Posts tagged How-To
This Is the Way We Wash a Wall: the montessori way!

An hand-crank eggbeater utensil, a bowl, and a drop of concentrated soap is an activity any toddler or preschooler will enjoy….and after the fun inside the bowl, why not have a cleaning frenzy?

Children love to clean, and when they get into it, sometimes they can't quite stop.

Let’s give them a huge canvas to explore possibilities.

All you need is a bowl of soapy water, a sponge, and a drying cloth.

I recommend very little actual water. You can always add more later. The sponge should be child sized. That means if you have a toddler, you may want to cut a regular sponge in thirds and give your child a third.

If your child is older, half a sponge may be quite appropriate. This way little hands can feel secure with the right sized tool. I also recommend that if you have more than one child, you give each child his own sponge and bowl so he can go where he likes to clean in his own space.

It is helpful if you give some boundaries. If you want your child to focus on a small section of wall that is especially dirty, you may consider putting some masking tape around the area that you want cleaned and asking the child to stay within the square.

I also recommend giving a lesson on how to wash the wall first.

The Lesson

  1. Carefully gather your supplies and put them right in front of the wall to wash. If in the classroom, this would include putting on an apron (children, too).

  2. Silently inspect the wall and use your fingers to point to dirty spots. You may even wrinkle your nose a little and say matter of factly, "This wall is dirty." 

  3. In exaggerated fashion, dip the sponge and squeeze out the water. Drip, drip, drip. Again. Dip. Squeeze. Drip, drip, drip. Say, "Now, I am ready to wash the wall." 

  4. Scrub. Smile and nod in satisfaction. Put the sponge back down. Use your drying cloth to dry the area.

  5. Say, "Now this part of the wall is clean. It's your turn."

Montessori Water Play PIN1

Ready. Set. Scrub!

Well, after this long lesson, the children are probably dying to jump in there, so go for it! Sing songs about washing like "This is the way we wash the walls" to the tune of "Here we go round the Mulberry Bush." 

Make a big soapy mess and then use your whole body to dry the soapy area. You can see in the pictures how my kids were loving this and dancing around. If you're dancing and having fun, they will, too.

Bonus: Your house gets cleaner, not messier! ;)

Print This Free Montessori Lesson

Download the printable version of this lesson and add it to your homeschooling binder or share with a friend.

Here’s what it looks like, except unfortunately, I will be unable to email you the soap & sponge! I know you’re disappointed, but at least you can get the lesson, right?

washing wall lesson photo.jpg

Download your free printable lesson.

  1. Download the lesson. You’ll get the lesson, plus gentle, compassionate parenting tips and information about educating your child at home.

  2. Print and add this lesson to your binder, share it with a friend, or use it with your Montessori homeschooling planner.

  3. Try this activity with your child! It’s a winner!

    Your Child Can LOVE Learning to Write…Just Start With Sand!

    Soft to the fingertips, not many can resist the temptation of playing with a pile of sand. Whether on the beach, in a box, or on a tray, sand provides an unforgettable tactile experience for all ages.

    This Montessori sand tray letter-writing activity is best for children older than age three. It comes after your child has been introduced to a few tactile, or sandpaper, letters, although the delight of drawing freeform in and generally playing with sand can be introduced in toddlerhood.

    What You Need

    • A medium-sized tray (the size of a piece of printer paper works well)

    • A good handful or two of sand or salt - enough to thoroughly coat the bottom of the tray

    What You’ll Do

    1. Immediately after reviewing the tactile or sandpaper letter you have already introduced, tell your child that you have prepared a special activity for the two of you.

    2. Sit in front of  the tray of sand and say, “This is sand.” Then, set clear expectations for use by telling your child, “The sand stays in the tray. It is not for the table or for the floor. It stays in the tray.”

    3. Now draw your child’s attention to your hands by rubbing them together and then extending only your index finger.

    4. Silently and slowly draw the letter in the sand as your child watches. Say the sound (not the name) of the letter.

    5. After a few seconds of gazing at the letter, shake the tray gently back and forth with both hands to smooth the sand.

    6. Say, “Now it’s your turn to draw the ______ [sound of the letter, such as /b/].

    girl writing in sand.jpg

    Tips for Success

    Make sure that your child can be trusted not to eat the sand and always provide adequate supervision. If you’re using salt, please note that ingesting too much salt can be toxic to children.

    Try This, Too

    Encourage your child to write in the sand at the beach or in her sandbox. You can also write letters, or even her own name for her to “read”. For another variation on this activity, try a dollop of shaving cream on a table.

    What Your Child is Learning

    When your child is learning how to write, her fingertips softly pressing and sliding into a tray of sand will bolster her muscle memory of letter formation. This activity also provides a pleasant sensory experience and aids fine motor skill development.

