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 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!

New Montessori at Home Materials

It’s been a weekend full of sunshine and the promise of Spring here. And so I was thrilled to pull some gorgeous new language materials out of the postbox this weekend!

If you follow us on Instagram you’ll know that we love following beautiful, hard working creative small businesses and Hobbs Farm is one of our absolute favourites.

It’s even more wonderful that they are Canadian and they can be purchased here in Canada!

I’m going to frame these beautiful alphabet cards to use as art in my 3-6 Montessori classroom’s Language area.

Wishing you all a beautiful end to your weekend!

Montessori Book Club: Anti-Bullying Books for Elementary

This week as we prepare to partake in Canada’s Pink Shirt Day, we are continuing our book list of anti-bullying books that we love!

My Secret Bully by Trudy Ludwig is an important book for not only elementary children but also their caregivers.

Often we recognize bullying as loud, in your face, and clearly mean. But this isn’t always the case. Far too often relational aggression is at play with the consequences being just as harmful for the target.

This book is perfect for reading at home or with students in the classroom. The watercolour illustrations compliment the story without taking over. The text is clear, easy to understand and empathize with for children beginning at 6 years of age.

It focuses on the emotions felt by the target and the importance of a child listening to their body. It also touches on the importance of a target seeking help from a trusted caregiver and the important role the caregiver plays in ending the bullying.

Books like this are perhaps difficult for an adult to read to a child, but children will often enjoy listening to them and love forming discussion groups about the topics portrayed in the pages. These are often the easiest way to reach out to children on both sides of bullying. The conversations that can be built on after reading these kinds of books hold within them a value that will last a lifetime.

Listed in the end pages of this book are some excellent American organizations, global websites, and recommended readings for adults and children that all focus on relational aggression.

During this upcoming week of Anti-Bullying we will continue to showcase books and activities that focus on empathy, acceptance and friendship.

If you have a particular favourite resource please share it in the comments. We would love to feature it here or on our social media.

Montessori Book Club: Anti Bullying Books for Preschoolers

February in Canada holds Valentine’s Day, Family Day and also Anti-Bullying Day. So many opportunities to continue conversations with children about empathy and continue our work in Peace Education.

We’ve written about some of these titles before but today we wanted to focus on one we discovered by chance at our local library.

This book was a delightful surprise. It is absolutely perfect for the 3-6 year old crowd.

It’s simple text hides big conversation starters.

We love the diversity within its pages and its powerful message.

It’s the perfect sharing book for a group of children in a classroom or just simply with our own children at home. It explains that we are who we are, it’s ok to be who you are and that the feelings we feel are also what other people feel. This is an important first step in fostering empathy with young children.

What books are you sharing with children in this month of love and kindness?

A new Christmas Book

When this book was featured to be released I knew we simply had to have it. So much so that when I found it wasn’t going to released here for a while I ordered it from overseas.

We are big Shirley Hughes fans and I can remember being read her books as a child. This one didn’t disappoint.

The end pages say it all. Her beautiful realistic artwork and simple yet rich text grab the reader right away. This book has the perfect mix of interesting ideas to make, as well as some lovely stories and poems.

We used to make these simple paper lanterns when I was very young.

As with all Shirley Hughes books they have a distinct British feel with simplicity at the heart of the text. This book can easily be lovingly tucked away each year, ready to bring out the next year to awaiting little ones.

We hope you are enjoying a peaceful and restful weekend.

Montessori compatible Christmas Books – A rare and beautiful thing Part 2

Last year we waited patiently, while everyone was posting their “must haves” and “what to buys” and “favourite Christmas books evers” for this book to humbly be mentioned.

It wasn’t.

And so, this year, we are posting a newly published beautiful, Montessori compatible Christmas book, that also hasn’t been anywhere on the usual Montessori social media Christmas posts.

It is the simple hymn so many know.

The story of a birth in a middle eastern town to a modest young Jewish family.

When we are looking for Montessori compatible books, our first and most important goal is that they are reality based. Too often we see this story on book shelves with blond haired, blue eyed, and white skinned characters.

This is why we love Silent Night by Lara Hawthorne.

It’s pictures are stunning with bright beautiful colours, and lots for young children to look at. But most importantly, it does not whitewash this thousands of years old story.

Maria Montessori implored us to build Peace, not only in ourselves, but in the world. The very best gift we can give our children is the knowledge that our stories are other people’s stories.

That our differences are our similarities.

All good things are wild and free: The end of our Nature Days

This is a hard post to write and it’s hard to know where to start and so perhaps I’ll start at the beginning. Not my beginning or Quentin’s but perhaps at school’s beginning.

Early on in Quentin’s Montessori 3-6 classroom time, we decided that he should remain home one day a week. There were many reasons. He was a preemie and still tired easily napping long periods (even now at 6!). He was bright and needed some focused one on one time to give him the attention he craved to fuel his insatiable appetite for knowledge especially in language and culture. But, truth be told the real reason is I loved it and I’m grateful and ever mindful that we are privileged enough to choose not only how much we work outside the home but we also choose his schooling.

Early on Quentin identified it as our Nature Day. One day a week (Mondays) that we followed the child completely. Not having to be anywhere. A whole day of “yes”.

