What’s in the box? Christmas activities for preschoolers – part 4

Today is the fourth instalment of our “What’s in the box?” Christmas activities for toddlers and preschoolers. My 2 1/2 year old searches each morning to find his sparkly Christmas box filled with a new Christmas themed activity. He works on these after breakfast while his older siblings are preparing their Blessing Buddy acts of kindness for the day. Combined with room time, this highchair time gives me 1 1/2 to 2 hours of time to either homeschool the older children or in this case, complete some more complicated crafts that need me to be available. As each box is opened it is added to his “school” shelves and can be rotated with the other Christmas activities to extend the time.

If you have trouble getting your little one to sit and concentrate, have a read through this post for some tips on the practicalities of getting started. While some children are naturally better at sitting for longer lengths of time and focussing on a given task, all children can be taught to do this and will improve with consistency and training. I now have 6 children who are (or have been) old enough for highchair activities and I can assure you that they were not all on board with the idea of highchair time from the beginning!

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Day 16

Tweezer star transfer. Practising pincer grip is important for young children who will need the finger strength and dexterity this develops later as they begin to write and draw. The card stars will be presented in a small container that holds them upright to make it easier to grasp the edges with the tweezers as they are transferred into the ice block tray segments.

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Day 17

These oversized popsicle sticks, pompoms and stars have magnets on the back so that they will stick to the baking tray.

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Day 18

All the children have quiet time books filled with dot-to-dots, colouring pages, puzzles and assorted activities. This is a toddler version of the same with stickers, stamps and texts for free creating.

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Day 19 

Even though this is day 19 of my activities, I actually introduced it right at the beginning of December when we decorated our large Christmas tree. Little children love to decorate without having to do it a certain way so we have this little tree set aside with a bunch of assorted decorations for the children to add on and take off as often as they like.

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Day 20

Poking toothpicks into the foam tree and adding large beads to decorate the tree will allow latitude for fine motor skills, colour sorting and matching and one-to-one correspondence.

 

 

 

 

 

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What’s in the box? Christmas activities for preschoolers – part 3

Our first “What’s in the box?” Christmas highchair time activity was revealed today to our 2 1/2 year old who was excited to search for his hidden sparkly Christmas box. He enjoyed his Christmas sensory tub activity and will be keen to see what tomorrow’s box reveals. He played with his new activity while his older siblings worked on their act of kindness for the day, which came with the much anticipated arrival of our Blessing Buddies.

Here are 5 more of the Christmas activity trays for toddlers and preschoolers that I have prepared, ready to be revealed one at a time each morning in the special sparkly Christmas box.

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Day 11

These cookies are simply 2 circles of cardboard from a nappy box glued together (picture side in) with a variety of felt shapes to add as icing.

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The older children saw what I was doing and begged pestered asked me to let them have a go. They did such a good job that I handed the project over to them and went on to prep some other activities. Other than the flowers and a couple of bits and pieces, the designs in the photo above are all theirs. They can’t wait to play with them!

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 Day 12

A sensory tub filled with macaroni pasta and a variety of interesting bits and pieces to sort, scoop, tong, tip, pour and transfer.

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Day 13

One of our Christmas traditions is to purchase a new nativity set each year. This one we purchased a few years ago and has been well used. I will be putting a different new wooden set into the sparkly box but as the older kids are about while I am photographing I didn’t want to spoil the surprise!

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Day 14

Do-a-dot printables with stickers to place inside each circle. Great for fine motor skills and one-to-one correspondence. I will need to get some larger stickers though as these are too small for very little fingers to manipulate easily. You could add some stamps and drawing items to this box.

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Day 15

Pretend food play and colour sort tonging activity. A muffin tray filled with coloured silicone pattipan wrappers with pompoms and jewels etc. to manipulate and “cook.”

 

Sensory tub: fun with cars, roads and rocks

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Our latest sensory tub was put together in 5 minutes flat using a bunch of cars, our rocks from the last tub and a basket of blocks that rarely sees the light of day. I replaced the oats sensory activity with cars with the two youngest boys in mind but was surprised to see that the girls also couldn’t keep out of it.

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I just tipped it all in but this is what it looked like after  my 4 1/2 and 9-year-old girls spent 20 minutes setting it up to their liking – I couldn’t have done it better myself!

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Everyone from the 2-year-old to the 11-year-old got in there!

