Sunday, November 17, 2013

Halloween Week for Toddlers - Part 2

Zahavah being under three, I didn't venture to study pumpkins too much. I know that many North American Montessori schools spend Halloween "week" studying the pumpkin's "anatomy", roast seeds with the kids and scrub pumpkins but I felt like it was a bit early for my daughter. I think next year she'll be  much more open to "parts of a pumpkin" and the like. For now, I focused on fine motor challenges (working with beans, beads, mini stampers with caps, etc), sensorial and practical life activities as well as art, math and language readiness that were more on par with her skills or slightly higher.
Halloween ghost footprint
Art - Ghost footprint
Ta da! No laughing but this is something I tried to do with Zahavah last year and she did not want her little feet getting dirty at all! :) This year, at nearly 3 years old, she was all for it. A piece of black construction paper, white washable paint and black paint are all you need. The little bow was added to cover up a "smudge". Z started painting instead of dotting for the mouth so we put a bow on to cover it up. Needless to say, she quite likes the bow! 

Jack o lantern play dough beans
Sensorial/Art/Fine Motor: Jack-o-Lantern Play Dough Pumpkins 
Manipulating beans is tricky for little hands so I like to include it. Grabbing one bean involves the pincer grasp so it helps getting the writing muscles ready for later. Here, we practiced making designs in our play dough pumpkins. They each have a different emotion (happy, sad, surprised, scared). Many more were done but these were the winners in Z's eyes.

Free stamping Halloween
Art/Fine Motor: Free Stamping with Capped Halloween Stampers
Like most toddlers, Zahavah thrives to become independent. She loves being able to do things herself and feels especially proud when she thinks it was a bit difficult to do a task. These mini Halloween stampers (Oriental Trading Company) were something she really enjoyed and took out several times during the week. I didn't ask her to do anything special with them. She could stamp wherever on her paper and as much as she wanted but she had to remove the caps herself and put them back after she was done using a stamp. I'll be honest, she loved the un-capping and re-capping most of all. We also used this stamping opportunity to discuss the colors the stamps made and the motifs they printed.

pumpkin pony beads
Fine Motor: Make a pumpkin with bony beads
There's a first for everything and this week was the first time Zahavah used tiny pony beads and pipe cleaners together! We actually worked on this activity for three days because our beads were small and she got tired of sliding them down the sticks but on the third day, when we twisted all the pipe cleaners together, squished them a bit and added a green pipe cleaner to the top, she was so proud. I followed Cutesy Crafts' instructions in preparing the orange pipe cleaners (used 2 cut in half and twisted togeher in a star pattern) prior to Z sliding down the first beads so when she first saw the tray, it was only orange beads and an orange pipe cleaner "star".

Hammering spider nails into pumpkin
Practical Life: Hammering spiders into a real pumpkin
Last year, Adrian hammered the spiders into the pumpkin but this year, Zahavah did it. Using a wooden hammer and our metal spiders with a nail on their belly (Oriental Trading Company), Zahavah was unsure it would really work. The pumpkin looked really hard but it worked and she was so happy to help decorate our house. 

Pumpkin seeds in pumpkin ice tray
Math: 1 to 1 correspondence with pumpkin seeds and ice tray
A more hands-on approach to 1:1 math correspondence (no grid game this week!) for Halloween week using a pumpkin ice tray and real pumpkin seeds. One seed per cavity. Once completed, Z had permission to eat all the seeds and so she did... :)

Halloween sensory bin
Sensorial : Halloween Sensory Bin
Shaking things up with a new type of sensory bin this week. At first, Zahavah was unsure about the orange sand. I demonstrated what she could do with the bin and then the interest was strong enough for her to explore it for a good twenty minutes  nearly every day. I provided a small mesh spoon and a small plastic spoon to use with the bin. The stainer was to be used as a sifting tool in case she'd want to bury and say...rescue spiders from the sand and put them in the Halloween pumpkin pail. She could also use the "shovel" and fill the pail with sand and objects and let the sand sift through (there is a small hole at the bottom of the pail). An older toddler can also count objects but we stuck to talking colors and exploration...

