Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Warning: Unorthodox Use of Math Beads for Christmas!

WARNING:  What follows is NOT a recommended Montessori work -- just plain old fun and the result of having traditional materials in our home.  :)

So as you can see from the photo below of our Math Bead Cabinet it stands merely 10 feet away from our Christmas tree this year.  It was far too tempting to use the Golden Beads as a garland--WHY HASN'T ANYONE TRIED THIS BEFORE?  :) 

See the sparkly Christmas lights on the left?

"Alleluia" has been home with a stomach bug and, well, we got a little bored, so after wrapping the tree with the Golden Beads it seemed natural to build the Pink Tower (to look like gifts under the tree).

We got a little distracted by the trash truck driving by......

But wait--there's more!  Then we noticed that there are 10 cubes in the Pink Tower, just like there are 10 cubes in our Math Bead Cabinet.  So we had to see the cubes near each other.... (this is starting to sound like "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.")

Hmmm.  That's neat.  There are 10 pink cubes and 10 cubes in the bead cabinet.
All joking aside, although the incorrect use of the Montessori materials is not encouraged, it is important for children to make connections between and among the materials of the classroom.  One benefit of having a classroom at home is being able to be a little more lax about rules sometimes.

While the bead cabinet is a "Math" work and the tower is considered "Sensorial" work, the tower provides indirect preparation for math (our math is done in base 10, for instance).

And in other news, when we extracted the Advent wreath from the attic we learned what the summer's heat can do to wax candles--MELT THEM!  Just a little free science lesson.....

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Using Jenga with Language Work or Family Reunions

Want an idea for your next family reunion or game night?  Or something to play during your class holiday party?  Here's a twist on an oldie but goodie.

For Thanksgiving we had about 40 people come together for a few days--no small feat!  The cousins who came range in age from infant to early 20s and some of them barely knew each other.  I saw this idea for Get-to-Know-You Jenga and decided to try it.  It was so fun you may want to play it for your next family holiday or reunion!

This is a good game for almost all ages.  When we played with the little cousins an older cousin read the question aloud.  Eventually we all took turns answering the same questions and we learned a lot about each other!

All you need to do is print out the questions, which are simple things about yourself like, "What are your 3 favorite foods?" and "Who do you admire most?"  Cut the questions into slips of paper and glue each one to a single wooden block.  We put craft glue in a dish and painted the back of the slips, but you could probably use common school glue or decoupage medium.  They dried very quickly and we were able to practice the game before setting it up for the little kids later.

I wondered if the blocks would still slide out easily.  They do!

The uncles with big hands have a more difficult time with it!
What family games do you enjoy?
This would also make great Language Work for the classroom.  While searching for the original post I found some other ideas of ways to use your Jenga game:

Word Tower

Multiplication and Addition Games

Library Trivia Jenga

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Flannel and Felt Christmas Tree

What started out as a Gandalf hat (I ditched it for a spray-painted witch's hat) has become a flannel and felt Christmas tree, thanks to my nieces!

For Halloween "Chop" wanted to be Gandalf, so I rolled up some poster board into a cone, sprayed it with adhesive and covered it with flannel.  The problem was that it didn't fit her head very well and it wasn't floppy enough.  What to do?

Well thank goodness my crafty nieces came into town for Thanksgiving, because--with just felt, glue, pom poms and string--they transformed it into a centerpiece!  The decorations are movable/re-movable, so we can change it up next year.  Nice, huh?

Shopping List
Silver Grey Felt by the Yard
Light Blue Felt Sheets (25 per pack)
Green Felt Sheets (25 per pack)
White Felt Sheets (25 per pack)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Pom Pom Turkey (and Magnets)

It all started a few days ago with playgroup, when one nice mommy made a going away gift for a boy who is moving this week.  It was a cookie sheet with colorful pictures--a rainbow, a gumball machine, etc--that he could fill in with soft pom poms she had glued to little magnets (perfect for the car).  The playgroup kids couldn't keep their hands off of it!

That's how the cookie sheet-magnet-pom pom saga began, and there followed some trips to the Dollar Store.

