About six months ago, I wrote a series about Raising a Low-Media Toddler.
In one of my posts, I offered ideas for Montessori-inspired toddler activities. My daughter had just turned two, and so I shared what she was doing at that time.
It’s amazing how much she has grown and developed in the six months since then! She can now do a whole range of new, more complex activities. I thought I’d share a few new ideas, then, for a child around thirty months, or two-and-a-half.
Most of these activities, I first introduced to her around her second birthday, but to my disappointment were too advanced for her. I had to put them away for a while. But I re-introduced them only months later, and to my delight, she was now able to enjoy and master them. (So if you try an activity and it doesn’t work out for you, don’t get discouraged. Just put it in the closet for a few months and try again. You might be amazed what happens.)
Note: I got most of these ideas either from Pinterest, or from the book Teach Me to Do It Myself: Montessori Activities for You and Your Child by Maja Pitamic (one of my all-time favourite Montessori books, and one I highly recommend if you’re interested in Montessori-at-home).
And bonus: all of these activities are incredibly low-cost, or even free — they typically use items you already have in your home. I don’t have the money to invest in fancy Montessori materials, so I do my best with what I have.
Here are 14 Montessori-inspired toddler activities we’ve enjoyed:
Developing the Senses
I got this idea here. I cut the circle out of a few sheets of stiff paper glued together (file folders, if you want to know), divided it into 8 wedges, and then painted the wedges and clothespins to match.
Sorting Buttons with Muffin Tins
Sequencing/Matching 2D Shapes (Circles)
I got this activity idea from Teach Me To Do It Myself.
This activity involves a sequence of 8 circles diminishing in size. (I created a PDF of the image, inspired by the worksheet in the back of the book, which you can download here). I printed out the image twice — first onto white paper, then onto red cardstock. I left the white sheet intact, but cut out the red circles.
Then I lay out the red circles in a line, in random order, above the drawn circles, and invited her to match the red circles up with the corresponding drawn circles according to size.
She was able to catch on quite quickly. I tried the same activity with squares and triangles, but for some reason she couldn’t get it at all. I’ll try again in a few months.
Feely Bag Game
You need a basket, an opaque drawstring bag, a collection of familiar household objects, and a small towel. (Here, for the objects, I’ve selected an apple, a plastic flower, a head of garlic, a pair of toddler scissors, a pinecone, Gumby, a sponge, and a spoon).
Show the items in the basket to the child. Then cover the basket with a towel, and tell the child to close her eyes (or blindfold her) while you choose an item from the basket and place it in the bag. Then invite the child to reach into the bag and identify the item only by touch. Do this with each item, one at a time. This was a fun activity!
Clothespins on a Bowl
This idea also came from Teach Me to Do It Myself. It’s a great way to introduce your toddler to clothespins, which are useful for developing the pincer grasp.
Lydia still doesn’t have the strength to open full-sized clothespins, so I used mini ones (found at a craft store like Hobby Lobby). I just gave her a bowl filled with clothespins and showed her how to clip them onto the rim of the bowl. This is great for developing coordination and strength in the hands.
Clothespins on a Clothesline
Once she had mastered clothespins on the bowl, I moved on to a mini-clothesline, which is more complex and requires even greater coordination. It involves first hanging the cloth over the clothesline and then clipping it in place. (I got this idea here.)
For this activity, you need a wooden tray, square scraps of fabric, string, and a bowl of mini-clothespins. I got my tray from Hobby Lobby for $6, and cut up some old t-shirts for the fabric scraps. I placed the cloths in a pile on the tray and set the clothespins beside it, and demonstrated with one piece before inviting her to try.
She loved this a lot more than I expected, and after the first time I often found her taking this tray off her shelf and doing this activity all by herself.
Stringing Pony Beads onto Pipe Cleaners
Pipe cleaners are great for little hands since they stay stiff and then grip onto the beads to keep them from sliding. (I’ve already sung their praises here).
Tip: for this activity, thread one bead onto the end of the pipe cleaner and twist it on, to keep beads from falling off the end.
Stringing Wooden Beads onto Embroidery Thread
Since thread is much trickier for threading than pipe cleaners, you’ll need plastic embroidery needles for this activity (I got mine from Hobby Lobby; you can also get them here). Again, tie a bead onto the other end to keep the beads from falling off.
Transferring with a Baster
Note the sponge, so she can clean up spills as she makes them.
Transferring with a Dropper
Got this idea here.
Lydia had to use the skills she learned with the baster (above) to master this activity.
This one is part fine-motor exercise, part science experiment: I coloured some vinegar, and had her transfer it to a plate of baking soda to watch it sizzle and foam. Fun!
This idea comes from Happy Hooligans, and you can get the details on how to make it there. A great way to practice buttoning!
Cutting with Scissors
Yes, real scissors. No, she has not lost any fingers. (I bought her a pair of these Fiskars spring-action preschool scissors because I thought they would be easier to use, but she actually prefers the regular kind.)
I realize she’s not using the right technique here, but the concentration and the sense of accomplishment she gets out of it are worth it.
Sewing on an Embroidery Hoop
First, I put some shelf-liner (bought cheap at the dollar store) in an embroidery hoop. Then I threaded a plastic needle with embroidery thread and tied a pony bead to the end. I demonstrated how you push the needle up from the bottom, pull it through, and then push it down from the top.
A great activity for introducing kids to how sewing and weaving work.
Number rods are a great, easy-to-make tool for introducing your toddler to numerals and quantity. I go into more detail about number rods in this post.
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