Montessori and plastic animals: A lifetime of learning

It’s no secret we love Schleich animals. Our Montessori Grammar Farm has grown from its humble beginnings and remains one of our most used open ended toys we have. 


We first wrote about our use of Schleich figurines here. At 13 months (corrected age because he is a preemie) Quentin used a small selection of animals familiar to him for vocabulary work, and exploration. People often ask us to clarify the use of plastic over wood, especially when the Montessori pedagogy is known for its use of natural materials. 

The answer is a simple one. Reality based material trumps natural material every time. It is far more important for a child to see that a cow has four hooved feet that are distinctly different from a pigs cloven feet than for every material to be made of a natural material. 

It is also extremely important to note that the Montessori pedagogy advocates for real world experiences for children. So although having all the African animals is very sweet looking on your shelves, your young child will have no concept of how tall a giraffe really is, or the size difference between a gorilla and a chimpanzee unless they have had a chance to see these animals in real life. It’s for this reason that we chose North American farm animals as the animals we first introduced to Quentin. And as it turns out (five years later) these and his Forest animals are the only ones he’s ever needed models of. 


We wrote this post two years ago as his farm had expanded and the animals he originally had were still holding up. 


This is his farm today. 


He has used it in many Montessori language works such as “Nouns in the Environment” “Logical Adverbs” and simply just word building with the Moveable Alphabet. 


And of course, most importantly he uses it to play. The animals pictured are the same ones he used when he was 13 months. This is the reason we choose Schleich. Because they look as new as they did 5 years ago. 

Opened ended play is an overlooked piece of Montessori because many confuse it with fantasy play which is not condoned in Montessori. Imaginative, child led reality based play is very much encouraged. So his horses definitely don’t fly, or talk (because those are untrue concepts perpetuated by adults to children) they most definitely, nibble hay, gallop quickly, prance slowly and fall into the category of Mammal. 

This kind of play helps a child understand their world and gives an adult endless opportunities to open up age appropriate conversations with kids. Everything from vocabulary building in toddlers to life cycles for preschoolers to “A day in the life of a farmer” sequencing for elementary kids. 


So while I go back to driving the tractor up to the orchard to harvest the ripe apples, consider adding animal figurines in a purposeful way to your child’s environment. Think about the ways you can open your child’s eyes to the beauty of the animal world and it may surprise you what you learn together. 

Montessori Nature Study: Ecosystem of a pond

Our year long Nature Study begins again after a month off in July. 


The first week of August we explored pond dipping again. It is such a fun and easily prepared activity for kids of all ages. Dip a net into a pond and gently dump the contents into a clean container filled with the same pond water. You will be amazed at what you find. 

We recorded some of our findings in our Nature Journal. It’s interesting to observe how a child’s mind has grown and evolved in just one year. The different questions being asked and different observations made are fascinating. 

This year, observing the ecosystem of a pond has been particularly special. We are currently travelling and so the pond we are observing is the one from my childhood. 

There are so many things to share with Quentin. The holes dug by turtles and the remaining egg shells, the small minnows that swim past your toes. The smell of the water, and the crunch of the sand. A highlight for him was feeding the swan family and talking about their role in the ecoystem. 


Pond ecosystems are virtually endless with a wealth of information to satisfy children of all ages. Everything from naming different animals for toddlers, to life cycles to the microscope world. 

This particular pond has four generations worth of memories for my family and I’m glad I got to share it with Quentin today. 

Taking Art Outside

 “Let the be children free; encourage them; let them run outside when it is raining; let them remove their shoes when they find a puddle of water; and, when the grass of the meadows is damp with dew, let them run on it and trample it with their bare feet; let them rest peacefully when a tree invites them to sleep beneath its shade; let them shout and laugh when the sun wakes them in the morning.” Dr Maria Montessori 

Process Art is not only important to us as a family and as a trained Montessori teacher, it is the only kind of art advocated for by the majority of those in the childhood social neurological development world for children under the age of 8 years. 

For us, it just makes sense to take Art outside. Art is all about the sensorial world and there’s no better Prepared Environment that plays to the senses than the outdoors. 


At the beach or in the forest, nature can inspire the child and spark their imagination. 


Art also helps us extend what we’ve been exploring as part of our monthly Montessori Nature Study

A little preparation can go along way. Here are some of our favourite things to bring outside:

  1. A thin, easy to carry watercolour palette
  2. mini clipboard to secure paper and provide a writing surface
  3. A large watercolour paper pad cut into quarters for easy transport
  4. This workbook is becoming a fast favourite.
  5. As is this one
  6. Nature Anatomy is our absolute favourite Nature Study book and the one we have been using for our own Nature Study for the past year. 
  7. Lyra pencil crayons are some of the best on the market. Vibrant true tones that spread like butter on the paper and the Ferby is the perfect size for little hands. 
  8. A well made, well fitting child sized backpack to keep all of it in. 

