin 1 has always loved these.  I’d recommend having them as they’re a great sensory experience.  You can also make your own.  You’ll also need a way to store them.  If you purchase I recommend getting the cabinet too.

Easy DIY Land and Water Forms

Continent Boxes

Technically these are supposed to be folders of pictures.  This is a great inexpensive way to go.  But boxes are fun too.  Take your time and don’t try to fill them all at once.  I still haven’t done all the continents.  Montessori Print Shop has lots of photos and maps you can print off.  Many people like to add Safari Ltd Toob figures.

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You can put money in the box, books, flags, toys, whatever you come across.  Popular in ours is Viewfinder reels.

Botany and Zoology

Botany and Zoology Puzzles

I do have these and the storage shelves and they have been very popular in my home.  I didn’t realize when I purchased them that the Zoology ones corresponded to the types of Vertebrates and I don’t have the turtle and wish I did.  If I were to purchase again I’d spend a little more and get the ones with the bones underneath to fit in with the activities on Vertebrates.

Leaf Cabinet

I have this, I got a deal on it as it was a damaged display model.  However we never use it.  It’s not really necessary.  The metal insets teach the same skill and there are other ways to teach the type of leaf shapes.

Life Cycles

Not exactly a Montessori material, we really love our life cycle figures.  We have a combination from Safari Ltd and Insect Lore.  Some are available on Amazon, some at Michael’s stores (don’t forget to use a coupon, Michael’s always has coupons).

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We also use Safari Ltd figures not just in our Continent boxes and Life Cycles but learning about insects and Vertebrate and Invertebrate sorting.

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They are great to ask for for Christmas and birthday presents.

Music

Bells

You’re probably not going to easily find an affordable set of Montessori Bells so you’ll have to DIY.

Staff

I made my own staff materials.  I used gems for the scale and I printed and laminated notes for rhythm.  One could also just put their child in music lessons.  Pumpkin 1 was doing piano for a while but we took a break.

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Other

There is still other things you’ll need.

Shelves

You definitely need shelves.  Ideally they should be child height but if space and storage is a minimum taller is better.  Don’t forget to attach shelves to the wall for safety.  You can easily add more storage space to shelves by getting shelf board cut and buying shelf clips.  Also these kitchen storage racks work great on cube shelves.

Work Mats

Carpets from the Dollar Store or Walmart work well.  Some people use towels.  One with lines works well for the Moveable Alphabet.

Album

These are a MUST have in my opinion if you are homeschooling Montessori.  I feel Keys of the World are excellent and the most affordable.

Laminator

There are many materials you can print off.  Having a good laminator is a must.  I have this one.

It used to be for sale on Amazon.ca but it seems to be gone.  You can check Walmart or Staples.  You don’t need a very expensive one but you will need lots of laminating sheets.

Practical Life Items

You can get most of these at the Dollar Store or use items around your house.

Trays

You’ll need lots of storage trays.  I do like the look of wood trays but plastic works fine.  There are lots of trays at the Dollar Store.  Try to use all the same colour, like white or tan, to keep it from being distracting.

 

So I know I’ve probably forgotten some things but I hope this is a pretty helpful list of the materials and what has worked and hasn’t worked for us.  I hope it helps those who are just starting out make the difficult decisions on how to Montessori on a budget and what to purchase.

 

 

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.

Make-a-tangram

The set can be purchased at amazon.ca 

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Now Offering Digital Files!

I’ll be now offering digital files in my Etsy shop so you can have more time with your children by being able to purchase Montessori inspired homeschooling printables.  Here are the first two available.  I’ll be soon adding more.

Australia Cards1

Life cycles 1

How Waldorf is Changing My Montessori Approach

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I love the Montessori approach.  I love how it’s child’s led, how it’s engaging and hands on and promotes independence and focus.  I love how a child actually learns, not memorizes facts.  I discovered Montessori around the time my daughter turned 2.  I went all out – materials, books, shelves, more materials, printing, laminating, more materials.  My daughter is a fast and engaged learner and she was picking up things fast, so I introduced more.  Then I got pregnant and in pregnancy I suffer from Hyperemesis Gravidarum, basically very very very severe morning sickness where you puke until your body aches, you slowly starve and can’t stand for long from dehydration.  Needless to say, we didn’t do any homeschooling.  We sadly lost the baby and when I got back to doing Montessori activities, my daughter had forgotten a lot in those few months.