Now, I would like to leave you with the false impression that everyone played together in perfect harmony while I sipped a hot cup of tea and smiled on my angelic brood. Unfortunately the sound track to the seemingly peaceful picture above went something like this:

He’s knocking down my building! Drive on the road! DRIVE ON THE ROADS! MUUUUUUUUM THEY”RE NOT DRIVING ON THE ROADS!!!! Don’t touch my rocks! He’s touching MY rocks! MUUUM, He’s wrecking EVERYTHING! – You get the picture. Pairs seems to be the ideal arrangement for our sensory tubs. Any more than that and the conflict starts.

The previous paragraph has been included for the benefit of some of my friends who operate under the delusion that our family is approaching perfection! 🙂

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This is what it looked liked a couple of hours later.

 

Preschool at my house – large family homeschooling (with toddlers!)

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Fingerpainting – 5 minutes of actual finger painting (in the bottom of the tubs) then 45 minutes of cleaning up! First the tubs, then the kids. They did seem to have fun though.

I have been asked a few times recently what I am doing for preschool with my 4-year-old children. There have been no major changes to how we have always done things; we just take the sitting and focussing skills they have already been learning during mat time, playpen time, room time, highchair time and other periods of focussed play and apply them to the next level of hands-on learning.

We have been focussing on basic counting skills, learning our letter namessounds and identifying initial sounds (moving on to 3 letter words) and other hands on activities that promote fine motor skills. (Plus some other kindergarten style activities that are pretty much just for fun.) I work with just the twins for 20 minutes each morning, which gives them some focussed time with Mummy before I go on to the older children while the twins do independent activities on their mats.

This short period of time I know by experience (coupled with the learning they receive during our daily flexible routine, reading times etc.) is enough to give them a strong start in all the learning areas as they get older. Preschool need not be particularly complicated, formal or arduous to be effective and it does not need to take all day. We do some more formalised work at this age because they are ready for it and enjoy doing “real school” like the big kids. If these two factors were not in place I would back off until they were ready.

Here is a snapshot of the activities we have been doing over the last 2 weeks.

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Our preschool activity cupboard for “school with Mummy” time.

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Mat time activities cupboard – Lego, counting button puzzle, pattern blocks and puzzle cards, button sorting, cutting and magnetic pompoms.

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Counting 1 to 10. Spice jar lids marked with metallic pens and some plastic tiles to count.

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Hair elastics and swizzle sticks marked 1 to 10. The number strip is to follow until they know the order of the numerals.

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Another number sequencing and counting to 10 activity, combined with some tong work for pincer grip strength.

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Counting golden rings to match numbered “glass” slippers (wedding favours.)

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Initial sounds activity sheets. Just a bunch of pictures to decide if they do (circle them) or don’t (cross them out) start with the correct sound. Large letter in centre of page to practise letter formation in. Doing some written work makes them feel like the big kids – they love it! Takes 5 minutes so not at all taxing for me or them.

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Addition tray. Now the twins can order numerals to 10 and display reasonable 1-to-1 correspondence we have started basic adding and subtracting activities.
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Ideally the plate for the total would be bigger than the other plates! The idea is that the two plates are tipped together into the last plate to find the total. I find however that having the blocks in a line makes it easier for them to count without re-counting the same block repeatedly.

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These school activities are definitely not independent as yet. The moment I left to take a couple of photos, my son started building trains with the blocks!

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The twins have developed their ability to hear the initial sound in words and we are now working on 3 letter consonant-vowel-consonant (CVC) words. The next sound most children hear is the last sound in the word, followed by the middle sound. These letter tiles are Coko bricks that are compatible with Duplo boards. Good for beginning activities for non-writers or those who find writing tedious.

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Art – 4 year old’s version of Van Gogh’s sunflowers. We actually got around to doing a proper picture study. Forgot to take photos of the older children’s work, but some of them were better than mine!

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Who cares about sunflowers? I can mix all my colours into a great brown sludge!!

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Toddler version of sunflowers. He actually didn’t want to paint anything at all. I practically had to make him do it just for the photo 🙂 Doesn’t like dirty hands!

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What do you do with a toddler while you homeschool? Heaps of things!! Here are just a few and if you follow my blog at all you know there are many more ideas to be had. Step one – train them to sit and focus. Step 2 – find some engaging activities. Step 3 – pop them in the playpen when they have had enough of highchair time, followed by a good session of running around outside to burn off energy. That’s just the current morning routine while the older children get the bulk of their work done. It has changed many times.

