Montessori Multi-age Art Activities: Colour Mixing

Colour mixing is such an easy and inexpensive art activity for children of all ages and can easily be done by the youngest child.

As with all Montessori compatible activities, art should always be child led and about the process not the product especial in the years between 0-6.

For a toddler colour mixing can simply be a transferring work. Above, Quentin at 18 months carefully transferring blue food colour tinted water from one small jar to another with a long pipette. This strengthens fine motor control and concentration. He loved sucking up the water in the pipette and carefully squeezing it out into the other container. Sometimes we would adjust the amount of blue or yellow dye to affect the shade of green that would inevitably be made from his mixing but this was for the most part involuntary by him. He was simply absorbing what was happening.

For the 3-6 age group, an easy to carry tray with the primary colours and a slotted dish, a bowl to dump used water and a sponge for clean up make colour mixing exciting. Children at this age love to experiment with each of the primary colours and it’s still very much about the process here. In the classroom we talk about their favourite colour, what happens when you mix blue with red, red and yellow, yellow and blue, but for the most part they are experimenting and absorbing the experience of those experiments.

By the time the child reaches Elementary, multiple mediums such as paper to spray invite a child to continue their experiments. Small spray bottles and containers (the exact same ones from when he was 18 months), help a child keep their work contained and orderly.

A colour wheel is clearly understood by this point and the child can follow it to achieve the desired colour or make their own.

It is always fascinating to see the social and neurological development at each stage. At 7.5 years old, he commented on the imaginary tastes of his colours such as “root beer” above, and mint tea in a previous combination. It’s still amazing to see him quiet himself as he did in his toddler days and focus on the task at hand.

There are endless colour mixing ideas on Pinterest and around social media. If you haven’t tried it with your little one here’s some things to keep in mind:

  • Keep it simple and age appropriate. Trying to explain the why and how of everything to a toddler won’t make it enjoyable
  • Be prepared for spills. Sponges, bowls, towels and play clothes help make this successful for the youngest child
  • Follow the child. Let them truly experiment with colour. If all they make is green over and over that’s ok.

Montessori Book Club: Winter Sleep – A hibernation Story

We are settling into the cosy days of Autumn here. The leaves have begun changing colour, the air is a little cooler and the sun a little more golden.

I am always on the lookout for brand new Montessori compatible nature books and so when Winter Sleep – A Hibernation Story came out last week I knew I had to grab it!

It’s the sweet story of a child who visits their grandmother’s home in the summer and loves exploring nature.

The illustrations are beautiful and whimsical but also extremely detailed.

The child returns in winter and asks to see the glade where they sat in summer, but is worried when it’s covered in snow. Where are all the flowers and the animals?

What I really love about this book is the information pages at the back.

There’s so much information on how different animals survive the coldest months of the year.

There’s also a section at the end on how people can help animals through the winter.

This is such a perfect book to share with children 3-6 years old. It will be on our shelves for years to come.

Montessori Summer Book Club: Pacific Northwest Books

When I was looking for books to bring to Africa to show the classrooms I would be teaching in my own home, the animals I see everyday and the general landscape, these two gorgeous ones immediately sold me.

A Whale’s World showcases the amazing ocean we find our tiny island home in. The photographs are stunning.

The story follows a local pod of orcas on their journey in search of food. Quentin loved showing the children here in Africa the different aspects of orca life and the many other Pacific Northwest sea animals featured.

The underwater pictures are rich and colourful and the text gives a clear and concise story filled with facts.

A Bear’s Life showcases our same beautiful part of the world but from the perspective of the forest.

The same rich beautiful pictures and engaging text take the reader on a journey through the temperate rainforest and along the beaches that border it.

The section of the Spirit Bear was particularly fascinating to the students.

These books have been a beautiful link between the classroom here in Nigeria and our home. They are perfect for children 3yrs+ who love animals or geography. For older students, they offer endless possibilities for extended self directed research projects.

A Montessori field trip: A trip to Fruitful Orchard Montessori in Nigeria

This has been a trip that has been a long time coming. 6 years in the making. And so, after months of planning, vaccinations and packing we are finally here.

I love travelling around the world to visit different Montessori environments. This one is particularity near and dear to my heart because I have been here (in spirit anyway) from the beginning. Before there was a school or children to fill it.