    Love Learning To Write Pin 1

    Print this free Montessori lesson

    Download the printable version of this lesson and add it to your homeschooling binder or share with a friend.

    sand tray printable photo.jpg

    Download your free printable lesson.

    1. Download the lesson. You’ll get the lesson, plus gentle, compassionate parenting tips and information about educating your child at home.

    2. Print and add this lesson to your binder, share it with a friend, or use it with your Montessori homeschooling planner.

    3. Try this activity with your child! It’s a winner!

      10 Homeschooling Tips: #1 - Follow Your Child

      This is a part of a series on how to make homeschooling work. Click here to read more from the series.

      It might sounds obvious, but it’s important to stress that homeschooling DOES NOT work like traditional schooling. It’s not because (or only because) you’re teaching at home or teaching your own children. It’s because traditional school is structured, in no small part, to support LOTS of kids at varying degrees of skill and readiness at the same time.

      Managing a classroom of very different young learners and trying to get them all to a common goal is not for the faint of heart. It’s why teachers think so much about classroom management. Keeping order is essential. The best teachers know how to keep discipline through engaging learning.

      A Partnership Like No Other

      Nonetheless, what they’re trying to do with twenty-three 3rd graders is not the same as what you’re trying to do with just the one. If you model your homeschool experience after what the phenomenal 3rd grade teacher down the street does, you’ll flop. Your lessons will go on too long or not long enough. The child won’t be ready and will revolt. In a traditional classroom, you have strategies to handle these - remediation activities to fill gaps, extension activities to fill time.

      But here’s the good news: You can’t be a teacher, but you shouldn’t be try to be one, either.

      Instead, you must be the child’s partner. It can’t be said enough. Get the teacher thing out of your head. Yes, you should be actively engaged in pulling together resources. Yes, you should be seeking learning opportunities. Yes, you are ultimately responsible for your child's education. However, you don't have to (and should not) do these things in a vacuum.

      Do them with your child. Look for resources together. Make a list of ideas of things you might want to do, craft, or learn about together. Give your child some empowering language about the learning process. 

      Many classroom teachers would envy your ability to follow the child and provide the instruction he or she needs at the moment he or she is ready (professional educators call it differentiated instruction).

      Find the Balance

      Following the child doesn't mean letting go of all rules and standards (though there are some educational philosophies that go to that level). Rather, it means identifying the learning outcomes that are meaningful and developmentally appropriate and inviting the child into the process as a full partners.

      And when it gets hard and your child is pushing back, keep this in your back pocket:

      "I know that you don't want to do this, but the truth is that sometimes things that are hard just take a lot of practice before they become fun, and when you've learned how to do this, it's going to be amazing. I remember when I was learning how to do this, and this is how I learned. How can we help you learn it? What would work best for you?"

      The Continent Song

      One of my favorite things about teaching the 3 - 6 age group using Montessori philosophy is the heavy focus on cultural studies, including geography.

      We want children to understand not only that they live on a planet called Earth but also that humans are just one piece of a complex web of life.

      Teaching them the names of the continents will open up their eyes to the entire world they live in. The new awareness will lead to questions about different climates, landforms, animals, and cultures.

      Click HERE to watch The Continent Song video on YouTube, or you can just watch below.

      Share your love for our planet Earth daily and act very interested in inspecting your map; your child will catch Continent Fever before you know it.


      The Garlic Peeling Work: A Lesson in Mindset

      If you ever find yourself wanting to practice patience, I suggest no greater classroom than a house with a toddler. 

      Case in point. One morning, as I sleepily stirred oatmeal on the stove, I glanced over to the fridge just in time to see the door fly open and my youngest son jump out clutching a bulb of garlic. I hear him "oooooh" and giggle mischievously to himself.

      He brings the garlic over to his child-sized kitchen table, sits down, and begins to peel the cloves.

      I think to myself, "Garlic?  Yuck. That's going to make a mess."

      I close my eyes and imagine myself wrestling the garlic bulb from his baby fingers and then enduring the tantrum that will likely ensue.

      Not worth it, I think.  I'll clean up the mess later.

      So I just turn around and pour my coffee. The smell of garlic starts to mix with the smell of coffee. Gross.

      The Work Finds the Child

      The melange of oatmeal, coffee, garlic combine with frustration and helplessness. Then I turn around and see that the concentration on his face. With extreme care and focus, he's getting those papery garlic peels off with his itty bitty fingernails.

      At this point, some part of my brain recognizes that this is his work. It is taking focused effort, and I see that he is using the pincer grip, developing his fine motor skills.

      In fact, Montessori believed that this kind of fine motor skill practice was essential in preparation for writing.

      The Garlic Peeling Work

      In Montessori classrooms, you will see many different ways teachers inspire their youngest learners to strengthen their fingers.