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Magnetic blocks in a metal box. Stroke of genius to store them this way – NOT!! This was the only container I had and when I put them in it occurred to me that it would make a great building platform. Pure luck!

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What has this got to do with school time? Nothing at all! Just another one of those great embarrassing photos we are storing up for our kid’s 21st birthdays. Plus, he’s so cute! For those who are worried about the girlie outfit, please note that he is carrying 2 trucks!

     

Montessori style hands-on tray activities for toddlers and preschoolers

Activities for young children are cheap and easy to put together and the peace they will bring to your daily routine is priceless! Teaching your little ones to sit and concentrate for extended periods is one of the key skills every parent should be working on in the early years and one that will pay dividends in the future. Choose a variety of attractive materials that will stimulate their interest and be prepared to change them fairly regularly. It is important that the activity is not too difficult nor too easy. A little bit of a challenge will keep them interested – too challenging and they will be unable to succeed. If you present a tray that is too difficult, simply remove it and put it away for the future. Chances are they will love it in just a few short months.

I have written several posts detailing how to train your children to sit in their highchair, mat or playpen and the practicalities of when and how to change activities. Getting started takes a little extra time, but once you have built “tray time” into your day, it will become something your child looks forward to. Place them somewhere near you so you can chat and interact while you are cooking or doing some other task that enables you to encourage them in what they are doing when they need it and keep an eye on those smaller objects that they may find tempting to put in their mouths. Here are several ideas for the 2 to 5 age-range (approximately) that I have used in the past with my own children.

Sliding oversized paperclips onto matching coloured cardboard squares.

Matching clips to coloured popsticks. Great pincer-grip training for later writing. Make sure the clips you get have long enough handles and are not too stiff to open. These clips have one short and one long side and the children were not able to grip them properly.

Sorting popsticks by colour.

Tong transfer combined with colour sorting. The flowers came from a cheap plastic Hawaiian lei.

Duplo colour sort.

Tong transfer combined with bead colour or shape sort.

Golf tee hammering by colour. A piece of foam salvaged from packaging and a light wooden hammer from a Tap Tap game.

Colour and shape match combined with pincer grip practise while pegging.

Shape puzzle. This is a commercial set of attribute blocks. I remove all bar one set of the same colour and thickness and use it as a simple shape puzzle. Once they master this, I add other colours and thicknesses back in.

Pattern blocks are lots of fun. Leave them out on a small table and even your older children will not be able to resist putting a bunch together to make a picture. Young children enjoy the matching cards you can purchase to go with them.

Geoboard matching. Little ones just experiment with elastic bands but older children can do a variety of extension activities. Matching and copying geometric shapes is one.

Shape matching cards. You could use them for basic card games as well.

Good quality wooden puzzles are always attractive for children.

Chunky, simple puzzles are a good start for younger kids.

The concepts of heavier, lighter, full, empty etc. can be developed while playing with a set of balance scales.

Stacking and nesting objects develops the concept of size seriation; in this case, measuring cups.

This is a cardboard stacking box set that does the same as the Montessori pink tower. Not as nice but a lot cheaper!

Graduated wooden rings.

Picture to picture matching.

Matching picture halves is a good introduction to puzzles for those who get overwhelmed with too many pieces. Start with just a few pairs and work up.

Montessori addition trays: hands-on mathematics

add tray C using IMG_8374A strong foundation in basic mathematical skills will set children up for later success. Too many children learn how to complete math problems by following a formula or method that they simply do not understand. They pass the tests, but when the difficulty of the problems increases, or they are presented in a different format than the one they are used to, the child flounders.

Teaching children using concrete materials (items that can be seen and handled) before moving to abstract concepts (problems worked out on paper) is absolutely vital to make sure they understand the connection between the methods they are using and how and why they work.

The Montessori method for mathematics is brilliant, especially for young children. It is very systematic and progresses from skill to skill in small steps, with each stage building on the one before to ensure understanding and mastery is gained before moving to the next step in the ladder. Concepts that are not covered in your standard state school math book are intentionally introduced and explained in a way that can easily be grasped by even very young children.

Many children seem to simply absorb these small skills along the way, almost accidentally, but the children who struggle with maths are usually the ones who never intuitively grasped the shortcuts, mental methods and other little tricks and understandings that their more successful peers just seemed to somehow “get” without direct instruction.

