Montessori style tray activities for toddlers

These square jewels were so attractive to the twins that they spent a good deal of time examining each one and just moving them around by hand. Only once they had had their fill of touching and examining them were they ready to try transferring them which was the original purpose of this activity.

The twins are 2 years and 5 months old and were in need of some new highchair and table activities. These are the latest Montessori style trays that I made up for them in under an hour a couple of weeks ago. Once you have a good selection of materials and equipment to work with, it’s easy to mix and match and throw together some new ideas. Using a category for each tray type is helpful to me. (See Montessori tray activities for toddlers: starting out.)

I have done tray activities in the traditional Montessori style before (on a piece of carpet to designate a work space) but I find it easier at this age and with two at a time to keep them in their highchairs. This means I can use the time to prepare or clean up a meal or any other task and flit in and out of the room while they work on their activities without coming back in to find 5 trays up-ended on the floor at once! It also helps them to concentrate on the task at hand and learn to fully complete each activity before starting a new one. Concentration time is extended as they learn to stay focussed until I am ready to change the materials for them.

Pegging is excellent fine motor practice. Make sure the pegs you use are easy to press to begin with as toddlers do not have the finger strength to open very firm pegs. Dolly pegs or pegs that slide are a good option for those who cannot manage regular squeeze style pegs.

Providing a four sided container and pegs in four colours quickly turns this into a colour sorting activity. If you added some coloured sticky dots in the same colours as the pegs then younger children can begin to match the colours by pegging each peg onto the corresponding coloured dot.

This bead threading activity was the favourite of the lot and both twins want to do this again and again. They do enjoy chewing the straw though so I have had to replace it several times. Luckily this takes only a matter of seconds to do – see below.

All you need are some large beads, a container, a straw and a piece of masking tape. Bendy straws already bend over at the ends so I simply taped it over so that the beads will not fall off the end. That’s it! I will definitely be making some more threading activities soon. Beads on pipecleaners next.

A simple tong transfer practical life activity. I found a huge packet of large hair lackies at the $2 shop and they are great for beginning tong transfer because they are so easy to pick up.

One to one correspondence is an important pre-number mathematics skill. In this activity, preschoolers scoop one pompom into each depression in the iceblock tray.

Jewels, rocks and other decorations that are used for potplants and vases make excellent Montessori materials. They are very attractive to children of all ages and even my older children love to use these for maths manipulatives. This is a simple scooping transfer activity from one bowl to another.

Another transferring activity. I tried several kinds of tongs for transfer but my son was very frustrated by them, finding them too difficult to use. I decided to leave them for him for a while and let him enjoy transferring with spoons and scoops. His pencil grip is perfect so I am not too worried about his fine motor skills at this stage!

Other related posts you may like:

Montessori style tray activity for toddlers: Bucket of giant beads

Homeschooling activities for toddlers: Pasta play

Getting dinner on the table: arsenic hour

Hands-on maths workjobs: Counting 1 to 5

If you are blessed with a kinesthetic learner, providing hands-on learning experiences is vital. All young child however need to move from tactile or concrete mathematical experiences (where they manipulate objects to develop mathematical understanding) to abstract (“on paper”) experiences.

There is no better way to teach children to count than to have them go ahead and count! The first step is to ensure that they are able to recite the number order. The next step is to develop one-to-one correspondence (matching one number to one object.) After that, let the counting begin! You will need to step them through the process initially with lots of opportunities to count. Use everyday activities around the house to introduce this skill; setting out 4 plates, counting 3 sets of cutlery, placing 5 sultanas on a celery stick, collecting 5 hats for outside play etc.

To transition to the tray activities, you will also need to teach the children how to recognise and order the numerals to 5. This can be done as they complete the activities with self-checking number strips to match the numbers (see the egg carton castles example below) or taught separately before you give them the tray activities.