There is a vibrant and beautiful 3-6 classroom here and I will feature it in an upcoming post but what I wanted to focus on firstly was the Toddler Community at Fruitful Orchard. Authentic Toddler communities are hard to find in Canada and we don’t have a single one in our own community despite the fact that we have two Montessori schools that go from 3-6 all the way through high school.

It has all the tell tale signs: tiny chairs and tables, light, bright and airy, but it also has some gorgeous personal touches that the owner Junnifa Uzodike has carefully arranged.

The beautiful artwork and custom fabrics immediately caught my eye. The tiny carved reading bench with hand made cushion is just perfect for two small friends to sit together and look at books. As a side note the books featured are excellent for toddlers.

Perhaps the best part of this Prepared Environment is the tiny working sink, counter and real working oven at a toddler’s height. So often we see the opportunity to cook with heat taken away from toddlers. Here they regularly bake.

The Vocabulary shelves offer the toddlers a rich variety of new language and the chance to explore different items.

One of the most important part of a Montessori Toddler Community is the Practical Life lessons. Care of Self and Care of Others are the foundation of the Montessori Toddler years. That’s why when we knew we were coming I contacted Miniland USA and they rush delivered not only their beautiful dolls but also some warm weather outfits.

Toddlers love repeating. This little one removed the clothes of the doll, named all the body parts and put the clothes on again and again. It is so important for a young child to be able to see this Cycle of Activity through. The repeated fine motor movements and vocabulary solidifies key social neurological concepts that they move forward and build on. Dolls that a child can identify with (either by hair colour, eye colour, skin tone, genitals or physical features such as freckles, scars or implants) are incredibly important for all children. It gives them a chance to see them self and to practice all those Care of Self and Others lessons they have been working on. Often a child will mimic with a doll what they have experienced in their day.

We have been here a week and have a month left to teach in the 3-6 classroom, offer consulting and just spend time. The memories formed here will last long after we leave.

Montessori Elementary: Astronomy

“If the idea of the universe is presented to the child in the right way, it will do more for him than just arouse his interest, for it will create in him admiration and wonder, a feeling loftier than any interest and far more satisfying.”

– Maria Montessori

The beginnings of the Montessori Elementary start with the Great Lessons. Quentin’s thirst for knowledge led him into these lessons long before he reached the Montessori Lower Elementary 6-9 year old classroom. You can see him here using the Waseca Biome Cosmic Story Mat for the first half of the First Great Lesson which he absolutely loves to this day. And so when Waseca Biomes contacted us to let us know they had graciously slipped their new Solar System Mat into the mail for us, we were thrilled.

It’s a massive multi step material. As with any of the Waseca materials, it comes with a well laid out Guide to Presentations. This gives step by step instructions for the teacher to use. It also comes with so much more!

As with all Waseca Biomes materials the paper materials that accompany the vinyl mat and wooden discs are beautiful, filled with information for all different levels of learning and perfectly fit on a Montessori work mat.

Sixty six fact file cards come with this set. So many more than we could fit into these photos! They have information from the objects in the solar system to concepts like orbits. The lessons that can stem from these cards are adaptive and can almost be limitless. There is also a three level fact finding game set much like with the other Waseca mats. Quentin enjoys moving the space station, meteor and other objects around the mat, researching new ideas and much much more.

The paper materials come in a storage box similar to the Tree of Life Mat. Easy to pack everything up and put it back on the shelf when the lesson is over.

We are so in love with this set! It is perfect for our space loving child in my classroom, my students have loved aspects of this work as well.

You can find it here on the Waseca Biomes website!

Montessori Book Club: Summer Adventure Books

We are fortunate to live in a beautiful and wild part of the world. One of our absolute favourite things to do is to throw some snacks and art supplies and books in a pack and head out exploring some of these wild spaces.

We’ve been crushing on “The Lost Book of Adventure” for awhile, and so when Quatrokids contacted us on Instagram and offered to send us a copy we were absolutely thrilled!

It’s illustrations are beautiful and the call to adventure at the beginning of the book is just what a certain newly minted 7 year old boy needed to become immediately drawn in.

We love that the book is broken into different sections of adventure with lots of antidotes, and information to spark a child’s imagination to try it themselves.

Quentin had so many questions but ultimately this book has led to big adventure planning.