One of the foundational skills that later math problems build on is adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing small numbers. Many children will make mistakes when solving a more advanced problem, simply because they make a basic error with one of these simple calculations. Spending time in the early years ensuring that children master their basic maths facts is a must for success and speed later on.

Here is a Montessori addition tray and some other Montessori inspired ideas for teaching young children to add small numbers, mastering their addition facts as they complete them.adding tray jewels IMG_8361This is how our addition tray looks on the shelf. Only one child at a time is using it, so it is set up in such a way as to mark their individual progress. Every week or so I “test” their mastery of the addition facts and those problems that they are able to solve mentally (without thinking time) are placed into the screw-top container. They are pulled out for occasional review, but no longer need daily practise. This provides some intrinsic motivation as they see the pile in the dish growing smaller and smaller and the container getting fuller and fuller. They love it when we exclaim over how many they know now.

Initially, I split the facts into sets; plus 1, plus 2, plus 3  and so on and only have 1 set out at a time.  Once they know the sets fairly well individually, we combine the lot, taking out the ones they have mastered and working on what is left. Obviously, learning all the plus 0, plus, 1 plus 2 and plus 10 facts is very easy, so starting with these gives the child a boost of confidence as they quickly plow through the first sets, filling that jar almost immediately.

adding tray set out IMG_8362The activity is set out in the child’s workspace like this. The correct number of jewels are counted into the first and second dish, before both sets are scooped together into the final dish for them to find the answer by counting. It provides a very clear visual display of what happens when you add two numbers together.

Because some children will take a long time to recall all of the addition facts, I give them lots of different kinds of materials to count and present the problems in different ways. Here are some of the Montessori inspired, hands-on workjobs  that I have used with both my own children as we homeschool and in a classroom situation when I was a teacher.

peg & pompom paper plate addition to 10These pegs are labelled with the addition facts and the pompoms serve as the counting material. Once the child has found the answer, the peg is clipped onto the correct segment of the paper plate. It is self-checking as there is only one peg for each segment – any double-ups means that they need to redo those pegs to discover the correct answer. The holder for the pegs is the centre from a used roll of masking tape.cutlery noodle additionThis was a favourite with my children. As always, making up a funny story to go with the activity turned it into something really fun. Those greedy restaurant patrons were at it again and the children had to figure out who’s cutlery was whose and put it into the correct cup. Only one knife, spoon and fork should be in each cup, so again, any double-up means that the child needs to redo the problem. The noodles serve as the counting material.sticker addition red sort trayThis activity is very quick to make. The sticker cards are the manipulatives with problems written onto card strips. Once solved, each strip is placed into the segmented dip tray in top of it’s answer. peg addition black 4 hole trayNumber stickers on the base of the 4 segment tray determine where each problem card is placed. The pegs are slipped onto the sides to count and solve the problem.gold & silver start additionThe silver stars have the problem and the gold stars hold the answers. The child counts the jewels to solve the addition sum and matches the silver star to it’s mate.

Presenting attractive materials and a variety of experiences will make learning these basic skills enjoyable for your child and set them up for success in the future.

Other posts you may find useful:

Montessori tray activities for toddlers

Montessori counting trays 1 to 5

Homeschooling with toddlers and preschoolers

Teaching children to read – where to begin?

 

 

 

Montessori style cutting box with free printable patterns

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I have just finished making this Montessori style cutting activity tray for my 3 year olds. They have had some experience with cutting strips of paper and other objects (see teaching toddlers to cut) and as they are very interested in chopping everything in sight to bits this should be a hit! I added the beads and straws to cut up as well, just because having an empty spot in the craft box bothered me! The glue is included so that they can take all the little bits of paper they have cut up and glue them onto coloured card if they want to.

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After searching the net for free printable patterns for the cutting strips I eventually gave up and created my own. So to save you the trouble, here are the links for you to download and print my patterns. Enjoy!

14/6 Edited to add that I found the original designer of this idea here: http://teachingfromatacklebox.blogspot.com.au/2012/03/paper-cutting.html

vertical straight lines

diagonal straight lines

curved lines

wavy lines

V shaped lines

square spiral easy

square spiral difficult

circular spiral

Other posts you may like:

Teaching toddlers and preschoolers to glue

Cutting, gluing and stickers

Ziploc activitiy bags for preschoolers and toddlers

Homeschooling with toddlers and preschoolers