Because I love learning I started reading more about the Waldorf approach.  It has a lot of the same observations about how children learn and develop but the Waldorf approach encourages imaginative play, sheltering the child and delaying formal education.  How can one mesh the two?

When I realized my daughter had forgotten many of the things we had done it made me think that perhaps she wasn’t ready.  She wasn’t really learning, just imitating.  It wasn’t making the right connections in her brain because she was too young and I was pushing too early.  I was misreading signs of readiness.  For instance, wanting to know the names of all the letters didn’t mean she was ready to learn to read, it meant she was trying to increase her vocabulary.  Counting doesn’t mean she’s ready for the bead materials yet, she needs to explore what counting means and how to use it still.  Too often I’ve seen others, like me, excited about Montessori and pushing their toddler to do materials that are really for a 3 or 4 year old and I’ve come to believe that not only is it not beneficial, it can be detrimental.  It can discourage them from being interested in the material when they’re truly at the sensitive period for it or it can cause them to make incorrect connections in the brain that are really hard to fix.

So what am I doing differently?  I’m holding back.  I still have materials out but I don’t force her to choose one.  If she’d rather run around and play with the other daycare kids, I’m happy with that.  She’s using her imagination, she’s learning to get along with others and develop social skills which are so so important in life.  She’s only 3 and she’ll only have this innocent time of freedom for such a short period.  I’d rather wait a little longer before introducing a material, actually follow the recommended age instead of thinking “oh she could do that” and be more sure that she’s mastered the other activities first before introducing something new.  I’d rather read stories and cuddle and go for walks than tell her “it’s school time you have to pick something off the shelves”.  I’m trying to have more of a rhythm to the day and incorporate more songs, poems and traditions.  I’m also planing on how I can change the room to encourage more imaginative play.  I was going to start RightStart math with her but now I’m going to wait until she’s at least 4.  She won’t learn better by starting young, she’ll learn better by starting when she’d truly ready.  I’m also purging our toys so we don’t have so much stuff and that the toys we do have are natural, open ended toys.

Homeschooling is a journey, an exciting, stressful, fun, frustrating journey and it’ll probably be always changing and evolving.  I wonder where we’ll be next year.

What makes Montessori materials so special?

I purchased The Keys of the World Montessori albums to help me better understand and implement the Montessori method with my children.  They’re wonderful albums and I’m learning so much.  I’d just like to share with you a quote from the Theory Album

The most distinct difference between Montessori and other methods is in the nature of the materials: Montessori materials are not didactic (teaching tools), but self-teaching tools.  These materials are not for the teacher to teach, but for the children to discover and learn on his own.  The children teach themselves – these materials are developmental materials.

This is really the key of Montessori – the child guides their own learning.  It’s also the hardest part; to step back and allow the child to do and learn without interfering.  It’s even more difficult in a home setting.

If you’re interesting in The Keys of the World albums you can purchase them here.

New School/Playroom

Our New School and Play Room

A while back I was just running out of space in our small playroom.  I said to my husband, “you know, it’s me and the kids that live in the house the majority of the time, you’re only home and up for a few hours.  It’d make more sense for daycare and home schooling to have the biggest room for us and the small back room for the living room”.  My husband agreed as long as there were no toys in the living room.  So we set about switching the rooms.  It was a large task as we decided to repaint the living room now to be playroom as it needed it.  So, lots more shelves, lots more space and also lots warmer (the back room was cold), also brighter and more centralized.  It’s perfect….well….almost….I’m always improving it some how.  And here are the pictures.  I’ll start on one side and go around the room to the right.