      I have never heard of the "garlic peeling work", but that's probably because it is very smelly and the entire classroom would end up smelling like my kitchen.

      The child is very aware of the strong smell, too, and he loves it.  He rubs his nose all over the garlic.  He tastes it.  He sucks on his fingers.

      He is very intense and not aware of me at all. He gets two cloves of garlic totally peeled, stands up, and rummages around in the kitchen drawer. He emerges with the cherry pitter and says, "This?"  

      It dawns on me that he is looking for the garlic press.  I retrieve it from the drawer and exchange it for the cherry pitter.  "Yes, this!" he exclaims.

      He returns to his table and proceeds to press the garlic cloves one at a time, squeezing as hard as he can.  I wordlessly set a bowl down on his table, and he carefully places the garlic cloves into the bowl, throws the garlic press into the sink, and races upstairs because he hears his brother.

      Recreating the Lesson

      The house is reeking of garlic, and I sip my coffee thinking... the garlic peeling work.  What a great Montessori idea. Except for the smelliness.

      I think about how I would set it up in my classroom.

      A tray, preferably easily washable.

      Two little bowls on it. 

      On the left, a bowl just big enough to hold the garlic bulb. On the right, another bowl for the peeled cloves.  

      Maybe a red tray with little white bowls.

      A garlic press between them.  

      The teacher would model cradling the garlic bulb, probing it with her fingers and sniffing it. She would pick at the garlic and act surprised when she revealed the clove inside. She would demonstrate how to peel the garlic, press the garlic, and perhaps quietly suggest that the peeled, pressed cloves will be stored and used for cooking later that day.

      She would show the child how to put the garlic skins in the classroom compost bin and make sure the tray is all clean and ready for the next person before returning to the shelf.  She would finish the lesson by washing her hands and drying them.

      This is how I see "doing Montessori" as a teacher.   

      Preparing the Environment

      Do you know that in general, Montessori teachers spend hours thinking a simple work through like this - every single work in the classroom! The perfect sized tray is selected and the perfect bowls are chosen...the bowls that are the most functional and aesthetically appealing.

      The teacher practices both the activity and the lesson several times to make sure no steps are left out. The work on the tray is set out from left to right, to mimic the way a person reads and writes. This is the teacher preparing the environment for the children.

      Montessori is A State of Mind

      When I talk to parents how to "do Montessori" at home, they are often amazed. In their minds, they're imaging the famously beautiful, prepared Montessori classrooms. This is not what they would see if they walk into my perpetually messy home. 

      What they would see, though, is respect for the child's choice - a cornerstone of Montessori. Example:

      • In the classroom, the child chooses the garlic pressing work off of a clean, inviting shelf, takes it to his table, and performs the work with concentration.
      • At home, the child sneaks into the fridge, selects the garlic to work with, takes it to his table, explores it, retrieves the press from its home in the kitchen, and feels purposeful about it.

      Different but no. In both, the adult is driven by a respect for the child's choice and his work. She honors this moment. She allow it. She recognizes that it is the child's real work and that is what makes you "doing Montessori" in your home, not because you have set up some pretty shelves with works on trays.

      How do you see yourself  "doing Montessori"?  I bet it's more often than you realize!

      You Can Make a Nearly Perfect Learning Tool For Pennies

      Playdough is great. It feels so good to kids because it stretches and strengthens their wrists, their hands, their fingers. But you know what's better? Real dough.

      First of all, dough is delightfully smellable. And, boy, does it smell wonderful, like something you would like to taste. So you do. Yummy! It's fresh and edible. The texture is dry and soft to the fingers and delightfully slimy to the mouth. It is infinitely moldable. When baked, the properties change dramatically, and the child uses all of his or her senses in observing this transformation.

      Repetition, Repetition, Repetition...

      It's not just about playing with the dough, either. The making is just as important...and fun! One of the keys to Montessori philosophy is understanding the child's need for repetition.

      Repetition is satisfying. It allows the child to hone the skills learned in the very first lesson with the work. Montessori believed that children have an inner guide that propels them toward repeating the actions that will lead to new developmental capabilities.

      The Perfect Dough

      This is partly why cooking, which naturally invites repetition, is excellent for kids. And simple yeasted dough is the perfect project.

      Making the Dough

      4 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

      1 1/2 teaspoons salt

      1 tsp yeast

      1/4 cup olive oil

      1 3/4 cups water

      Mix the flour, salt and yeast together. Add the oil and water. Knead (by hand or in a mixer with a dough hook) until you have that perfect, classic, springy bread dough texture. In general, if you can pinch the dough between your fingers and it stays in that shape (like playdough), you've got it.

        Baking and storing

        You can eat the dough unbaked (many kids love to), or you can bake it into loaves, fun shapes or a pizza. Plop the dough lump onto a well floured cutting board and cut into shapes. Bake at 350 degrees or until it's crispy to your liking. 