Halloween snack toddler prepared
Cooking/Practical Life: Preparing a Halloween Snack
What's more exciting than preparing a snack? Sure helping with lunch and dinner preparation can be fun but preparing a snack is GREAT for toddlers. It doesn't take as much time and the results are practically instant. For Halloween, I thought Zahavah could prepare this simple snack for herself and Adrian (saw this idea on shared Facebook two months ago. Cannot see where it came from originally!). I started peeling the clementine (aka made an opening for further peeling) and let her remove the rest. She then added a piece of romaine lettuce heart in the middle of it. It became a pumpkin! For the two ghosts, I made an incision in the banana and let her peel the rest, then using a plastic, non-serrated knife, I let her cut the banana in half. I provided six chocolate chips and she simply pushed them into the banana. Needless to say, it was the best snack she's had! :) 

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Friday, November 15, 2013

Halloween Week for Toddlers - Part 1

Halloween is one of those themes I cannot seem to avoid putting in my curriculum year after year despite the fact that it doesn't really seem to fit into the Montessori mentality. Fact of the matter is, although Halloween is somewhat fantasy-based (ghosts, monsters and goblins anyone?), it's also part of a cultural experience and it's hard to deny that it "happens". I mean, for children living in the United States and Canada for example, stores are widely decorated, Halloween candies are sold as well as costumes, special haunted houses are put together, pumpkin patches are open for picking and carving and well, most kids go trick-or-treating on the 31st of October. Not putting together Halloween trays would be rather...difficult. Most kids almost expect them and are usually thrilled to see them as it means Halloween (something they usually take part in) is finally getting closer...

With the Montessori approach in mind, I tried to keep my activities hands-on and based on reality, especially as I was dealing with a not yet three year old girl but I also snuck in some Halloween elements that are a bit more "proper" to Halloween...Here's what we did during our Halloween week...

Spider Play Dough
Art/Fine Motor: Play Dough Spider
Play dough has been very popular lately in our household so I tried to bring out a few fun Halloween related activities including it. Last year, Adrian made a spider using play dough and pipe cleaners for legs so this year, I thought Zahavah could do the same. It's simple enough for a toddler after all. The spider above was modeled after the cobalt tarantula Zahavah saw in the matching spider game you'll see below by the way! :)

Matching spiders game
Language: Matching Colorful Spider Game
Although not very challenging in terms of matching, Zahavah really liked this game. I made the game myself and made sure I picked spiders that truly exist and that were of different colors. Granted the game would have been more difficult if I picked all black spiders, I knew Z would be more tempted by a colorful tray and I knew we'd also have the opportunity to talk about colors after she was done pairing the cards.

Halloween clothespin on pail
Fine Motor/Practical Life: Halloween Clothespins on Pail
Something Adrian did last year. We don't work with clothespins much yet because they are a bit difficult and frustrating but I couldn't resist these mini Halloween themed ones. I also figured that they might be easier to operate than the ones from last week as they are smaller and have a big Halloween "picture" showing where to pinch them. Sadly, it was still hard to Z to get them to open. The task was to get the clothespins off and for the first and second pins, she did well but then her fingers got tired and  she just pulled them off. :) I still think I'll get more clothespins out here and there to strengthen her fingers.

Sweeping Halloween confetti
Practical Life: Sweeping Halloween Confetti

Halloween confetti is VERY attractive to young children. Better watch what they do with it. :) I know Zahavah has passed her oral stage but I always keep an eye on her to make sure she does not inhale or put these tiny pieces in her mouth. For this activity, I prepared a small tray, marked a square with tape, provided a paintbrush for a broom and bat-themed Halloween confetti. The task was for her to sweep all the confetti into the square. 

Dot Marker and Halloween printables
Practical Life: Whole Hand Grasp : Tadoodles!

Whole hand grasp eventually develops into a fine pencil grasp so you'll see Zahavah do different kinds of activities where her entire palm and fingers are involved. Using Crayola's Tadoodles does just that. Dot markers would have worked as well but would not have involved the same muscles and control. Besides, how cute are the Tadoodles? :) For dotting material, I printed a pack of Halloween Do-a-Dot sheets made by Katie at the Gift of Curiosity. Zahavah happily dotted more sheets every single day!

