Sunday, 31 August 2014

Discovering sunflowers

It took us a while to realise that the two long, thick stems growing in our garden came from the sunflower seeds we casually dropped there a few weeks earlier. How amazing that we forgot about them and yet they grew to become two tall, strong plants. 
 
 
After its best days were over, I cut one of the flowers off and brought it inside for Finn to take the seeds out. We talked about how birds have a beak shaped a bit like the tweezers we were using to remove the seeds, and that's how they can eat them.
 

I opened a few of the seeds for us to eat and thought about how sunflower oil is made. We watched a video on Youtube and Finn really wanted to try pressing some seeds to get the oil! He understood from the video that you need a lot of seeds to make a drop of oil.


 I opened more seeds for him to grind using his pestle and mortar. Even though we didn't really get a drop, I hope that our oily fingers, after manipulating the pressed seeds, were enough for him to understand where plant-based oil comes from.


I thought about continuing with this topic since Finn seemed to be enjoying it. I wasn't sure if he was ready to follow directions to make a picture but I gave it a go!

The idea was to trace a circle using the frame from the insets (a Montessori material) and filling it in with black paint using finger prints. While waiting for that to dry, I showed him how to make potato stamps to make the sunflower petals. He tried the stamps but was more interested in covering his paper with yellow paint using a paintbrush. He was really engrossed, trying to fill in every bit of white, so I let him enjoy the process.


He noticed that my picture still had some white showing, but thankfully, he fixed that for me!

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Montessori Land Forms DIY


We use the plant trays I mentioned in this post to make our land forms. Clay doesn't work well for us as it is too hard for Finn to shape. We use brown play dough instead which is really easy to use. At the moment Finn and I fill the bottom of one tray with it, then I make a faint "island" mark for him to cut through with a knife and we transfer it to the other tray. He loves pouring the water to discover his island and lake! Then we have to add wildlife and vegetation (weeds from the garden). He really loves doing this!

 

He spent a lot of time pretend playing with the animals on his land forms and then came up with the idea of making an island and lake with Lego! I helped him make them and here is the result:


I'd seen land forms done with rocks, sand, clay, but never with Lego before!

Friday, 25 July 2014

Montessori activities at 2.5 years old

 

Here's a picture of Finn's shelves as they are now.

1. Cutting tray. He's a bit bored with cutting paper strips so at the moment he's got flower stems from the garden.

2. Observation basket. That's where he puts the treasure he finds outside: pine cones, fallen leaves, feathers, snail shells, funny twisty branches...

3. Peppa Pig Aquadoodle picture cards and pen. Definitely his favourite work at the moment. If Peppa Pig can help him improve his pencil grip, I'm happy!

4. Drawing in cornmeal. Just a shallow layer of cornmeal and a stick. He likes that one but won't take it off the shelf for some reason.

5. Horses clothespins legs. Four horse bodies of different colours cut out from paper with four pairs of clothespins of matching colour to attach as legs. I got the idea from here.

6. Packlocks and keys. I made the board after seeing one here.

7. Collage tray. Coloured tissue paper, black card and white glue with glue spreader.

8. Colour mixing. Drop coloured water in the ice cube tray using a pipette. Then give to mummy to freeze!

9. Play dough basket. I use this recipe. He has a rolling pin, 2 silicone cupcake moulds, 3 candles, 6 goggly eyes and a few shape cutters. I found out with this that less is more!

10. Sifting salt from rice. He enjoys this but can't remember the steps yet and often ends up mixing the salt and rice again by accident. Frustrating, but he's working on it!

11. His beloved Lego, which he uses every single day to make "digger planes." He owes his great manipulative skills to them.

Now a word on trays and containers as it can be hard to find appropriate ones.

The two dark green trays you can see on the picture (numbers 3 and 7) are actually plant trays. They are the perfect size and can contain wet activities. These one were £2 each at Frosts garden centre. We also borrow them from the shelves to use as landform trays with clay once in a while.

The tray holding the colour mixing is an inking tray from Rainbow Creations. It cost £1.90. It's a good, sturdy tray but a bit difficult to pick up for a child as it doesn't have handles.

The tray containing the sifting activity is in fact the plastic lid from a chocolate box. I protected the edges with black electrical tape. It works perfectly and cost nothing! I got a few of those boxes from our scrap shop.

All the baskets you can see in the picture, plus the cornmeal tray, come from charity shops and car boot sales.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Two colour mixing activities

 
Here are two colour mixing activities we tried.
 
