Montessori Madness: Valentines Day Trays

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February is the Month of Love and what better way to celebrate than to have Valentines Day themed Montessori Trays!

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Heart shape puzzles. These are super cute! Pixie is going to L.O.V.E. these!

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I bought this adorable heart silicone mould a few years ago. I added some pink aquarium stones in a little basket with tweezers.

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Many coloured hearts book with pencils.

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I pushed golf tees into a glitter covered styrofoam heart and have red marbles in another little basket. The marbles balance on the golf tees. I initially had it all on the green heart tray, but it wasn’t perfectly flat, so the marbles kept falling off.

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Heart colour matching cards

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Achy Breaky Hearts Matching Game file folder game that I modified for Fifi years ago.

7. These are books she loves to page through (you can find the link of our favourite books here). It’s not all of the books she loves, mind you (there just isn’t enough space on this shelf).

8. I bought the mats at Mr Price Home for R50 each. They are the perfect size. We have them in the size 50×80 and in white, green and blue.

Resources
Love tot pack from 1+1+1=1
Achy Breaky Hearts Matching Game

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What’s in the Workbox Wednesday #4 ~ Tot Tray Ideas

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I started tot trays with Koko over 5 years ago when we started homeschooling. He was a tender 27 month old that wanted to get into the homeschooling fun when Noo was in grade 1. Our trays have evolved over the last 5.5 years into what it is today.

In the beginning I found putting the tot trays together challenging. I didn’t know what was supposed to go in them and felt like I wasn’t doing it properly. It took me a while (a year or two) to realise that at such a young age, learning is all about exploration, not sitting and working for set, rigid, hours during the day. After I had relaxed and starting “going with the flow”, so to speak, school time became a lot more enjoyable for the both the tots (Koko and Fifi at that stage) and I. Now that Pixie is a totschooler, I’m much more relaxed and enjoying this phase of learning.

When putting tot trays together, make them activity specific. Here is a great list of activities from Fumbling Through Parenthood:
Pouring
Spooning
Tonging/Tweezing
Squeezing (a sponge, playdough, etc.)
Practical Life skills (folding, sweeping, etc.)
Threading Beads (onto sticks, string, pipecleaners, etc.)
Threading Sticks (straws, or spaghetti into small spaces)
Stacking & Balancing Objects
Using Glue
Using Stickers
Simple Crafts
Cutting
Counting
1 to 1 Correspondence
Matching
Sorting
Other activities to work those hand muscles (clothespins, hole punches, etc.)

Below are some tot tray ideas I’ve collected over the years. You don’t need to purchase expensive toys/resources for them. Making the equipment they will use during the day is almost more fun for you both.

Tot Tray Ideas for Tot School from 1+1+1=1. The Original Totschooler!!!!
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“Soon after the creation of Tot School, came the concept of Tot Trays. A simple twist on an old idea with Montessori based roots. A contained work space for tots, to inspire early learning fun. A way for mom to stay organized in her thinking and provide opportunities for early development in fun ways.” ~ Carisa from 1+1+1=1

Shadow Match Learning Mat from My HomeMade Montessori
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“I put this learning mat together by tracing around each prop and then the child finds the prop to the shadow match and places it on top. A fun way to teach object placement.” ~ Lisa from My Homemade Montessori

Homemade Toy: Pushing Puff Balls from Fun & Engaging Activities for Toddlers
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“It was really easy to make, just cut small holes in the lid of an old butter container. J’s goal is to stuff the puff balls inside the container via the holes. The holes are just smaller than puff balls, requiring J to work a little harder to get all the balls inside. It’s a fine motor activity that I pull out once every couple weeks and J is always very intrigued.” ~ Fun & Engaging Activities for Toddlers

I’ve made this activity for Pixie. To say she loves it is an understatement.

Magnetic foam shape picture from Rockabye Butterfly
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“We got these magnetic foam shapes. I made this shape sheet design with markers and then laminated it. Put it on a metal pan and she can match the magnet shapes to make the picture!” ~ Butterfly’s Mommy from Rockabye Butterfly

Simple Play: Pipe Cleaner Game from Dose of Happy
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“Porter is 15 months and has enjoyed this game for a little while now. It’s perfect when I need him focused and quiet for a little bit— think church or waiting in the doctor’s office.” ~ Deb from Dose of Happiness

Sticker Matching Activity & Game for Preschoolers from Feels Like Home
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“The idea is that the kits are very open-ended to inspire creativity in children and fun parent-child time. My kids have asked to play with these materials almost every day since they arrived a month ago. The designs are cute and inviting, and they are almost all include stickers.” ~ Tara from Feels Like Home

Textured Photo Book for Baby from Teach Me Mommy
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“I made a textured photo book from CD cases. Babies love familiar faces, and they love to touch different textures, so they will probably love this book too. The fact that it is made from plastic CD cases, makes it slobber proof too and the photos are protected by sticky paper. The different textured materials will just have to take the punch” ~ Nadia from Teach Me Mommy

Tweezing and Dropper trays from Learn~Play~Imagine

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“I set up these trays to give him something educational and fun to do while JZ works. I would give him toys only, but he requests work. Like most younger siblings he is eager to keep up and be just like his big brother.” ~ Allison from Learn~Play~Imagine

Bunny Tails Color Matching from Twodaloo
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” I stuck to bunnies to our new magnetic chalkboard wall (post coming soon) with tape and let the twins match away. They like to match the tails and name all the colors and then have the “Scary Fairy” (a.k.a. my hand) swoop down and mix up the tails again” ~ Stephanie from Twodaloo

DIY zipper board for kids from Laughing Kids Learn
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“Key learning points achieved with this zipper board are –
Fine motor skills
Sensory awareness
Identifying colours
Discussing length of zips etc” ~ Kate from Laughing Kids Learn

I just love this activity. Its on the top of my “to-do” list!