There soon followed what was to be for us a natural rhythm that we have kept until today:

  • Breakfast
  • Get dressed
  • Choose a home material off the shelves in his work space in a sort of loose Montessori work period
  • Choose an outing, pack up and head out
  • Home for lunch
  • Sleep/rest/read in the early afternoon
  • Baking in the late afternoon
  • Back downstairs to choose an independent activity (often a board game, art, Lego) until dinner

You can read about our Montessori day at age four here. Not much has changed routine wise except that in the last part of this year at 6.5 years old, Quentin has finally given up his afternoon nap. We now read on the couch with cups of tea and a blanket instead of him going to his room to nap.

There have been enough memories in these few short years to last a lifetime.

Trips to the ocean.

Trips into the rainforest.

And trips to all the local museums and art galleries. Every Monday we would pack a bag and go. And along the way there was work mat after work mat of child chosen activities, fantastic games and pages being poured over.

For two years we followed an absolutely fabulous Nature Study based on the book “Nature Anatomy”. You can find our first monthly post here and the rest of the monthly studies in our website category Montessori Nature Study and Outdoor Activities. It really helped us find our way and gave us ideas that were easily doable where we live.

As Quentin transitioned to the 6-9 classroom however our Nature Days have become more customized. He is able to really formulate research ideas now (check out our Instagram feed for his latest child led project) and gathers the materials himself. He finds a multitude of ideas on our nature hikes instead of preferring to stick to a solid theme.

So why the formal end to it all?

We are on the verge of a very big change.

The Montessori 6-9 classroom in a small local Montessori school Quentin currently attends has been lacking and has regrettably not lived up to our standards. And so last month when his waitlist papers were pulled at one of the Montessori schools in our area that goes from the 3-6 classroom right through high school we jumped at the chance and took the spot. It will be a world of positive difference for him. And it means he will be able to stay in an authentic school Montessori environment until he graduates high school.

And, it will mean, he attends five full days a week.

The decision was an easy one. The school has (among many other positive features) a strong nature component. It is the right choice for him.

Because of this as we prepare for him to start at the new school next Monday, today was our last official Nature Day. Of course it poured rain. And so we didn’t let that stop us, instead using our seasons passes to visit one of our favourite indoor paradises.

The warm air filled with hundreds of butterflies was the perfect thing to take our minds off the rain and the upcoming transition.

There was also a morning filled with the busy hum of a child who loves learning.

So what does all this mean for us? Well for most of our days it will be very much the same. The school morning routine that sees us through the rest of the week will now start for Quentin on Monday. I will continue to consult with families and school and teach in my 3-6 classroom.

It’s the little things that will change.

We will need to be mindful of how even just one day can add to the overall load on a child and shift our expectations and observations to be sure to catch that.

We will need to find time on the weekends to steal ourselves away into the woods and the shoreline and all of his favourite little hideaways.

And above all, we will need to ensure that he has the time to keep that fire lit outside of school. To give him the opportunity to share his joy of learning whether it’s baking a new recipe or sitting down to trudge through the differences between Newton’s Law of Gravitation and Einstein’s Theory of Relativity when talking about things that are really big and very fast (because yes, he’s that six year old kid).

I will also need to be prepared for him to miss it, this closeness we share on Mondays, but I also need to be prepared for him to not. And that perhaps is the most wonderful and most stinging part of it all. That wonderfully painful part of seeing your children grow up.

“The things he sees are not just remembered. They form a part of his soul.”

– Dr. Maria Montessori

Montessori Book Club: This year’s favourite Winter books

We have been rotating our book shelves with week to fill them with our favourite winter themed books. We have previously posted some of our favourites here which include our favourite winter wordless book Fox’s Garden.

In November is a gorgeous testimonial to the gathering of family at this time of year and nature’s slow curling up for winter. The illustrations done in oil on paper, exude warmth and also the chill in the air.

We wrote about Sleep Tight Farm here. Two years later it’s still one that we all eagerly wait to pull out of storage and put on the shelves.

Frozen Wild: How Animals Survive in the Coldest Places on Earth has been sitting in my cart for a year and I finally purchased it for my 3-6 classroom. Jim Arnosky is an amazing artist and this book reads almost like a field journal. It’s fold out pages give some fantastic detail on the adaptive nature of the creatures with share this world with.

Earlier this week we wrote about Winter is Coming here. It’s has been read multiple times a day in both my classroom and at home. I have no idea why I waited so long to purchase it but I’m so glad it will have a place on our shelves from now on.

Lastly this is a newly released book with the text written by Margaret Wise Brown.

Sandwiched between the book ends of her beautiful poetry is her story of a new calf being born into the cold and the young boy Jonathan who cares for the animals of the barn. It’s absolutely stunning. Although we picked up our copy from our local library this would be a perfect gift for any small farm loving child and it can be found at major book retailers world wide.

What winter themed books are gracing your book shelves currently?

We will be splicing in some of our favourite holiday and tradition themed books in the coming weeks.

Montessori Book Club: Winter is Coming

November for us is a time to settle in to the coming months of grey drizzly days. There’s no better way to do that for us than to curl up under a cosy blanket with a warm mug and a stack of books.

This one has been on our wish list for a while and I’m so glad we finally picked it up.

Winter is Coming is perfect for us and any family or school that loves nature journaling. We love that it begins in the early Autumn and follows the passage of time at a treehouse.

The illustrations are beautiful and invite children to take a closer look.

The text is so wonderfully geared to Montessori as it’s richly descriptive and realistic which also makes it the perfect read aloud book.

The end pages give the reader a peek at the child’s drawings and observations.

This is definitely a gift worthy book for people who are looking for something special to give this holiday season.

We are rotating our home Montessori bookshelves this week. Look for more Winter related Montessori compatible book reviews and gift ideas to come.