        If you want to store the dough for later, cut it into fourths. Pat each with a little olive oil on your fingers then stick them into plastic baggies. Store them in a fridge. They will last a few days.

        Make It a Habit

        If you want kids to get comfortable working with dough - rolling, kneading, and using cookie cutters to make fun shapes - you can't put a lump of dough in front of the kiddos and expect magic. You have to model it yourself many times.

        And remember, acting is essential to good, enticing teachings. Snicker mischievously when you roll out some snakes and make the first letter of your kids' names. Take a bite out of the pizza with gusto, and even if you think the kids' Frankenpizza monster is disgusting, keep a smile on your face and spit it into the trash when they aren't looking. 

        If you act like dough is fun, your kids will think it is!

        You Should Teach How to Hug

        Sometimes there's just too much of a good thing.

        Maybe you're squatting on the balls of your feet near the playground. Your two-year-old has just performed an amazing (in his mind) trick. Now he is barreling at your smiling face for a big open-armed hug. Crash. Newton's laws of physics. And now you're toppling backwards onto the ground.

        You laugh, a bit embarrassed, as the other parents watch you right yourself and try to remain smiling at your little charging bull. You can't help but murmur, "That was a bit too much of a hug for me."

        Or maybe you're at home hosting a play date, and your three-year-old, who has played so sweetly all afternoon, is saying goodbye to visitors. The children are poised eagerly for a hug. 

        You oooh and awww as the three year olds put their arms around each other. Then the moment takes a turn for the worse, and your smiles turn upside down. Your child appears to be squeezing your friend's child like a lemon! Your friend's child looks terror stricken.

        "That's enough hugging now!" you say quickly, a bit panicked, as you pull your child's arms away.

        Your friend puts on a small, fake smile. Her child hides behind her. It's an embarrassing moment, and you cover it with a big wave. "See you soon!"

        teaching Grace and Courtesy

        Hugging seems so natural that we tend to expect our children to just know how to do it appropriately. It's why the thought of teaching someone how to hug may seem odd. The truth, however, is that while physical contact may be a very human trait, there are subtle rules governing how to act on that need. Children must be taught what is acceptable in order to know what to do. 

        Here are four tips to help you teach a child how to give just the right kind of hug. 

        1. Model the types of hugs you want to see

        If you are ending every single one of your hugs with a big tickle and chase around the house, your child is likely to do the same to others. Make sure that when you hug your child, you resist the urge to capture her for longer than she desires.

        Hugs are a two-way street... even for parents and children! Whenever there is an opportunity for you to hug another child or another adult while your child is in the room, just know that your child is probably secretly observing you. Make sure you are hugging the way you want your child to hug others.

        2. Give a lesson

        A bit of information about how hugs work might just do the trick. Take a few minutes with your child to talk about how to give a hug. Do not do this during or just after an embarrassing hugging moment. Wait until later on in the day, or even on another day altogether.

        Depending on the child, you can either use words or just actions. If you do use words, keep it simple but talk about what you are doing and thinking. Don't forget to ask for consent. A healthy respect for personal space is learned in childhood.

        For example: 

        "I would like to give Daddy a hug. Daddy? May I give you a hug? He said yes! I'm going to gently put my arms around him just like this. I'm patting his back. Not too tight, just right. Gentle. And now I look in his eyes and see if he is happy. Does he like the hug? He does! The hug is over and I'm stepping back."  

        A real-live person is best, but if one is not available for the lesson, it's perfectly okay to use a stuffed animal or even the family dog, if he's willing! 

        3. Prepare and support

        If your child is a habitual over-hugger, it might help to give some support just before and also during the hug.

        For example:

        "We are about to say goodbye. Does Aiden want a hug? Ask him. Ok, it looks like he does. Gentle touch. Look at his face. Is he happy?"

        4. Practice

        Children will not absorb the teaching moment without a bit of repetitive practice. Take turns role-playing the hugger and the huggee! Books about good hugging can also help with practice time. Check out some suggestions here.

        The Garden in a Jar: A Science Lesson

        The entire natural world contains an enchantment that cannot be replicated in any storybook. There is no greater example of this than watching a new life burst out into the world from something as simple as a seed.

        Observing the mysterious power contained within seeds is not the work of gardeners alone. It can be witnessed easily and simply in your own kitchen.


        What You Need

        • A wide mouth mason jar

        • A sprouting screen to fit in the lid of the jar (a pair of pantyhose and a rubber band will do)

        • A few seeds (any kind will do)

        The Lesson

        1. Tell A story about the seeds

        Hold one of the beans or seeds hidden in the palm of your hand and tell a little story of the seed. Say:

        "I have something very special to show you. The thing I have in my hand right now is alive!"