Shape matching game from Diapers to Diplomas
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“I had some leftover velcro and a cardboard box too, so I went to work with my cookie cutters and made this little game for the boys.” ~ Diapers to Diplomas

Paint Chip Pom Pom Match from Childcareland Blog
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“Here is a fine motor development activity that uses paint chip samples. I brought my bag of pom poms into the store with me and matched them up to the paint samples.” ~ Shelley from Childcareland Blog

Pipe Cleaner Color Sort from Kitchen Floor Crafts
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“I was inspired to use pipe cleaners and spice containers together from a toddler activity post over at Teaching Mama” ~ Kate from Kitchen Floor Crafts

Strengthen Toddler’s Fine Motor Skills & Creativity from Delightful Mom
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“This easy-to-create learning activity is great for teaching your toddler color sorting, enhancing their fine motor skills and expanding creativity” ~ Danielle from Delightful Mom

Magnetic Pipe Cleaner Discovery Bottle from Chasing Cheerios
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“The girls love moving the pipe cleaner pieces around using their magic magnetic wand!” ~ Melissa from Chasing Cheerios

The tot (and preschool) trays have become a passion for me. My children have all benefited greatly from the freedom they are afforded to work independently during the day while I am busy with one of their siblings.

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Resources:
All workbox posts on Monsters Ed
All Tot Tray posts on Monsters Ed
Sue Patrick’s Workbox System
Workboxes on 1+1+1=1. This is where I got our inspiration back in the day for Noo.
Preschool Work Trays
Tot Tray Ideas for Tot School from 1+1+1=1

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Tots and Me

Totschool with Pixie this week

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~Pixie is 32 months old~

Pixie is LOVING Tot school. We worked on this week’s trays after her afternoon nap when she is refreshed and the big kids are all done with their lessons and are outside playing. Her favourite is the pompom, fine motor skill tray. She played with it numerous times this week and I’ll be keeping this activity on her shelf next week.

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Pixie is now building a 9 piece puzzle with very little assistance. The puzzle she has came with a full size poster that we currently use as a guide under the puzzle pieces. Once she has mastered building the puzzle without any assistance, I will take the poster away.

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She is definitely a little puzzle monster. These have been so much fun for her. She didn’t struggle matching the baby and parent animals at all!

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She loved the butterfly colour matching activity too. She did this activity over and over again 🙂

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A new activity I made this week, was the fine motor kebab stick. I made holes into a plastic bottle lid and showed her how to push the sticks through the hole. The sticks are a tight fit and she had to work to get them to go into the hole. She didn’t enjoy this activity very much and only did it once. I’ll put it away and include it again in a week or two.

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I just love watching her play with the dinosaur sensory box and her Animal Barn shape set. I love how she makes the animals kiss ♥

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Of course we couldn’t have the sensory box out without a little mess, LOL

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I let Pixie cook with me for the first time this week, she got to cut the mushrooms for our dinner. She loved it and cut quite a few. Just look at the concentration!

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Tot School

Totschool: DIY Fine Motor Skills

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Pixie is 17.5 months old

Pixie is a very demanding toddler and I often find it difficult to get anything done. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only momma who sometimes struggles to keep a demanding toddler busy when you want to cook, clean or just drink a hot cup of coffee.

I came across THIS on Pinterest and thought I’d give it a bash and see if Pixie likes it.

What you need:
Small feta cheese container, cleaned and dried
Mini pompoms (I started off with 10 and now we have about 80 all together for this activity),
Scissors and patience.
Directions:
Cut a few holes into the lid of the feta container big enough to push the pompoms through.
Pop the lid back on and show said toddler how to push them through and viola!
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Happy toddler content with keeping herself busy 🙂 Pixie has been at it for over an hour now 🙂 I just keep taking the pompoms out of the container for her. She is sitting on the floor next to me right now as content as can be 🙂

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Letter Pointer craft

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I saw these really cool letter pointers, by A Differentiated Kindergarten, on Pinterest a little while ago and decided to have Koko and Fifi decorate their own pointers for when we do letters every day.

I had bought 4 tubs of these letters a while ago, put them away and forgot about them.

While Noo was at his maths lessons with Bimpa (my father in law) and Koko had finished his lessons for the day, I inserted a bamboo skewer into each letter. I then gave the kidlets some glitter glue to wild with. They loved it.

Koko has blue and orange letters and Fifi has purple and green letters.

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Foam letter pointers 1
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Foam letter pointers 5

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Tot School Planning

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Koko is 31 months old

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Practica Activities: Age Range – 2 – 3 years
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This week we will be doing the following (from the Practica Parent’s Manual)

1. Major Muscles and Co-ordination

Balance and Laterality (Chapter 7.1.6, 10 & 29)

2. Fine muscles and Art

Hand-eye coordination (drawing & threading)
Manual dexterity/Creativity (play-dough & sand play)

3. Visual Perception

Colour Consistancy/perception (Colour of the day)
Visual Closure (shapes)

4. Auditory Perception

Auditory discrimination/conceptualising/association (loud/soft, object sounds)

5. Mathematical

Counting to 10

6. Language and Thinking

Classification (Chapter 7.6.2)
Active Language Development (Chapter 7.6.6 & 24)