Egg Carton Pumpkin patch craft
Art/Outdoors: Egg Carton Pumpkin Patch
We've been going to the pumpkin patch every year since the kids were born but this year unfortunately, the pumpkins were all green so we passed. It was very sad so I thought very hard and decided to have Zahavah make her own pumpkin patch outside. I had seen several ways of making pumpkins and eventually saw something I really liked on Sugar Aunts. They used an egg carton which the kids painted orange and hammered green golf tees in the middle to make it into a stem. Now, having already done a hammering activity this week (to be revealed in my next post), I chose to have Z insert green pipe cleaners into small holes instead (hello fine motors!). Then we took our little pumpkins out in the yard and built our our patch! :)

Magic Witch Potion Scavenger Hunt
Outdoors: Scavenger Hunt for Extra Halloween Treats!
I prepared this scavenger hunt for Adrian last year and he lad lots of fun completing it in our yard. Zahavah did too. Now, as far as the title goes, I tried to make it "Halloween-oriented" but it's really not something Montessori inspired as you can tell! :) I just wanted to get the kids outside and knowing it has cooled off significantly, having a goal makes things easier in attracting them out. :) As such, the task called for a gathering of ingredients that the kids would put into a cauldron, stir with the stick and if all the ingredients had been put in, they would have a great trick-ir-treat candy collection on Halloween night! :) P.S. It worked! :)

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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Art Class for Kids: Cezanne

Paul Cezanne was the second great artist I introduced to the kids this year. I picked this particular one as he did such a splendid job painting apples and that was perfect for us who were talking about fall and apples that week. As usual, I tried to engage the kids (nearing 3 years old to 5 years old) prior to having them make their own creation...Here's how it went:

Cezanne art class kids
Cezanne Art Appreciation for Kids


cezanne still-life or not
Still-Life or Not? Cezanne Paintings Sorting
When it comes to art appreciation, it can be a bit difficult to engage children because they are so eager to go create a masterpiece of their own. I always try to find an irresistible way to introduce artists so they'll want to stick by my side long enough to appreciate art before creating it. Here, I kept it simple, scattering a few printed paintings by Cezanne on a low table.  It featured some of his most famous work, to include three still-life. At first, I let them children look at the paintings by walking around the table. Then I asked them "personal" questions such as which one was their favorite. I also asked them to describe the colors the artist used and the topic of his paintings. We eventually concluded that some paintings showed people and others did not. I asked Adrian and Zahavah whether they remembered what living and non-living meant. They did. We went further into our exploration by identifying which painting depicting a living scene and which depicted a non-living scene. The landscape was a tough one...! Was the landscape "inanimate"? Was the grass still growing? Were the flowers in the field cut as they are in the vase?


Cezanne fruit still-life
Fruit Still-Life by Cezanne : Guess what fruit this is?

Another way to explore still-life paintings by Cezanne was to show several pieces as I did here. I picked various ones showing different fruits and we had a good time trying to guess which fruit was illustrated on the paper.  We also discussed placement of the fruit. Were dishes used? What colors are in the backgrounds? Dark? Anything else in the painting? Kitchen towels, jugs? Eventually, the kids concluded that the dark backgrounds, white plates and towels made the brightly colored fruit pop from the paintings. We also looked at how the fruit produces shadows on other fruits and how they are multi-toned.


still-life set-up
Putting Together a Still-Life for Drawing 

Prior to being seated with their colored pencils and paper, the children had to put together their own still-life to be drawn. I provided fruits, towels, bowls, etc.  In the end, Adrian and Zahavah decided to use apples, a pear and an orange. I was asked to put the pear on top of the orange so I did. Once the scene was created, the kids went on to draw. We used colored pencils so they could press harder to create shadows which we had discussed earlier.


At the end of the class, I invited the children to answer a few simple questions such as: "Did you do your best today with your drawing?", "What kind of drawing did you do today?", "What is a still-life anyway?" and "Can you tell me the name of the artist we talked about today?". 


A few books on Cezanne written with kids in mind
For children who really liked the lesson, I have books aimed at kids featuring our artist. Cezanne from A to Z (by Marie Sellier) doesn't have nearly as much text as the others and is better suited for my class but the other two were still quite nice for reference and for a look at more paintings. Kids can play more "still-life or not?" or simply enjoy the pictures.

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Friday, November 8, 2013

Falling for Fall for Toddlers - Part 2

Isn't it awkward to feel like fall is coming to an end already? There is a month left of it and yet, because the leaves have all fell out and the temperatures are now nearing the freezing point at night, I feel like winter's practically here! :) Well, in case you have any use for these fall activities, here's a few more I put together for my toddler...