        Open your palm slowly and dramatically. Allow the child to observe the seed for a moment or two and then continue. Say:

        "This is a seed. It contains new life inside that can nourish us by giving us fresh oxygen to breathe and food to eat. But right now this very minute, the seed is sleeping.

        When a seed sleeps, we say it is dormant. If we want it to grow, we will need to wake it up.

        Would you like to wake it up so that it can nourish us?" 

        If the child is engaged in the story, allow some wait time for answering questions and discussing. If the child is not engaged, simply resume with your task as though you are engaged yourself.

        "I would like to wake this seed up! It will need to rest in water overnight. First, I need a jar..." 

        2. Soak the seeds

        Place a small handful of seeds in the jar.

        • If your seeds are tiny, like alfalfa or broccoli, a teaspoon or two is all you need.
        • If your seeds are larger, like mung beans, try a couple tablespoonfuls.
        • If your seeds are rather large, like garbanzo beans, a 1/4 to 1/2 half a cup may be more appropriate.

        Don't worry about being exact. Just put some seeds in the jar and fill the jar with water. Make sure that you really fill up the jar with water (filtered is best). It may even make sense to do this part in a bowl rather than in the jar. Your seeds will soak up a lot of water... maybe even more than you think.

        Place the screened lid on the jar.

        3. Rinse the Water

        The next morning, pour out the water and pour in fresh water - straight through the screen lid - rinsing your seeds. They have awoken and are now ready to sprout.

        After the seeds are rinsed, pour all of the water out through the screen and leave the jar sideways or tilted downwards so that any remaining water will drain out and not continue to soak the seeds.

        Continue rinsing and draining twice a day over the next several days, and you should see your sprouts growing.

        4. Enjoy !

        The sprouts are healthy, and if you've rinsed them daily and checked for mold, the risk for bacteria infection is fairly low. Nothing left out on the kitchen counter overnight is completely without risk, so do your research and settle on what you feel comfortable with.

        Mung bean sprouts are crunchy and delicious fresh out of the jar. Garbanzo beans can be boiled and made into a delicious hummus or soup. However, the decision to eat what you grow on your kitchen counter is completely up to you.

        I can tell you that the children will be just as thrilled to explore the sprouts with their fingers or to plant them into some dirt to continue growing if you choose not to eat them. If you do eat them, many children will be thrilled to try them. Growing your own food is a very powerful experience!

        Sprouts in a Jar! Every child needs one of these in the kitchen.
        Watercolored Geometric Solids: The Three Period Lesson

        The three period lesson is a classic Montessori technique for teaching the names things. When combined with geometric solids, you have a sure fire hit with younger learners.

        All you need is a set of geometric solids like shown in the image and this lesson.

        Period One: Name It

        Say, "This is a sphere. Would you like to say the word 'sphere'?"

        Emphasize the ssssffff sound when you say the word. Children usually do want to practice saying it a few times. It feels funny on the tongue.

        Roll the sphere between your hands. Hold it up to your cheek. Pet it with the tip of your finger. If you want children to treat the materials as if they are precious, you must also act as if they are all made of the finest crystal.

        Offer the sphere to the child. "Now it's your turn to hold the sphere."

        Period Two: Play With It

        Point to the sphere. Does the sphere roll? It does! Put the sphere on top of your head. Put the sphere on my elbow. Give me the sphere. Where is that sphere hiding? Oh! The sphere was in my lap! <giggle> (Nobody said that the three period lesson had to be dull!

        Period Three: Recall - Can the Child Tell You Its Name?

        Ask, "What is this?" If the child doesn't know the name of the sphere by now, don't worry. You just need more playtime with it. Put it away for now and get it out again later and re-do the lesson. No worries.

        Period three is just about checking to see if the child can remember the name. If your child doesn't seem interested in the lesson, maybe now is simply not the time to teach the concept. Back it goes on the shelf for a few days, weeks, months, or even a year. It's all good.


        Teach Respect for the Materials

        Almost inevitably, children recognize the sphere as a ball, and they may be inclined to throw or roll it off the rug. Just before this happens, acknowledge that the sphere is definitely like a ball and that actually, a ball is in the shape of a sphere!

        But our sphere is not a ball. It is special. Our sphere. It isn't for throwing. It's special. It stays on the rug. If it is intentionally rolled away or thrown, you may suggest that the work be put away in lieu of a sphere that is for throwing - a bouncy ball in the yard, perhaps?

        Thrift Store Shopping List for Your Montessori Home

        Thrift stores are a Montessori parent's best friend.  If you're just getting started making your home a Montessori-inspired environment, do consider a trip to the thrift store.  At almost any thrift store, you'll find a ton of stuff to make Montessori works with.  