1. Mixing paint in a food bag
 
 


and drawing on it with a cotton bud


My verdict: Great hands-on activity with no mess. The green showed really clearly. I would enjoy doing it again.

Finn's verdict: Ok activity but not messy enough to be fully engaging. Not sure if he would like to do it again.


2. Adding paint to Gloop (cornstarch + water)



My verdict: Nice contained activity. I particularly liked to watch the colours swirl.

Finn's verdict: Engaged for 40 minutes, swirling the colours into each other. Asking for more paint. He would LOVE to do it again!

And in case you're wondering to what happened to the Gloop afterwards:

 
Did I say it was a contained activity??

Monday, 14 July 2014

Washing his hands

Can your child reach the tap to wash their hands independently? Finn can't. (and his Fun Pod isn't much help as he can't get on it by himself)
 
I had been putting off setting up a bowl of water that would be accessible, because I was worried that he would tip it off or not be careful with it. Also, I didn't have a bowl the right size, had nowhere to hang a towel, didn't have a small table to put it all on... I was looking for solutions but couldn't really find any. Nothing seemed good enough so I just didn't do it.
 
One day, as I realised how heavy Finn had become to lift up to the tap, I decided to just set up something with items from around the house, even if it wasn't perfect. 
 
I used a bedside table that we weren't really using for anything useful, the washing up bowl we take camping, a jug, a basket of washable wipes, a mirror, a towel for the floor, a towel to dry hands, and a liquid soap dispenser.  The bowl is too big and  I have nowhere to hang the hand towel. I still need to add a container for dirty wipes. It is really not perfect, but at least it exists! Proof below! 
 
 
 
 
 
I use the jug to fill the bottom of the bowl with fresh water every morning (less than an inch deep) and Finn uses it to wash his hands and face after meals. We have had problems with over enthusiastic use of soap, forgetting to squeeze wipes before washing his face, carrying drippy wipes around with him and trying to hoover up the water from the bowl with the vacuum cleaner (it worked). But if I look at the larger picture, these incidents only happen one time out of ten and only when he is very tired, so I should be able to avoid them in the future.
 
 
 
Have you set up something similar for your child? Please share your links in the comments!

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Exploration of the geometric solids

 
I had grand plans when we started this. We would roll the flour flat and make prints with the geometric solids (as seen on several blogs), staying OUT of the box. Finn was not in the least interested in making prints though. As soon as he saw the flour, he felt it through his fingers, removed his trousers and jumped in eagerly! He was ecstatic and I could see that the sensory input was truly making him happy!
 
He explored the flour for a long time. He buried his dinosaurs in flour and when he had buried them all, he looked for something else. That's when he spotted the box of geometric solids patiently waiting nearby.
 

He was very engrossed as he sifted flour over each geometric solid, watching them disappear in all sorts of funny ways.



This game lasted for half of the afternoon and I love how he called me to share his discoveries with me. He was really fascinated! He doesn't know the names of the solids yet but when he does, we'll play a solids hide and seek game in the flour; he'll have to guess which solid is hidden from only a teeny tiny bit of it peeping out.


And afterwards, spontaneous practical life!


(By the way, I used wheat flour to get rid of it as we are starting a gluten free diet. Have any of you tried going gluten free?)

Thursday, 19 June 2014

A few things we've tried

 Mixing one part white glue with one part shaving foam to make cloud pictures (they dry but remain spongy - interesting texture!)
 

 
Our first cake decorating experience - why do the pictures always look so much better than the actual result??
 


When we were in Austria, we bought puffed rice balls that Finn loved. He has gone off them now and we had tons of them to use up, so we crushed some of them for the ants in our garden.

 
We also used them to make some art. We mixed paint with white glue, dipped the rice balls in and arranged them on some cardstock. I tried a 3D sculpture which you can see in the background, and the next day it was rock hard!
 
 
 
Finn really enjoyed crushing coloured chalk on our patio. Later he poured water from his watering can over it all and watched the chalk turn into a paste and the colours combine.
 
One day, Finn looked confused not to be able to see the contents of a ceramic bowl from underneath. I thought we could build on that to introduce the words "opaque" and "transparent". I took 6 lidded containers, 3 opaque and 3 transparent. I placed a different object in each.  I gave each to Finn in turn and asked him what object was in the container. He could easily tell me what was in the transparent boxes but not in the opaque ones. I explained that the boxes through which we can see through are called "transparent" and the ones where we can't see the objects are "opaque."