For homeschoolers, or those who are wanting educational ideas for highchair, mat or table time, here are some hands-on ideas for presenting counting from 1 to 5. While children can easily develop this skill through their every-day experiences around the home, these workjobs will help them to develop concentrating and focussing skills and are a great introduction to more complicated workjobs and Montessori style tray activities that will extend their skills as they grasp each basic beginner skill.

My older toddlers begin with these simple counting activities which virtually guarantee their success and I am able to teach them the general concept of how the experiences are presented and what they need to do. I can then change the materials, extend the numbers and gradually increase the difficulty of the experience to match their developmental levels. They love to manipulate the materials and enjoy the sense of accomplishment once they are able to complete each activity.

Before expecting a child to do the activities independently you will need to spend some time teaching them how to set out the containers, order the numbers and add the appropriate number of objects. Depending on their previous experiences with counting, this may be a very quick or more long-term process. Once they have mastered one counting experience though, the skill is then transferred to the next new activity with only a quick demonstration from Mum.

Any kind of container can be used and with a bunch of something to count and 5 numbers to order you are all set. Ideally workjobs should be self checking so that the child is able to self-correct their own work without your assistance.

 

This is the first tray counting experience I use. The popsticks are first sorted into colours (with the child already having completed many colour matching and sorting activities previously) before being counted and popped into the correct cup. If children do not yet recognise their numbers they are able to count the small chunks of popstick next to the number to find out which numeral it is. Those who are just beginning can simply match up the colours to find out which cup to put them in. If they are completing the activity with colours rather than numbers, I simply spend time with them counting the number of popsticks in each cup as we pack away the activity until they are able to transition to relying on their counting skills rather than the colours.

Including a number strip for the child to match to as they order their numerals means they can be successful without already knowing the number order. The dots next to the numerals on the side of the castles mean they can count to check how many even if they do not recognise the numeral itself. The correct amount of holes are poked in the castles so that the castle must have the correct number of flags.

Milk bottle tops marked with liquid paper are the numerals here (you could include a number strip to match to if needed) and the size of the cups can be ordered as well for an extra dimension. The child sets out the 5 cups, orders the numerals, then counts out the correct number of pegs for each cup. Pegging is also an excellent fine motor skill.

Coloured pompoms are matched to the same colour sticker in the muffin tin. This is more a one-to-one correspondence experience as no numerals are included, however I have the child count how many there are in each hole before they pack them away.

The numbers are set out first (following the number strip if needed) then the  jewels on each popstick are counted to match the correct number. Popsticks are colour coded to the numerals to make them self-checking.

Check through your cupboards to find a group of containers, write some numbers on anything handy, add something to count and you have a simple counting workjob. Two dollar shops and other discount stores are great for finding appealing bits and bobs to count and manipulate and a multitude of activities can be set up with very little expense or effort required. Young children love to do “school” with their older siblings and this is the perfect introduction for them.

Homeschooling with toddlers: Duplo copy and build

Here’s another fun yet educational activity for your toddlers or pre-schoolers to do while you homeschool the older children (or just get some dinner cooked!) It works as a Montessori style tray activity, table activity, playpen activity or mat time (blanket time) activity and can be adapted in difficulty to suit a wide range of ages.

Assuming you own Duplo (or any other suitable construction toy) and a digital camera, it costs almost nothing to make and is simple to put together. Older children could be enlisted to make the models required.

Simply make a selection of small models, photograph them individually and put only the pieces needed to construct each one into separate containers. Print the photos (laminate if you want them to last) and put them with the corresponding model and that’s it! The child simply uses the blocks supplied to copy the photo. The activity is self-checking in that there will be no spare blocks left at the end if they have copied correctly.

The easiest model for a 2 year old to copy might simple be a stack of 3 or 4 square Duplo blocks. Each set given from then on can increase in difficulty by adding more blocks and changing the complexity of the designs. It may need some teaching at first for the very young children to grasp the concept, but once they understand what to do they will be off and running. After each model is created children can play with the little set of bricks and try to make something different with it. Little boys in particular love to build, however my girls have enjoyed the challenge of making the colours and shapes of the blocks match exactly.

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