You may have seen these on Pinterest?  I found some sheets at:

I would just caution you anytime you have small pieces and magnets around:  NEVER leave them out where a child who is still putting things in his mouth can reach them.  Also, remember that some magnets can wreak havoc with credit cards and electronics.

That said, all you need is some printed sheets (you can even just draw your own), a cookie sheet that magnets will stick to (my big ones from Sam's apparently are NOT magnetic, so check), glue and pom poms in different colors.  My mommy friend colored some of her white pom poms with a marker, but when I tried that I just got messy.

Later I laminated the rainbow.

The magnets come in packs of 50 from Michael's.  I got the smaller ones.  50 Pack of Magnets
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, so of course we needed a turkey, too!

This was from Making Learning Fun and it suggests using colored magnets sold for white boards.  Hmm....maybe next year.
UPDATE:  Here's another link to a Seven Continents Map to use with magnetic pom poms.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Shoe Polishing: Spiff Up for the Holidays!

Everyone dressing up for the holidays?  Don't miss this great opportunity for your toddler to help by polishing everyone's shoes!

Shoe polishing is considered one of the "Care of the Self" works in a Montessori classroom.  This link suggests it for slightly older children (3.5 and up), but don't tell "Alleluia" that!  She's not quite 3, but she still LOVES to polish.

The last step before cleaning up is to find a gushing admirer to Oooh and Ahh over the transformation.

"Oooh!  Aahh!"

Don't have enough dingy shoes to keep your toddler satisfied?  Consider asking an elderly neighbor if he or she needs help spiffing up this year.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Turkey Baster Transfer Work

This deeper container was a great match for this usually messy work.

Now that the grocery stores are full of Thanksgiving ingredients and tchotchkes, grab an extra turkey baster and neon food coloring.  I did, and I found that almost 3-year-old "Alleluia" had a renewed interest in all of the water pouring and water transfer works on our shelf.

I also used a deeper tray that works out much better than the shallow fast-food restaurant-type trays that I normally have for wet work.  I hadn't planned on ditching the flatter trays, but did so out of laziness (I had been using this container to store cupcakes and though it was empty I hadn't yet returned it to the cupboards).  The other day when I desperately needed Alleluia to be busy--next to me in the kitchen--I grabbed the empty container (which was a clearance scrapbooking box many moons ago).

Great way to strengthen those little hands!

The use of the neon food coloring was just an added bonus that made everything all the more exciting.  If that means your toddler will have a renewed interest in water works or if it means you can get more things done before dinnertime, then I say bring it on!

Monday, November 12, 2012

An Owl Party for 3rd Graders

"Peel" just had a birthday and she wanted an owl theme.  (Surprise, surprise--she was an owl for Halloween two years in a row!)  The day started with sending her to school with two dozen Owl S'Mores.

Owl S'Mores.  Start hoarding the candy corn now if you plan to make them!

I found the recipe here, but had to adapt it for making huge quantities efficiently (and I needed to be able to transport them to school with a minimum of squishing).  I used the same ingredients, but after some delicious research I found a good way to mass produce these.

After picking up the girls from school, we started the party at a nearby nature center.  It's beautiful and I thought the naturalists there might chat with the girls, but the staff were way too burned out (it was a Friday afternoon, after all!) and the girls just wanted to chill.

Next we took the flock of girls home where we served Aldi's Asiago Cheese Take N' Bake pizza (only $4.99 each and they are HUGE!) and settled down to watch Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole (you guessed it:  an owl movie).

When it was time to do the cake and presents, the Owl Mommy and Babies cupcakes were a big hit!

Mama Owl and Babies:  You can modify the toppings if it's too hard or too expensive to find everything the recipe lists.
After a while we retired to the backyard with some glow necklaces from Target and a bonfire with S'Mores.  As each girl left the party she received an  owl goodie bag with random junk PLUS a super cool compass necklace thingy (which seemed sort of outdoorsy-ish if not totally owl-related!).

Can't get much cheaper than brown paper bags...The owl tops can be used as a mask, too.

How to Make a Ga-Zillion Owl S'Mores

I started with this recipe and adapted it.

We watched carefully so that we didn't nuke the ingredients (leave them in just enough to make the yellow melts soft).

Then quick!  quick!  Stick those chocolate chips in!

Using the good old standby of icing-as-glue trick.

