This summer we will be spending a lot of time at home together. My girls are not signed up for any camps and jokingly refer to this a Camp Mama, as we embark on a classic camp free summer with no TV.
I’m all for my children experiencing some good old classic summer boredom – the kind that makes them beg to go back to school. However, a few weeks back it became clear that I was going to have to step it up this summer to keep my stubbornly independent two-year-old engaged, and prevent toddler behavior that results from boredom and frustration.
In preparation for this summer, I cleaned out the play kitchen that lives in our dining room and I am setting up shelves of Montessori lessons.
Throughout the summer I’ll be posting about the Montessori lessons we’ll be doing at home, that are being added to our shelves each week. We will be filling the shelves and rotating out the lessons as we go along, when we need a new activity, and when the girls seem responsive to being introduced a new lesson.
Through the years I have gone back and forth on where I stand about setting up Montessori lessons at home. My older girls have attended Montessori school five days a week since they were two. During the school year I feel like school is enough. So I set up our home to reflect basic Montessori principals that help us flow through our day smoothly, not focusing on a educational outcome.
However my youngest daughter is two-and-a-half now, and the work of doing lessons truly is a lot of fun for her. Having things set up for her to go about her day independently, with a strong sense order, helps keep her a happy and peaceful two-year-old.
I have learned a lot about Montessori education by experiencing it as a parent the last five years. I am still inspired by every conversation I have with my daughters’ teachers. And I feel fortunate I can rely on them to do the serious teaching, like reading and math. While I focus on the fun things at home.
In doing this approach of having Montessori lessons on our shelves at home, it helps immensely that all my girls attend Montessori school. My toddler did so for the last year, since before she was two. Therefore even she understands the culture of finding a lesson on a shelf, understanding the right way to choose it, handle it, and return it to the shelf when she is finished. She doesn’t always do so perfectly, but she understands the process. And her sisters are quick to reinforce it!
Naturally, they all transfer the familiarity of the process when presented it at home.
Some of the lessons on our summer shelves will be created with my older girls in mind as well, in some respect or another, from “showing” my toddler the lessons to helping her “restore” the lessons.
Below are the lessons I put on the shelves last week. Most of them are easy to assemble. They fall in the realm of practice life, art and sensorial.
Bead stringing: My toddler’s teacher tipped me off that my daughter loves bead stringing. And, she suggested I put the beads in something that was challenging to open. So that is exactly what I did. To create the lesson I used wooden beads leftover from necklace kits given to my older girls. My toddler prefers bead string with pipe cleaners. But I included some regular necklace string in the chest as well, incase my older girls wanted to join her – which they have done. When my toddler finished her beadwork I was pleased to see she returned the chest to our lesson shelves without being asked or reminded to do so.
Paper cutting: This cutting lesson is created by drawing lines on strips of paper, for cutting. There are also small envelopes, which I cut and taped together, for my two-year-old to put her finished bits of paper inside. She LOVES this. On the last day of school her teacher handed me about 20 envelopes full of bits of paper from the last two months of school. For the primary 3-6 age group, the lines get more intricate. And yes, I leave the scissors out all the time, available for cutting. So far in our five years of leaving scissors out for children to use when they choose, we have never had an incident of improper use – such as hair cutting. Thankfully.
Mushroom misting: I saw this Back to the Roots Mushroom kit at our local Three River’s Market food co-op. And then when I saw the concept being shared with children at How We Montessori, I added it to our summer shelves. Inside the box was an online coupon code – GiftofGrowing20 – that will get you 20 percent off and free shipping if you order here. Plus, post a picture on their Facebook site of your growing mushrooms and they will send a free kit to your school. All my girls have loved misting, and watching these mushrooms grow!
Cotton ball sorting of different sizes: This lessons uses three different sizes of glass bowls and a set of tongs ordered from Montessori Services, and one bag of different sized pom-poms from the dollar isle at Target. She puts the smallest balls in the small bowl, the medium sized balls in medium bowl and the large balls in the large bowl. It teaches size differentiation and fine motor skills by using the tongs. This was challenging work for her. She enjoyed it and has chosen it often since it was shown to her.
Plant watering: My oldest daughter was the first to spot this lesson, then water the plant with the provided water. She even took it a step farther and created her own sign that said, “I don’t need water.” And returned it to the plant. Now they check this all the time! And we need houseplants that drink more water.
To stay informed and read about what we are adding to our lesson shelves each week, be sure to subscribe to Simply Natural Mom – by Facebook, Twitter, email or RSS feed. Also check out my Montessori Pinterest board.