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The story of our precious little girl's 17 months of life with Trisomy 18 (July 4, 2010 - December 15, 2011) and of us, re-learning to live "after Lilly."
"I will praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made ...." Psalm 139:14

Friday, February 20, 2015

Re-thinking Montessori activity prep

It's been a little over a month since I've done a post showing the Montessori activities that Solomon is currently working on.  In January I put together a number of things for him.  But I felt a bit frustrated when he would dutifully work on something for a few minutes and then not touch it again.  I've got a lot going on this year and don't want to feel I am "wasting time" putting together things that he doesn't care about.

I started re-thinking my approach.  First off, this should be something that is joyful for us both.  I don't need to be getting legalistic about anything and/or feeling like I have to try every activity that listed in the books I have.  Also, the Montessori approach is "child-led" but within boundaries of "a prepared environment." 

So that means I don't want to take 10 minutes to put together something that Solomon only spends 3-4 minutes on.  But how will I know?  Of course I don't perfectly and I still want to expose him to a big range of things to try.  So I'm trying to study him.  For example, I have observed that he has never really been very interested in stringing things such as wooden beads or using the sewing cards. So I am done giving him variations of this.

This was a one-time activity for Solomon
 Solomon is my child that is most like me.  So I started thinking about what activities I liked as a child.  One thing that popped in my head was that I liked coloring books.  Neither Tabby nor Hunter have every liked coloring books very much - they are too confining for them.  But I printed off some Thomas the Train coloring pages for Solomon and he LOVED them.  Success.

Solomon tends to observe the rest of us closely and want to do the things we are doing.  So one morning when Hunter was cutting some paper, I decided it was time for Solomon to try.  I got out some special scissors and scrap paper for him.  He loved it:

Solomon likes transfer activities of any kind, so I gave him some nuts to work with.  A month later he is still enjoying variations on this:

Another activity was magnet play. I had a bag of magnets that I used with Hunter for science.  I dumped them onto a tray and showed Solomon how they worked.  Then he just sat and experimented for awhile.  (He didn't go back to this activity much, but that was fine.  It took me less than a minute to get out for him and didn't cost a penny.)

 Like many boys, Solomon is into construction vehicles.  And I've observed he really likes matching things.  So I downloaded some construction vehicles cards from Montessori Print Shop, laminated them, cut them out and gave him the stack.  (These are 3-part cards and I kept the word matching cards aside to give him when he's a little older.)  (The cards only cost $0.99 which was worth it to me for the time it would save me from making my own.)  Solomon likes to say the names of the vehicles while he matches them:

Wooden "knobbed cylinder blocks" seem to be a big deal in the Montessori community.  Because this looked like the kind of thing Solomon would really like, I decided they were worth the investment.  The regular sized ones were WAY out of our budget, I went with a set of mini blocks that I found on Ebay.  Those were very affordable.  I wasn't disappointed.  Solomon LOVES these blocks and plays with them frequently.  He first played with just one block at a time, but soon was playing with all four.  He dumps out all the cylinder blocks out then puts them back in place:

Another activity that I threw together in less than a minute was to get his set of bean bags and a toy spatula.  We lined up the beanbags on a table and I showed him how to flip the bean bags with the spatula.  (Good for learning to turn the wrist.)  He had fun with that several times, chanting "flipppp it over!":

One day I put together a farm "sensory bin."  I put in some straw and two kinds of beans and some of our plastic farm animals.  Also added a little pail and scoop.

Solomon added the tractor and took the animals for a ride:

To practice shape and color matching, I got out a game we have called Frog Fractions.  (I had gotten that game for about $1 at a used homeschool curriculum fair - it's so nice to think of lots of uses for things.)  Solomon played with this only for one day, but for a long time:

Ever since playing with the dinosaur cards I made him, Solomon has been interested in dinosaurs.  So I got out a few books we had and some plastic dinosaurs and we looked at the books together.  Then he wanted to try matching dinosaur toys to the book pictures.

One morning, Solomon found a padlock and key of Hunter's and played with it for a long time.  So the next day, I gave him 3 padlocks with keys to play with.  However, the novelty had mostly worn off I think, though he did play with them some:

Another "essential" Montessori activity is a set of wooden cubes, in graduated sizes, called "The Pink Tower."  Sure it would be great to have the nice official wooden blocks for this but there's that money factor involved.  Our little stacking blocks have been around since Hunter was a baby and are only plastic, but Solomon had so much fun learning to stack them from biggest to smallest.  So yay!

Finally, one activity I thought I'd mention is one that Solomon came up with himself.  He found a box of ziplock slider baggies (quart size) that I had.  He took several and started putting things in them.  At first I did not like that and thought he was being wasteful.  But then I looked closer.  He had gone through a basket of his toys and had separated things out into the baggies in a very organized way.  I was impressed!  So he got to keep the baggies and still uses almost every day.  I've realized they are also great for tossing a few small toys into and then dropping them into my bag when we're going out.

It's about time for me to come up with some new things for Solomon to try.  I do enjoy this sort of thing.  (ha - can you tell?!)  If only I enjoyed meal planning as much ....  ;)

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