Hunting Mushrooms
Outdoors : Mushroom hunting in the backyard
For fall week, a lot of my activities were "recycled" from Adrian's last year. Of course, he was a preschooler so some couldn't be used as they were too advanced but most fitted the toddler curriculum as well such as this mushroom hunting activity. Of course, we only did the hunt, and did not complete the math portion (each of the mushroom has dots from 0 tot 10) but she still loved looking for the mushrooms in the yard with her little basket. It was great for visual skills improvement considering the quantity of leaves we had in the backyard and it was also awesome to be outside with something new to do! :) For more info on how I made these little polka dot mushrooms, refer to last year's post.

Brown Stairs
Sensorial : Brown Stairs
During our first week of school, the Pink Tower was presented so we moved on to the Brown Stairs now. I figured it fitted nicely into our fall colored themed week. The cat on top was actually Zahavah's "tester"/control of error helper. To make sure her stairs were in the right order and not gapping, cat would crawl down... :) (It was sometimes a bumpy ride...)

Fall Sorting Tray
Math: Sorting fall items
Sorting items is a great way to prepare for math. I combined pinecones, acorns, glittery foam fall leaves and mini styrofoam apples together in a small basket and then put one of each in a plate. Zavaha then had to sort the remainder of the basket. She loved that I used the acorns and pinecones she picked herself. :)

Fall Thumbprint Tree
Art: Thumbprint Fall Tree
Could not resist making this one again. Well, not that "I" did it but my child did. Adrian was the artist last year and this year, Zahavah was (not that Adrian didn't show interest in making a new one upon seeing this one!). I simply printed a tree template (forgot I had my nice templates from last year!), provided red washable paint as well as yellow and later, these two were mixed with fingers to make orange. I must say I provided only red at first, then only yellow and finally we combined both. It was our way to keep the colors somewhat clean! :)

Apple Pie Play Dough
Art: Apple Pie Play Dough
Here's another "oldie" from last year. For Zahavah, it was a new activity though and she enjoyed it. She loves play dough and if we add props, it keeps things new and entertaining. We used styrofoam mini apples, a plastic rolling pin, plastic knife, mini foil plate and of course, play dough. Being short on time, I did not make my own dough but an apple pie scented dough would have been such a great sensorial experiment! I had originally seen this idea on Counting Coconuts a few years back.

Fall Leaves Scavenger Hunt
Outdoors - Leaf Scavenger Hunt
A scavenger hunt! Yay! Yet another activity to get the kids outside and moving. My kindergartner was home that day and enjoyed participating as well although he did the same activity last year! :) I prepared a sheet featuring 4 brown leaves, 1 orange, 3 green, 1 red and 2 yellow. Handed a bag to each child and we went leaf picking. It wasn't so easy for Z as she doesn't count yet so I had to help her keep track but she loved her colorful bag of leaves and picking a specific color of leaves. 

Sorting Fall Leaves
Math - Sorting Fall Leaves
Fall is not my favorite season but I think it's only because I do not really have a favorite. :) Each season has its perk and fall's best feature is indeed the change of colors in my opinion. Both Adrian and Zahavah love jumping in the leaves and looking for specific colors. During our leaf scavenger hunt we of course brought back several leaves and we later on sorted them by color. Math is a math readiness skill Zahavah will be working on a lot this year and sorting by color is just one of the possibilities. An older child might want to go beyond and sort by leaf shape or leaf size as well...

Fall Books Toddlers
Language : Reading Fall themed Books

What? Only two lonely books for fall? Well, unfortunately, seasonal books are a tough find around here. I did try to borrow the very few I saw listed at our local library but they were already out so I had to rely on my own supply. I guess it's time to increase the fall library! :) That being said, Zahavah, really liked these two books photographed above! We read them several times and still do almost daily. I like that Ten Red Apples (by Pat Hutchins) brings in numbers. Adrian was quick at picking up math and started counting to 10 when he was a mere 18 months old but Z is more free-spirited and simply enjoys the little pleasures of life. She'll need to be presented numbers and this book is a nice way for her to be acquainted with numerals. It also features farm animals and their noises so the appeal for toddlers is there from the start. Mouse's First Fall (by Lauren Thompson) is a jewel in terms of vocabulary. The length of the book is just right, the illustrations are beautiful and the wording is quite descriptive. It's great to enrich a tot's vocabulary. Also not pictured but well liked was The Busy Little Squirrel (Nancy Tafuri). It also features animals and several noises and a busy squirrel gathering food for the upcoming winter.