It has also brought back some very fond memories of our own adventures to the coasts, beautiful forests in our area and other places we have travelled.

This is a long weekend in Canada. It is officially the start of Canada’s camping season.

What better way for us to kick off this upcoming amazing summer of adventure (for us both here at home and very far away stay tuned) then to sit up in bed with the flashlight and this book planning.

This would make an excellent addition to any adventurous child’s bookshelf and is ideally suited towards children ages 6+. It can be found for purchase here!

Montessori Art Activities: Creating with Clay

I love the feel of clay in my hands. The simple way it moulds into new forms and the meditative way you can roll it in your palm.

Process art is extremely important in Montessori especially in the early developmental years. It strengthens so many aspects of the newly developing Prefrontal Cortex region of the brain and helps children learn to regulate emotions. Process art that allows a child to expand all of their fine motor movements is even better as it also refines the sensorial input areas of the brain and aids in concentration.

And so when we were contacted by Simply Playful offering to gift us their Clay Kit found here , we were thrilled.

It comes neatly contained in a lockable clear carrying case and is a kit designed for four users which we love. It’s fully stocked with everything from round placemats (not shown in the above pic) to metal buckets, tools, accessories like sequins and sparkles and of course enough clay in the primary colours plus white to allow four users to work easily.

It includes the book “Mix it Up and some idea cards which as luck would have it included a penguin.

This beautiful set invites the child to work and the easy open containers keep everything sorted by accessible. Quentin loved settling in after a long school day to quietly work with the cool clay. Right before bed this was the perfect wind down activity.

We love that this Canadian company understands the value of open ended process art and we love all of their different invitations to create found on their website here!

This set is perfect for children ages 3+ who no longer put things in their mouth.

Montessori Book Club: Spring nature books

Spring is finally catching up here on the west coast of Canada and that means we are rummaging through our book shelves and rotating in all of our spring favourites.

This book is absolutely stunning. We first purchased it in the Autumn, but Spring is one of my favourite seasons and I couldn’t help but share it now.

We love the visual beauty of a well done pop up book. This one has so much to offer as well as some Montessori compatible text that adds to fostering a child’s curiosity.

We also love adding some of our Schleich animals to create a small world open ended play scene at a nature table or on a mat.

How are you rotating in materials into your space to fit with the changing seasons?

Montessori Book Club: A new book about inclusion

This is a gorgeous new book from the best selling author of The Word Collector.

Say Something by Peter H. Reynolds was released at the end of February and it has become one of our most valuable books I use in my classroom.

It’s pages are done in the same simple style that showcase a number of powerful ways children can make their voice heard.

We love that it is easy to read and can be shared with the youngest preschooler although this is an excellent book for opening dialogue with elementary students.

This is a book that can be used both at home and in schools or communities with young children to empower those who may have trouble expressing themselves or don’t feel they belong or fit in. We especially need to show these children that they are loved, their voices matter but most importantly that they can make a difference.

Montessori Practical Life Food Prep: Hand pressed juice

“The exercises of practical life are formative activities, a work of adaptation to the environment. Such adaptation to the environment therein is the very essence of a useful education.”- Maria Montessori

We absolutely love the independence a Montessori Child’s kitchen provides.

Although Quentin mostly uses the regular height countertops of our home’s kitchen now at almost seven years old, he still uses his little kitchen for food prep.

Of all the juices we have pressed over the years, grapes are his favourite. Here he is at 3 years old pressing them.

And here he is today with the same little juicer that’s been going strong all these years.

One of the reasons we love this juicer so much is that it is completely useable by even the youngest child. The hand crank and the plunger keep little fingers out of the way and the fact that it’s see though means you can observe every step of the juice extraction.

The pulp exists at the end of the cone an we love examining that as well. The children in my 3-6 Montessori classroom are always fascinated by the entire process and lots of questions arise.

“Why doesn’t it taste like my juice from the store” is the most common one I get in the classroom. It always makes me smile because I remember back to that day of a little apron clad Quentin in the kitchen and his own oh so distinct Quentin answer:

“Mine doesn’t taste like the one from the store, mine just tastes like grapes. I guess cause mine doesn’t have any garbage in it.”

We purchased our juicer all those years ago from here. If your child is hesitant about new flavours, hand pressed juice is often a favourite even if you mix two flavours together.