Montessori has become such a popular buzzword, and with so many pins dedicated to activities, toys, and schedules, I decided to add a few Montessori (ish) activities into my toddler’s daily routine to mix things up (and a little because I was tired of listening to noisy toys all day.)
What is Montessori?
Montessori Northwest defines Montessori as “a method of education that is based on self-directed activity, hands-on learning and collaborative play.” One noteworthy Montessori philosophy marks the use of natural materials. For instance, Montessori classrooms will have simple wooden toys rather than plastic or battery-powered toys. Also, the Montessori method emphasizes using pictures and graphics that depict the true likeness of an object or animal rather than a cartoon drawing.
With these stipulations in mind, I had to adapt some these Montessori activities as I am a big believer in using what you already have. Aside from some of the materials that I used, all of these activities pass the Montessori test. Here are the seven activities my toddler and I incorporated into our week.
Our Week of Montessori-Inspired Activities
Monday: Pouring Water
Although the true Montessori Method would not use plastic materials, we used a watering can, cups, and a funnel. I took a few minutes to show my toddler how to pour water from cup to cup, into the funnel, and with the watering can before I let her take the lead. She loved this activity, and I could really see her concentrating on pouring the water into the cups and not just onto the patio.
Tuesday: Cutting Fruit
Yes, I gave my toddler a knife (a child-friendly knife so she couldn’t cut herself) and showed her how to cut her own bananas and watermelon. She didn’t do much cutting with the bananas as she found it easier to just pick it up and eat it, but she did enjoy cutting/stabbing the watermelon. I liked this activity because it gave me a safe way to occupy her while I prepped our lunch or dinner. Plus, this is a very practical way to work on her fine motor skills.
Wednesday: Flash Card Matching
Pinterest is loaded with flash card matching activities from food to animals to shapes. I had just made a grocery run, so I set up a vegetable flash card tray using a free printable from Adventure in a Box. On the tray, I put the three cards and a bowl with a potato, onion, and green bean. I helped her match the vegetable to the cards, and she did really well until I left her to work independently. Matching flash cards did not hold her attention very long, and after a day or two, she eventually stopped doing this activity with me. Even though flash card matching didn’t go over well, I may try this with her again in a few months.
Thursday: Emptying the Dishwasher
Letting my toddler near my dishwasher made me nervous, but I reminded myself that as long as I kept her from climbing on the drawer or stabbing herself with a sharp knife, everything should be fine. After all, Fiestaware is very durable and easily replaceable. Before I called my daughter to come help, I made sure that the dishwasher was free of knives. Then, I encouraged her to remove the spoons, plates, and bowls and hand them to me to put away. And she loved it! She felt so proud of herself for helping, and I didn’t have to bend down to get anything. Win-Win! Now, she runs into the kitchen to help when she hears me open the dishwasher door, which is so adorable and, not going to lie, it’s nice that this is one chore that I don’t have to do while she’s vying for my attention.
Friday: Washing Potatoes
This activity marked another win-win. It kept my child occupied while I made dinner, and she felt good because she “helped.” I gave her a tray with three potatoes, a scrubber, and a bowl filled with a little water. I spent about a minute showing her how to wash the potato, before she grabbed the scrub brush and took over. While it ended with her dumping the water out on the tray, most of the water was contained on the tray and she really enjoyed scrubbing potatoes and wiping up her mess after.
Saturday: Coloring the Montessori Way
I try to give my toddler a creative outlet every day, whether it coloring, chalk, music, or dancing. While crafting the Montessori way, I made two changes. First, I didn’t set up a craft for us to do together. Second, I only provided a few options. So, for a coloring tray, I provided a sheet of paper and 1-3 washable crayons (like these) before letting her do her thing. She colored for a little while, then tossed the crayons and paper aside, sat in the tray, and giggled. Overall, the Montessori coloring tray gave her a creative outlet, let her practice her fine motor skills, and relieved me of craft prep.
Sunday: Opening Jars
Opening jars was the best activity of the week! I gave my toddler a tray with various jars and lids. Inside the jars, I put ping pong balls (probably not a Montessori approved toy, but they really hold my toddler’s attention). I showed her how to screw off or pop off the lids to get the ball, and how to put the lids back on. This activity has quickly become one of her favorites, and now we keep some jars in her toy area so she can play with them every day. She loves opening the jars, pouring the balls into another jar, and matching the lids to the jars. Honestly, opening jars alone made our Montessori activity week worth the extra effort!
I learned a lot from our Montessori-Inspired Week, and I think my toddler did too! Not only did it get us out of our slump, but we got a lot of value from trying new activities as well as some old activities in a different way.
For instance, I loved using a tray to define her play space, and the tray helped her focus more on the activity. We both enjoyed some of the practical life skills that I wouldn’t have tried with her otherwise. And, now I actually look forward to emptying the dishwasher because of how excited she gets to help.
Surprisingly, opening jars and pouring water were her favorite activities. Now, we keep the jars with her other toys, and she plays with them almost every day. On nice days, we go outside and pour water or play with her splash table. Water provides such a great sensory experience, and pouring it into a container takes a lot of focus for her.
Finally, I loved the different art trays that we’ve tried since this week. Some of the best art trays have included one with markers and paper, stickers and a sticker scene (like this free printable camping scene from my blog), and a paint with water tray that included various paint brushes a little water and construction paper. Overall, the Montessori method actually decreased my prep work for craft time and gave her more control.
Our Montessori-Inspired Week marked a huge success! My toddler had a lot of fun exploring new activities and learning practical life skills. While I’m not setting up Montessori shelves or getting rid of all her plastic, noisy toys, I have incorporated many of the Montessori activities and methods into our daily routines.
My tot and I have continued doing Montessori activities! She still cuts bananas, washes potatoes, pours water, and plays with her glass jars/lids. In fact, I am so inspired by the Montessori way that I’ve even created a Montessori Fall Printable Pack available on Etsy for under $3!
My printable pack includes three of my toddler’s favorite (printable) activities and 10 Montessori 3 part cards. Activities include matching photos of whole and sliced fall produce. For instance, a whole pumpkin and one cut in half. Also, young children will learn about the sunflower lifecycle as they match photos and work on sequencing. Finally, I included a printable tree scene that provides a wealth of open-ended play opportunities such as a play dough mat or color sorting apple (aka pompoms). Check it out here: Montessori Fall Printable Pack.
For parents interested in Montessori activities, I highly recommending checking out this post from The Mom and A Blog. It has a huge list of very practical, kid-friendly activities that parents and caregivers can easily incorporate, making it a great place to start or to simply find inspiration.
I’d love to hear your take on the Montessori Method! Which activities do your kids like? Share your favorite Montessori or Montessori-inspired activities and blog posts in the comments below.