        So you're set to go to the thrift store but a little unsure of what it is exactly you're looking for? No problem.  Here's a top ten list of my favorite things to look for at thrift stores when I go Montessori hunting.

        1. Large trays

        Look for thick, sturdy ones in solid colors.  Check to see how it feels when you pick it up.  Both trays with tall and short sides are nice.  A tray with taller sides (like the large red one in the photo) will be perfect for a scrubbing work where water may be spilled, a sand tray, or painting.

        2. Small trays

        Look for solid colors and a smooth surface.  These will get a lot of use a lot of use in the practical life area.  For example, a small tray could be just right for holding a sponge in a tiny bowl and a drying cloth.

        3. Sorting trays

        Any tray with different compartments will work for sorting colors, shapes, textures, etc.  Look for ice cube trays and serving platters.

        4.  Pitchers

        An assortment of pitchers is nice.  Look for a pitcher that fits a child's hand.  Large plastic water pitchers can be fun for large pouring (think baby/toddler age for dumping and filling) while the small ceramic pitchers are really appealing to the 2 1/2 + age group.  Glass ones break easily, and you are going for variety, so get several.

        5. Baskets

        Oh, how I do love baskets!  A pretty basket can make any work (even legos) classy.  Look for baskets with handles on the sides or a very short handle on the top.  Many times I've made the mistake of buying beautiful baskets that don't fit on my shelves because of the handle.  However, if you see a basket that you love with a tall handle, go ahead and get it - you can snip off the handle with a wire cutter later.

        6. Bowls

        Any size, any shape or material.  I would go for smaller than a cereal bowl, as this size is particularly useful for transferring works.

        7. Jars/Bud Vases

        Any kind of jar or little vase.  The jars will be useful for all kinds of little works and experiments, and the bud vases are for flower arranging.

        8. Utensils/Tools

        Hmmm...what I'm talking about in this department are tiny forks, scoops, interesting spoons, olive pitters, whisks, egg beaters, egg slicers, tiny spreading knives, and TONGS.  That sort of thing.

        9. Kid Dishes: Cereal Bowl Size, Salad Plate Size, and Drinking Glasses  

        Montessori classrooms have a tradition of using glass tableware for kids.  This is because eating off of them is just nicer.  And by teaching children proper care, they will learn to be careful with them.  I do not recommend breakable dishware for the 2 & 1/2 and under age group unless under the child is under supervision. Make sure you are always watching, because there will likely be broken dishes here and there while your child learns. What you are looking for is a glass dish that feels fairly thick, so if it does fall on the floor, it at least stands a chance. Just plan on having a whisk broom and vacuum handy, and don't sweat the small stuff.

        10. Coin Purses and Pretty Bags

        Not only are these fun to open and close, they make cute alternatives for baskets!

        Happy Montessori Shopping!

        How Little Wormies Reminded Me to Let the Child Lead the Learning

        The muggy summer left us crisp mornings and pleasant dappled afternoons. The leaves are gently filling our yard, and I am inspired to do apple-fall-pumpkin-Halloween art with tempera, watercolors, glue, scissors, felt and a myriad of collected nature items!

        The children are not. What are they doing? "Looking for wormies."

        Sometimes I forget that their natural discoveries are the curriculum at this age. 

        The day begins. Everyone is breakfasted and well tickled, and the back door opens. Little mostly naked bodies fly out there before I can catch them. One by one I drag them in, pop on clothes appropriate for the weather, and they're off making a big mess in their sandbox and digging in the dirt nearby.

        The World's Greatest Science Kit

        Their natural exploration is remarkably similar to the FOSS kit (a common school hands-on science curriculum) on worms that I used when teaching Kindergarten. In the kit, the children are all distributed a worm during science time. Observations are written. Parts are identified. Experiments performed over several days, possibly a couple of weeks. The homeschooling difference is that the worm study was their complete choice and design. A study starts whenever inspiration hits and ends whenever interest dies.

        There are darker lessons to be learned that would not be taught in a controlled classroom environment. Worms can drown in too much water. If left on concrete, they become a stiff, distorted piece of gray elastic.

        Nature's Truth

        The moment when my son sought approval with the words, "Mommy? I did an experiment. I broke the worm into two pieces. They will grow back and the worm will still live. Right? That's right, isn't it, Mommy?" Goodness, how to answer? With both compassion and information is the Montessori way, and yet it is hard to look in my son's dark brown eyes full of hope and tell him that he probably killed it, at the very least caused it pain.

        It's just an earthworm - no great loss for the world, but a great loss in his heart. Life's greatest lessons are always learned through experience. 

        Learning to Read: The Three Period Lesson

        The three period lesson is a staple of Montessori education. It can be used to teach the name of anything, including the sounds of the letters of the alphabet, setting the stage for reading. It is most effective with the age 2 and up crowd.

