“A child, than anyone else, is a spontaneous observer of nature.”
~ Maria Montessori
Summer break is almost upon us, and now is the time to start planning some fun activities for your kids. Take a look at our favorite summertime Montessori activities geared towards the toddler years!
This is a simple painting art project involving seashells,watercolor or finger paints, and a paintbrush. Toddlers can work on holding the paint brush in his one hand and steadying the seashell in the other hand. After the seashells are painted, children can enjoy washing them clean in a bucket of soapy water. This Montessori practical life activity encourages the development of fine motor muscles with the fun sensation of using soapy water and a dish brush for scrubbing. It also re-enforces the concept of cleaning up.
-Cooking with Kids-
This is the simplest smoothie popsicle recipe ever, and it’s perfect for the kids that want to be independent in the kitchen but still need some guidance. It uses up only a few ingredients but transforms into a healthy treat. You will need some ripe strawberries (the riper, the better), an equally ripe banana, your child’s favorite yogurt, a popsicle mold and blender.
- Snip the tops of the strawberries off, peel that banana, and put them in the blender. Pour the whole yogurt in (it doesn’t matter what size it is, just pop it all in).
- Blend until smooth and pour into the molds.
- Freeze – the waiting is the hardest part, even for big kids. Give them a good 3-4 hours.
- This is the easiest part – enjoy!
-Fine Motor Skills-
It is so wonderful finding new ways to use nature in preschool activities because, really, you can’t beat the beauty of nature and all the sensory benefits it brings!
Here’s the short list of supplies you’ll need to get started:
- Nature finds (leaves, flower petals)
- Yarn needle
- Embroidery floss
You can collected leaves and flower petals from our front yard, but if you don’t have many plants in your yard, you can consider taking a nature walk to find materials. You can even use the items found on your Nature Scavenger Hunt (see activity below)! Place your nature finds on a tray and start by threading the embroidery floss onto the yarn needle for your toddler. Showed him how to “sew”a few leaves and petals onto the string, and explain that the materials you are working with are very delicate so they should work carefully and slowly. This is fantastic fine motor practice!
Allow your child to thread as long as they desire. Some will want to make long necklaces, others will just want a few petals and leaves. You can add a further challenge students by asking them to make patterns (leaf, petal,leaf, petal, etc.).
Gardens are full of surprises – and for children there is an attraction that goes well beyond dirt. The connection to the earth is a stress releasing, quiet moment. As well, growing teaches patience, love of good food, and provides exercise. In our sedentary technology filled world, our kids need to learn these skills more than ever. Gardening is a wonderful way for children to connect with nature and nurture living things. It provides learning opportunities when studying parts of seeds, flowers and plants. Children love to dig in the dirt and get great exercise while doing so.
Tips for Gardening with Toddlers:
- Embrace the Dirt & Water – Prepare for it, because your toddler will get dirty & wet. This part is half the fun!
- Give Them Their Own Tools – It can be hard to locate good tools for toddlers, especially work gloves that fit a small hand. Let them use your tools if need be; in this way you’re acknowledging the importance of the work they’re doing. If your child is unable to lift the regular sized ones (too heavy), a small beach pail and shovel will do!
- Dig, Water, Weed, Mix – All the basic skills in the garden can be incorporated into the toddler’s routine. Dig in garden beds, splash in the water, make mud patches, plant seeds and talk about how it makes the plants grow. Weeding (ripping) is a good learning activity with a little direction on what are plants and what are weeds. Mixing in nutrients was a good measuring/filling/dumping activity.
- Let Them Plant – Some plants need to be seeded according to the package, but other seeds do well with a little spontaneity. Toddlers can easily help plant – let them make the finger holes to put the seeds in, or go “wild” helping plant a row that you’ve hoed. Seeds that are great for this type of spontaneity are baby lettuce mixes, chives, swiss chard, spinach. Any plant that can be thinned or seedlings moved carefully can work too.
- Harvest Time – Hardy plants like beans, peas can easily take a little toddler love in the picking phase. Other easily dug plants like carrots & potatoes can yield excitement as they are dug from the ground. As a bonus, if you grew it, you’re more likely to eat it – so this is especially great with children who are picky with their vegetables. A sun-warmed bean or tomato picked from your very own garden that you grew tends to taste just a little bit sweeter!
Nature Scavenger Hunt
-Gross Motor & Sensory-
Casual, frequent walks in nature provide fun adventures, promote healthy habits, and help to create a stronger bond with your toddler. Enjoy using your imagination to create gross motor challenges together using whatever natural materials you find! Regular gross motor exercises are essential for child’s development and contribute to many aspects of their well-being. They:
- Help children learn to move around efficiently
- Are great for general fitness
- Help children to comprehend directions
- Facilitate speech and fine motor development
- Help children with organization of the body
- Assist children to be aware of body positioning and space
- Are great for the development of good posture
A fun way to get children moving in nature is to incorporate a scavenger hunt into your playtime. It’s easy to do with an egg carton or a paper bag to collect small natural treasures into. Print your scavenger hunt list (there are some fantastic free printables found online!), glue it to the top of an egg carton or on the outside of paper bag and off you go on your adventure!
OTHER ACTIVITIES, categorized:
- Water play
- Sand play
- Care of animals
- Identifying Smells
- Color Hunt
- Shape Hunt
- Have a conversation while on a nature walk
- Storytelling from a group of items
- Trace letters in dirt
- Go on a sound hunt
- Counting seeds
- Counting pebbles or rocks
- Identify insects
- Spin, climb, jump with one eye open
- Shadow drawing
- Observe weather or clouds
- Build with and balance sticks & rocks
- Discuss animals in your area
- Star Gazing
- Visit various land forms
- Collect & explore rocks
Art & Music
- Nature collage
- Petal painting
- Create a song
- Dance to nature’s sounds
- Make musical instruments from natural objects
- Rhythmic movements like galloping, side stepping, etc.
Things to Do as a Family
- Ride bikes
- Fly kites
- Have a weekly family board game night.
- Find a scenic location to feed ducks or other birds.
- Have a picnic at the zoo, on the beach, at the park, in the yard, or even the living room!
- Build a bonfire and roast hot dogs and marshmallows.
- Play outside with water using a sprinkler, hose, slip and slide, small pool, or water balloons.
- Toss a Frisbee together.
- Volunteer as a family.
- Put together a puzzle.
- Plan camping events in the living room, the front or back yard, or a weekend excursion out of town.
- Hang out at the park. Look for walking trails and local playgrounds where your kids can explore and have fun.
- Take the whole family fishing.
- Spend the day at the lake, local swimming pool or the beach.
RESOURCES & CREDITS:
Mama’s Happy Hive – http://www.mamashappyhive.com
No Time For Flash Cards – http://www.notimeforflashcards.com/
Munchkins and Moms – http://munchkinsandmoms.com
The Inspired Home – http://theinspiredhome.org
Childhood 101 – http://childhood101.com
Memorial Montessori – http://www.memorialmontessori.com
Carrots Are Orange – http://carrotsareorange.com