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Lay out graham crackers.
2.  Cut marshmallows in half, open the halves and lay on top of the graham cracker (sticky side down).  Place in oven on the center rack for 5 minutes.
3.  Take out just long enough to place two yellow candy melts on the marshmallows.  Return to the oven for about 1 minute--just long enough for the candy melt to be getting soft.
4.  Place a chocolate chip on top of each yellow candy melt (hurry and do it while it's warm!).
5.  To attach the candy corn beak, use a blob of plain frosting as glue (you can do this later, when the tray has cooled off).

Mama Owl & Babies

Check out the recipe, but then also see what you have on hand.  I really didn't need to spend the time or money to find exactly the same toppings.  And now I have a lot of left over candy tempting me.......

Owl Goodie Bags

I'm a fan of any party decoration or element that the kids can work on themselves.  Also, I like the fact that the girls can save the owlie eyes to make a mask (you could always use foam instead of construction paper if you want them to really last).

Monday, November 5, 2012

Bob Books and Using Dry Erase Pockets

I'm excited to see Rockabye Butterfly put these Bob book printables out there!  "Alleluia" and I read the early Bob books, but she's really not ready to use pen or pencil yet or complete the pages. Still, I couldn't wait to combine these awesome free printables with a product I bought recently at The Container Store--dry erase pockets.

They're nice because they are sturdy and come with a grommet at the top, so they would be easy to hang.  I inserted two pages back-to-back in each pocket and, even though she can't hold the marker properly yet, Alleluia liked working on the printables with me.

Check out the printables--the first and second Bob books are already online!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Animal Kingdom Flashcards + Rubber Animals

It's always a nice surprise to find good educational stuff at a local toy store.  I spent $3.95 the other day on some animal flashcards that I really like and that dovetail well with the Montessori curriculum.  On one side they have a label like "Mammal," "Reptile" and "Bird," and on the other side there is a picture of a specific species with its name and some interesting facts.  I've used other cards for classifying with small children before, but I like these better because it's easier to put the animals into groups when the labels are so clear.  

It's a bonus when you find works that one of the older kids can do with a toddler!  While 3rd grader "Peel" helped lay out the cards, her younger sister looked in our bins full of toy animals to see if she could match each animal to a card.

We had some toy animals that didn't fit a card or the categories we had, so we made our own labels.  For instance, the hermit crab is a crustacean (which is easy to remember if you think of his shell as being crusty!)

I think I'll buy a large piece of felt for this work (like the kind used for the really big Math works) to cut down on the visual noise.  You can do extensions by sorting animals in other ways.  For instance, each card indicates the animal's habitat and the area of the world in which it lives.


In Montessori training we learned that a child who had mastered the Solid Cylinders (with knobs) could be given two, three and finally four blocks of cylinders at a time.  (Each block contains 10 cylinders!)  This way he would have the challenge of mixing up to 40 cylinders and figuring out which block and which hole each goes into.  And--as if that's not challenge enough!--he may even want to complete the task blindfolded.

It was with this in mind that I recently took our puzzle chest out of storage and let "Alleluia" go hog wild.  We had grown bored of these simple puzzles a couple of months ago and I had put them up, so unearthing them held a certain excitement.  I used to ask her to put one puzzle away before getting another one out, but now I presented this as a new kind of game.  She needs some practice with the pincer grasp, so the fact that this felt reckless and fun helped!  Our collection of wooden puzzles consists mostly of the "Melissa and Doug" peg puzzles, like this one.

With puzzles like these you can also do language work and sorting.  So if you've put yours up for a while, consider dusting them off and taking a new approach.  And if you have some puzzles and are thinking of asking Santa for more, consider your collection as whole--what themes do you want to add?    

Friday, November 2, 2012

How Messy is Too Messy?

With a title like "Montessori Messy," I obviously like to swing the pendulum from "order for it's own sake" back to "order for the sake of those who live here."  But it's a fair question when raising children or preparing a classroom:  How Messy is Too Messy?

This new article does a fine job of suggesting questions we can ask ourselves when trying to provide order and predictability to children.  For a small child a sense of order offers both peace and independence.  The article also recommends a book that I remember liking:  How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk.