Do you need ideas for hands-on activities to do with your toddler? If so, you're in the right place!
Arlo and I have loosely followed the principles of Montessori for a long time. I have a somewhat fluid approach, because I truly believe the only way to make Montessori work in a modern family home is to choose the elements that work for you. This is especially important since Maria Montessori, the founder of Montessori principles, lived in a different time and in a very different environment to our modern family homes. For example, screen time wasn’t a thing, nor was the bustling life of working, after school clubs and all the other things modern parents are dealing with.
So, if, like me, you choose a fluid approach to your Montessori journey, or would just like a few educational activity ideas for your little ones, keep reading!
First up, What is Montessori?
I will only mention this briefly as if you are here reading this article, you probably have some understanding already. If you’d like a more detailed explanation, or have a specific Montessori question, you can check out my Montessori At Home Facebook group here.
Montessori is an educational approach created by Maria Montessori in the early 20th century. It is based on the belief that children are naturally curious and eager to learn, and that a properly “prepared environment” (in other words, an environment in which children can access everything on their own terms) can foster their love of learning and create a solid foundation for independence.
There are many very expensive Montessori toys and activity boxes, however there is absolutely no reason to feel you need to spend a ton of money on activities. There are plenty of ways to help your toddler that don’t cost the earth! You can use things you already have at home for your toddler to explore!
What is the best age to start Montessori activities?
Montessori inspired activities are great for toddlers and preschoolers because they help your child develop a range of key skills they will need as they gain independence. However, they can start right from birth! Whatever age your child is, it’s never too late to start!
What are the 5 key areas of Montessori?
Montessori learning is generally divided into 5 different key topic areas. These are:
- Practical Life
Practical life activities are any activity which supports your child in doing every day activities either for self care or household care. We love our kitchen helper for all our kitchen activities.
- Help with chopping or peeling vegetables for dinner.
- Bake cakes together. If you’re a Little Learning Hub member, don’t forget to check out the recipe section for some fab child friendly recipes.
- Laying the table ready for dinner.
- Cleaning the car, table or helping with any household chores.
- Helping to load and unload the washing machine or dishwasher.
- Pegging the clothes out on the line.
- Feeding the pets.
- Sweeping up and tidying away after their activities.
- Getting dressed independently.
- Brushing hair and teeth independently.
Sensory activities allow your child to explore their senses and the world around them.
- Use a range of sensory bases for exploration. This could be spaghetti, pasta, mashed potato, rice, jelly, ice or anything safe for your little one to explore. You can add tools to transfer the sensory bases from one place to another or use scissors for cutting spaghetti.
- Place different pieces of material on a tray to explore. This could be things like a square of carpet, bubble wrap, foil etc. You could also use bigger pieces on the floor to make a sensory walk.
- Give your child a selection of resources and let your toddler sort them by texture. You could also include a range of smells or tastes for them to experience, such as condiments and spices.
- Experiment with water. It could be moving some floating peas with a slotted spoon or washing toys in a tray.
- To incorporate some gross motor play, you could try going on a barefoot nature walk. This allows your child to experience nature by exploring different sensations with their feet.
A few activities from inside The Little Learning Hub.
Montessori-inspired maths activities involve exploring the concept of colour, number, measure and shape.
- Use one of your Little Learning Hub resources for maths development. There’s a huge selection to choose from!
- Grab some paint sample cards and find objects that match each colour.
- Write some numbers on pieces of paper and use wooden clothes pegs to clip the matching amount of pegs to each piece of paper. This is also great for fine motor skills.
- Order a set of number cards into the right order.
- Give a selection of loose parts to your child to explore (for example, buttons). Ask them to count out a specific number of objects.
- Cut different shapes into a cardboard box and use spatial awareness to find objects which will match the shapes and fit into the box. This is also great for hand-eye coordination.
- Measure how tall they are or how long different objects around the house are.
- Phonics activities – play splat, placing letters on post it notes and ‘splatting’ them with a wooden spoon or fly swat.
- Use one of dozens of Little Learning Hub activity resources to support reading, writing or phonics.
- Use letters to build words.
- Hide letters or words around the house and search for them.
- Picture cards – show a selection of picture cards (e.g ball, bus, apple). Call out a word ‘ball’ and ask your little one to select that card.
- Use writing materials to mark make. For example, writing with a stick in sand or mud, drawing with paints, mark making in yogurt with your finger.
- Play games of i-spy.
- Matching physical objects to their picture.
- Letter discovery baskets – place objects of the same sound in a basket for example sweet, sock, strawberry, snake etc.
A selection of Little Learning Hub phonics activities.
A selection of Little Learning Hub culture activities.
- Grab some animal toys and sort them into categories. This is great for problem-solving! It could be carnivore or herbivore, how many legs they have, where they live or what group they belong to (mammal, insect, bird etc.)
- Let your child explore different cultures around the world by listening to music, trying different foods, looking at maps and visiting different places of worship.
- Use some Little Learning Hub wider world understanding activities, such as exploring people who help us, fruit and vegetable sorting or wildlife searches.
- Show your child different objects and explore how they can be used to make music. For example, banging a saucepan with a wooden spoon makes a different sound than a plastic spoon. What if we put a towel on the saucepan? What if we fill the saucepan with rice?
- Visit museums or historically significant properties to learn about history.
- Explore events in the calendar through play, such as St David’s Day, Burns night, Chinese New Year etc.
- Take part in different art activities, such as making collages or nature art.
The important thing to remember is, whatever great activity you use to enhance your child’s Montessori education, you need to use a mixture of gross motor skills, life skills, fine motor development skills and sensory play. Give your child a small activity to do at first and then expand from there. Every activity helps to build their skills, so make the time to try just one of these activities at home and see how it goes!
What’s your favourite Montessori inspired activity? Drop a comment below and let me know!