Montessori shelves

Montessori shelves

Montessori shelf

Montessori shelf

Montessori Shelves

Montessori Shelves

Music center

Music center

Toy shelves

Dresser holds art supplies with some world puzzle map and metal insets on top

Dresser holds art supplies with some world puzzle map and metal insets on top

Work table with Dinning room table and Pumpkins

Play kitchen

Play kitchen

Montessori shelf

Montessori shelf

Dollar Store Montessori

Here are some DIY Dollar store Montessori inspired activities:

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Sugar shaker and mini dowels.

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Yogurt container and pompoms

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Cream cheese container and mini pompoms

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Yogurt container and popsicle sticks

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Baby puffs container and dowels and tongue depressors

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Bread pan and wash cloths (folding activity)

Triangle Show and Giveaway

One Montessori material I didn’t purchase as I was going to make it but haven’t gotten around to it (which is why I purchased most of the materials instead of making them, because they’d never get done) is the constructive triangles.  I recently came across an amazing Etsy store called Dominna that has beautiful Montessori inspired hand-made materials .  I just drool over her items.  I am so lucky to get to review the Triangle Show. It’s a great introduction activity to the constructive triangles.

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The one I have is the smaller version and is made up of 18 triangles that you fit together in different patterns on a tray.  It comes with a pamphlet of different designs you can try to recreate or you can make your own design. It’s hand made and amazing quality.  The pieces are so vibrant and smooth and perfectly angled.  It’s a great activity for a child to learn about how shapes can fit together to make other shapes.  It develops logic and fine motor skills.  It’s also a fun way to learn about patterns and leaves room for creativity too.

The triangle show

Developing geometrical puzzle - Big triangle show (for age 3 - 10 )

Two Sided Larger Triangle Show

My 4 year old daycare child really liked to try to recreate the patterns on the pamphlet.   My 2 year old liked to fit the triangles together to make squares, it was like a puzzle to her.  My 6 year old daycare child liked making her own designs.  Pumpkin 1 told me over and over while playing with it, “I yike (like) it Mommy, I yike it.”  Actually as I was writing this post she saw the picture and started talking about how we have it in the playroom and she wanted to play with it.  So we did.

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“I working”

The only negative I could find is that the pieces and the board are very smooth so they shift about easily and it was frustrating for the little ones as they would mess up their patterns.  It wasn’t really a problem with older children who have better fine motor skills.  I’m thinking about lining it with a piece of felt so it won’t happen, however, at the same time, I think that perhaps the very fact that a child has to work carefully and be delicate is good for improving fine motor skills so I might give it more time to decide what I’ll do.  Pumpkin 1 seems to do better with it today.

Dominna has so many beautiful learning materials.  They’re amazing quality and the owner is great to work with.  Shipping does take several weeks as she’s located in Latvia.

Montessori mathematical wooden game - content of numbers (age 4-8 )

And now for the exciting part for you!  I’m offering a $15 discount to her shop to one person.  This $15 can be put towards any purchase at her Etsy store.  To enter you must like my facebook page and then comment under the post about this contest stating what you’d purchase from her shop if you won.  All the names will be put in a draw and the winner will be picked on Sunday to celebrate Purim.  You’ll be notified via a facebook message.  It’s open to everyone everywhere.

wooden puzzle ''colour roads'' (age 3 and up )

Card Activities for Toddlers

I finally broke out the laminator I got for Christmas (thank you to my mother).  I had to order more laminating sheets though since I’ve misplaced mine.  I must say, going by the cost of laminating at Staples, the laminator has already paid for itself.  If you don’t have one and plan to home school, you must get one.  This is the one I have and it’s great.

I recently printed and laminated some land/air/water activity cards, geometric solid cards and French clothing cards.  Montessori Print Shop has a great selection of printables for use with toddlers.  The quality is great, you get the download instantly and you can save it on your computer to print out again if needed.  Here are some examples:

Animals and Their Shilouettes - Montessori Cards for Montessori Learning at home and school.

Toddler Five Senses Cards - Printable Montessori Toddler Materials for Montessori Learning at home and school.

Toddler Geometric Shape Cards - Printable Montessori Toddler Materials for Montessori Learning at home and school.

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.