Tuesday, 16 September 2014

10 ways to explore geometric solids

I had been debating whether to buy a set of Montessori geometric solids for our home, and it's one purchase I don't regret! There are so many ways to use them at different developmental levels. At 2 and a half, Finn explores them sensorially, through games, and absorbs so much about them: their geometric properties, their relationship to one another, their names, the way objects around us are derived from these basic solid shapes... and so much more I'm sure I can't even imagine. 
Here is a list of 10 geometric solids games and activities for toddlers and preschoolers.
1. Matching the solids to picture cards (downloadable here)  

2. Feeling the solids stereognostically with a mystery bag. Put two very different solids (say the cube and sphere) in the bag for a young toddler and show them the picture of one of them to find by touch only. Remember to say its name as young children absorb everything!

3. Free exploration using a mirror. Be sure to have a look at this post by Merci Montessori (in French).

4. Geometric solids and flour. An unusual combination, but a winner at our house! I wrote about it here.

5. Dusting/wiping the solids with a damp cloth - a great sensorial way to explore the solids.

6. Sorting household items into their matching solid shape. Finn had the cylinder, sphere and cube, plus a selection of items from around the house to match those solids. Choose some objects of varying sizes and textures.

 7. Making marks in playdough. I was thinking faces, he was thinking vertices!

 8. Sorting pointy/round solids. An engaging, hands-on way to introduce simple concepts. Finn had to think hard to sort the cylinder.
9. Learning the names of the geometric solids. Give the child plenty of opportunities to hear the names and resist the temptation to test them! Think of it as a gift of knowledge to your child.
10.  Sorting picture cards of everyday objects into the correct solid shape. You can download the cards here .
Can you add to this list? What are your favourite activities to do with the geometric solids?
Remember to pin this post if you found it helpful!


Saturday, 6 September 2014

Choosing home education

We have made the choice to educate Finley at home as opposed to sending him to school. As home education is still an uncommon choice, friends and relatives may ask: "what's wrong with school?"
This post is an attempt to try and answer this question.
We are very fortunate in the UK to have a choice to educate our children in the school system or "otherwise". And this is a real bonus when state schools are known to fail at educating children every year.
I think state school's failure comes from the misbelief that children do not want to learn. In fact, this is so engrained in our society that we expect children not to be interested in learning from the start. We sit them in rows and force feed them information we think they need. We give out stickers and praise them for every little achievement. Unknowingly, and despite the best intentions, we take away their love of learning.
To us, it is obvious that children do want to learn and have many varied interests. In the last months, Finn has been interested in musical instruments, dinosaurs, trains, bones, rockets, letters, and he is not stopping. He seems to want to learn about everything! We want to nurture and support his enthusiasm so that it stays with him all his life.
In school, children follow a curriculum. How can children enjoy learning if they do not have a say in what, when and how they learn? Schools have stolen the child's freedom to make any decisions about their learning. Naturally, children lose their natural love of learning when they are so completely out of control.
We all know that testing is detrimental to children's learning, and yet we still do it. We test, we grade, we compare. We put children in ability groups so that they end up believing that their value as a person is dictated by what group they are in. I am sure you can imagine what that does to a child's self-esteem.
Is it surprising that we want something better for our child? Ideally, Finley would go to a Montessori school where he would be respected as an individual and direct his own learning in a multi-age classroom. Unfortunately, these schools are too expensive for us.
We have chosen to educate Finn at home using a relaxed version of the Montessori method, which seems like a good fit for us already. As he grows, Finn will be able to decide whether he wants to go to school and we will support him whatever he chooses. For now, his education will consist of lots of outdoor activities, visits to museums, hands-on learning, building his independence and self-esteem, playdates with old and new friends, learning to build, garden, cook, fix things, realising his own projects,  discovering the arts, learning to love our world.
We want him to be eager to get up in the morning because life is beautiful, exciting and full of things waiting to be discovered. He doesn't have to be shut away in a classroom learning facts and figures he will soon forget; he can take part in life from the get go.

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!