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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Falling for Fall for Toddlers - Part 1

Do you happen to live in a part of the world where the trees change color as the fall approaches? We do and always look forward to it. For the last three years, I've timed my "Fall Week" so it would mesh with the peak of foliage as I try to include natural materials on our shelves. See here what Zahavah (turning 3 years old in December) did during our Fall Week...

Fall Sensory Bin
Sensorial - Mini Fall Sensory Bin
Zahavah really liked the first sensory bin I made during Farm week so I went ahead and prepared a fall one for her. I made a much smaller one though and did not put as many sensorial elements either but this activity was well enjoyed and explored everyday nevertheless. As a bin, I used an empty Melissa & Doug wooden crate (small one from a bead lacing toy), filled it with green split peas, added mini red pompoms (apples), tiny acorns Z has been picking up for the last few weeks, a small pinecone she also picked on one of our walks, a small rake (Montessori Services), a small foam tree (Target dollar section, a few years ago), and a wood box (Montessori Services) for the pleasures of filling and dumping. A small red measuring spoon was added on Day 2 to make things more interesting and finally, on Day 3, Zahavah brought in her small Safari Ltd. cat "to play in the yard"...By the way, Adrian got the "full version" of this bin last year (a bigger bin). Both of these were inspired by Pink and Green Mama's.

Fall Leaves Garland
Practical Life - Leaf Garland
This is an activity Adrian did last year and the year before (before Sorting Sprinkles was even online). I kept it and got it out for Zahavah. It's basically just silk leaves and a ribbon. I cut a hole in each leaf so they could all be threaded on the ribbon. I made sure the ribbon was thickly knotted at one end to prevent the leaves from falling off once they had be put on. Overall, Zahavah loved the challenge. Holding the ribbon and a leaf plus the threading action was a lot at first but she learned quickly. I originally grabbed this idea from the now defunct My Montessori Journey blog.

Squirrel Grid Game Acorns
Math - Squirrel Grid Game (1:1 Correspondence)
These little games are great for teaching 1:1 correspondence. I printed this one with only 10 squirrels because the last times we've done this, Zahavah had a grid with 20 and it seemed liked it was too much for her. Then again, maybe she just doesn't care for the paper concept of the 1 to 1 math readiness! :) 

Green Puzzle
Math - Fall colored puzzle: smallest to largest/darkest to lightest
Kid-O makes very nice wooden materials. I've acquired two of their puzzles and felt quite happy with the concepts they teach. I took this one out this week because it's green and I felt it fitted nicely into our fall colored theme. :) This one is great for color awareness (going from darkest to lightest), and for spatial awareness (smallest to largest).

Apple Play Dough
Art & Fine Motor: Play Dough Apples
Another "recycled" idea you might have seen on my blog last year. Adrian had this activity on his shelf last year and liked it so I prepared it for Zahavah. Z loves play dough lately. She took this off the shelf pretty much everyday. The sticks are from a freshly trimmed bush we have outside (kept a stick and broke it into several pieces), and the leaves are from a small aquarium plant I cut up. Last year, I couldn't find them so we used real leaves from a small shrub and it was nice but they didn't poke the dough as well as these plastic ones...This activity was also sourced from the now offline My Montessori Journey.

Fall Poetry Basket
Fall Poetry Basket
Our poetry basket was once again not a big hit, although it was much more popular than last time I presented a poetry basket but it still was not something that was adored. Maybe she is just getting used to the concept! :) I picked this poem for its concrete fall symbols, found clipart to go with it and four objects to go along. Z's favorite part is to pick the objects out of the basket when she hears me mention them. P.S. I abbreviated Field's poem as I found it a bit too lengthy for my toddler...

Apple Picking
Outdoor & Fine Motor: Felt Apple Picking
Who doesn't like apple picking? When we lived in New York, we went every year and the kids always had a blast. While we still haven't found a place to go here in Germany, that didn't prevent us from picking apples in our own yard...Felt apples that is. I made these felt apples a few years ago and thought Zahavah would have fun picking those from our bushes and small trees. With the winter approaching, I sometimes feel like I have to be creative to get the kids to go outside because it is getting chilly! :) I hung 10 apples with clothespins at Z's height and gave her a basket. "Zahavah is apple picking today", she kept saying...

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