        In a Montessori classroom, you are likely to find a more formal approach. Here's a simpler, more DIY style you can try anywhere.

        The key is to have fun with your child while you use this technique and not to be too fussy about it. So grab a scrap of paper and join me!

        The Lesson

        1st Period: Naming. Simply name the object, speaking clearly and slowly, for your child. In our case, we are naming a letter symbol, and the name we want the child to associate with it is the SOUND of the letter. "This is _______."

        2nd Period: Recognizing. This is your opportunity to play with your child with the letter symbol and sound. In this period, you may give your child small tasks, like brainstorming other words that start with that same sound. Example: cow, cat, kick, kite all start with the same initial sound. "Point to the ________."

        3rd Period: Recalling. You are checking to see if your child can tell you the sound of the letter when you show him/her the letter symbol. "What is this?" If your child correctly tells you the sound, he/she is ready to move on to learning another letter sound. If your child is not able to tell you, you need to stay in the 2nd period and keep playing.

        Rest and Repeat

        It's okay take a break and come back to this lesson later. Some children are able to very quickly progress through the entire alphabet in a matter of days, and other children may stay on the same letter for days or even weeks, depending on their developmental interests at the time. If your child is not into it the first time, keep it casual and low pressure. All children learn at their own natural rate.

        A little exposure can go a long way. If you begin teaching sounds early and your child is intensely interested, you know it's the right time. If your child is not interested at all, other areas of learning simply may be more important at this time.

        These DIY Colored Beads Are Going to Knock Your Montessori Socks Off
        This is so easy! Must do!!

        Something very strange happens, though, when you make your own materials as opposed to buying them new.

        You become oddly attached. You are much more likely to handle them with care, and you are more likely to use them with your children. The experience feels more authentic, linking the past with the present. You can close your eyes and envision Mara Montessori gently feeling her rosary beads and thinking, "Now could I use these as math manipulatives?"

        It's the same. You, not Maria, are the guide today. DIY Montessori is not just a way to make materials more affordable. It is a process which deepens the teacher's own understanding of the lessons, a path worth pursuing for its own sake.

        Making The Beads

        Here's what you need: 

        • Pony beads (single packs of 10 colors each or one big multi-pack)
        • A roll of speaker wire
        • Scissors
        • Pliers (optional)

        The Montessori colors are as follows:

        • 1 = Red
        • 2 = Green
        • 3 = Pink
        • 4 = Yellow
        • 5 = Light Blue
        • 6 = Light Purple
        • 7 = White
        • 8 = Brown
        • 9 = Dark Blue
        • 10 = Golden

        If you are teaching in a Montessori classroom, I do recommend that you follow this color scheme because your materials to be consistent with the entire Montessori curriculum. If you are making the beads at home, the color choices are completely up to you - just make sure you are always consistent yourself.

        Remember these supplies to make DIY Montessori colored beads. Super easy!


        1. Take the speaker wire and split the two ends in half. Pull a long single strand  apart and snip it off with the scissors.
        2. Make a knot in one end.
        3. String on your beads.
        4. Make another knot. Slide the loose knot down so that the beads stay rather tight.
        5. Use your hands (or the pliers if necessary) to pull the knots tight.
        6. Repeat for as many beads bars as you like on the same strand of wire. (I'd make about 20 of each.)
        7. With your scissors, snip between each bead bar. Wasn't that easy?
        DIY Montessori Beads! I'm in! This method is the easiest and most durable out there!


        Are you wondering where you're going to store these lovelies? Maria Montessori tells us a little story of how she herself kept the beads inside a single container, all mixed up. She eventually left the classroom to teach other educators in her methods. One day, she was visiting a favorite teacher, and to her surprise, the bead bars were inside a compartmentalized box! The teacher was embarrassed, for she had sewn pieces of cardboard together, and she was ashamed of her poor workmanship to contain the beautiful materials. She went on to explain how the children seemed to love the organization that the box provided. Maria was ecstatic, and today the beads in Montessori classrooms are contained in wooden, compartmentalized boxes.

        Luckily for us, many DIY options exist at local craft and hardware stores that will fit the bill.

        There's no need for us to sew our own unless we really want to. Long ago, I bought this plastic box at a craft store, and it has served my beads well for many years! The children do seem to enjoy the ease with which they are able to quickly select their beads.

        I added number stickers to the box one year because so many of my children needed practice with number recognition. It's no longer pretty, and it's survived several moves from classroom to classroom and house to house, but it's where we keep ours today in our Montessori homeschool classroom. I personally think that they are more beautiful in a basket, but having them in order is a relief to the children. The next time I'm in another craft or hardware store, I'll be keeping my eyes out for a new box.