We also love adding audiobooks to our art times. Calm classics quietly read in the background help prepare a space for peaceful art. 


All this with a healthy homemade snack and water bottle and you are set to make art outside.

Even the youngest toddler will enjoy squishing fingerpaint onto paper while under a big tree or beside a quiet stream.  

If outdoor art is new to you take it slow and prepare in advance. Here are some helpful tips:

  • Think about your own child’s interests/abilities. Do they love crayons over watercolours?
  • Go at a peaceful time of day. Tired and hungry children are not happy artists. 
  • Process art is exactly that. Let the child lead. It’s about the scribbles and sensorial input, not about how much the finished product looks like you wanted it to look.
  • Art can be messy (and that’s a good thing). Prepare in advance with something to clean up spills, wipe fingers and pack wet things home in. 

Now go and enjoy. If you happen to try an outdoor art session we would love you to share it with us on social media either on our Facebook page or on Instagram by tagging us. 

Montessori 3-6 Biology and a giveaway 

We love anatomy models so when Annie of Dockan Lotta contacted us to ask if we were interested in honestly and without compensation reviewing their soft anatomy doll we jumped at the chance. 


We love that this is a huggable doll. We also love the size. Arms, legs and torso are openable with hook and eye closures so a child can explore every inside every aspect. 


Quentin loved the ease of use. The doll is big enough to explore independently but manageable. He also loved that each organ has its own flap inside. 


The best part of this anatomy doll is that it can actually be played with. Unlike plastic models it can be used as a doll to carry around and be cared for by the child. 

We are so in love with this that we couldn’t just keep it for ourselves. 

That’s why we are going to give one away over on our Instagram feed! Join us there to enter and good luck to everyone! 

Sunday Book Club: Outside your window: A first book of nature

We love nature themed books and this one is absolutely stunning. 


Broken down into the four seasons, it’s the artwork that first drew me in. Stunning collages accompany songs, stories, recipes and so much more. 


Each pages collage is beautiful and perfectly captures the mood of th season it describes. 



With so many ideas to try and stories to share it is sure to be a favourite for years to come. 

May Nature Study: Butterflies and other Insects 

The warmer weather has finally arrived and so we spent the majority of our May Nature Study outside. 

Studying insects is one of the easiest topics to do because they are accessible on almost every continent, there is a large variety and children are most often fascinated by them. 


We began our study by exploring different species of butterfly with the help of these beautiful cards from Alice Cantrell of Twig and Moth. We use so many of her materials because they are well priced, printable at home and above all beautiful. 


We enjoyed some old favourites on the topic. This book is fantastic. The art style and amount of information are perfectly paired. 


We also enjoy this book and we recommend all of this series. It is our favourite nature series for the 3-6 age group. 


Lastly we decided to take a field trip to our local butterfly sanctuary. It is so beautiful there with so many different species of butterflies and moths. At just turned 5 Quentin now does really well on learning outings. This will serve him well as he progresses into the Second Plane of Development. 


Montessori asks us to “Follow the Child” and this simply couldn’t be more applicable than when out and about. We travel at his pace, and stop when he wants to. This gives him an opportunity to really take in what he is seeing, to ask questions or to return to something he wants to know more about. 


We both agreed that a butterfly sanctuary is a gorgeous spot to take photos. 
If you have been looking to start a nature study, insects is a great place to start. Books from the library, and simply stepping outside are all you need.  

Montessori Peace Education: Music Resources 

Peace Education is my absolute favourite part of Montessori and is something that is often greatly overlooked and incredibly undervalued by classrooms and homes. 

As I often advocate, Montessori has little to do with the perfectly curated trays of beautiful wooden materials and instead looks to a much greater cause.

This is education, understood as a help to life; an education from birth, which feeds a peaceful revolution and unites all in a common aim, attracting them as to a single centre. Mothers, fathers, politicians: all must combine in their respect and help for this delicate work of formation, which the little child carries on in the depth of a profound psychological mystery, under the tutelage of an inner guide. This is the bright new hope for mankind.” (The Absorbent Mind, p. 15)

I had the extreme pleasure to host a fantastic keynote speaker with my fellow British Columbia Montessori Association Board Members this weekend. 

Shelley spoke about her Sing Peace Around the World movement and it is an amazing thing to behold. 

Shelly has a host of other songs for singing with children that can be found here

If you are looking for ideas or want to add to your listening corner this is a great resource. ​