        DIY Montessori colored beads - easy enough for anyone to make on a budget! - from Montessori Mischief

        One last thing... You may notice that my 10 bars (golden beads) are also in the container! I like to keep some there for easy access. At the time that I made these beads, I could not find affordable golden pony beads! I chose the next-best color available, which ended up peach. They work just fine. In fact, my entire set of golden beads are peach! If you are in the same situation, I think a light cream color would be a nice option as well.

        Watch the video bead tutorial herE

        The Crow and the Pitcher: Science + Literature Lesson

        “Growth comes from activity, not from intellectual understanding.” - Maria Montessori

        When you enter a Montessori classroom, you will likely first notice how pretty the shelves are with the "works" displayed in simple trays or baskets. If you stay and watch, you will notice that many of these activities are remarkably high level.

        You think to yourself, "These preschoolers are doing algebra? You've got to be kidding me!" Yup, Montessori was reaching high. But when you take a look at what the kids are doing and how it is presented, you realize that they are not writing equations and discussing the hows and whys or the applications.

        "The Child Will Absorb What He Needs to Know"

        The theory behind Montessori's method is that the child will absorb what he needs to know at the right developmental time by using his own hands. And yes, Montessori felt that very small children were capable of learning/absorbing much more than traditional educators were giving them credit for. It's a wonderful material, but you don't have to purchase a trinomial cube in order to expose your child to the mystifying complexity of math and science. Everyday experiments will work.

        Enter The Crow and the Pitcher. This science experiment plus literature activity has always been one of my favorites to do in the classroom, and chances are you already have what you need for it hanging around your house, but you don't need to begin with an explanation of water displacement. Simply showing, doing, and having fun with it is enough at this age. Like my kids, yours will probably want to do it over and over. 

        Teaching Tip: Do this experiment yourself first if possible - how high you want to fill the vase is largely dependent on the size and shape of your vase and your stones.


        The Plot

        An Aesop's Fable...

        A CROW, perishing with thirst, saw a pitcher, and, hoping to find water, flew to it with great delight. When he reached it, he discovered to his grief that it contained so little water that he could not possibly get at it. He tried everything he could think of to reach the water, but all his efforts were in vain. At last he collected as many stones as he could carry and dropped them one by one with his beak into the pitcher, until he brought the water within his reach, and thus saved his life.

        Moral: Necessity is the mother of invention. 

        The Materials

        • small necked jar or vase (mine is from maple syrup)
        • stones (glass is pretty, but pea gravel will work just as well)
        • sponge & drying cloth (cleanup)
        • pitcher and funnel (optional)
        • tray (preferably with high sides)

        The Protagonist

        When I introduce this story, I usually begin by making a bird with my fingers. The children are drawn in. I don't speak. I make bird-like movements. I fly my fingers around and peck at things. I may or may not caw. 

        When I have totally 100% got their undivided attention, I begin the story in a calm, quiet voice. As the crow flies, so do my fingers. When the crow is thirsty and cannot reach the water, he hangs his head.

        He perks up with an idea! He hops over to the pile of stones and picks one up in his pincer grip. He carefully deposits the stone in the water. At this point, the children take over spontaneously and my acting part is over. I recede quietly into the background.

        The Big Finish

        When the water reaches the top, the children are always surprised. Their crows happily slurp up the water, and they keep dropping more stones in, and the water keeps spilling out. See why you need the sponge and drying cloth on hand? And the tray with tall sides? They will likely want to do it again and again. When they do, you have the pitcher and funnel on hand so they can do it themselves.

        Want to Build Fine Motor Skills? Get Nuts.

        When I was a kid, my parents took me to a restaurant where you were not only allowed to throw peanut shells all over the floor. You were actually encouraged to. Sure, it may have just been a marketing gimmick, but to a kid, it was totally awesome!

        And, in fact, shelling nuts is actually a great activity for young kids. Though you probably don't want to recreate the full "throw it on the floor" experience, having kids shell nuts helps build fine motor skills and is just as awesome today as it was in my day. 

        Build A Nut Cracking Station

        Ready to build your own nut cracking station? To start, you'll need a big tray with a tall lip to be the work area. The lip will help keep the work contained while the large size gives the children a wide range of motion.

        Next, you'll need a nut cracker (like in the photo). And, of course, you'll need nuts. Peanuts are best though pistachios are also a good one for beginner nut cracking.

        For a younger child,  pre-crack the shells so they are still challenging but doable.

        The Process

        The pincer grip

        The pincer grip

        Now that you've got the station set up, it's time to let the cracking begin.

        And here's why it's an excellent Montessori fine motor skill activity. Take a look at the photo. See the pincer grip necessary to get those shells open? That's what you're looking for.

        The actual nut cracking tool gets used on the harder shelled peanuts. It's there if you need it or want it, but my kids mostly just use their fingers, which is better for them anyway.

        Go nuts!  (I know, I know...I couldn't resist.)