Raising a Low-Media Toddler: Ideas for Toddler Montessori Activities

montessori-inspired activities for a toddler

Note: This is the final (for now) post in my Raising a Low-Media Toddler Series. It started here, where I explained why we strive to be low-media.

In my quest to find meaningful activities for my daughter, in lieu of entertainment media, I’ve drawn a lot of inspiration from Maria Montessori and her education methods. I’m not even close to an expert — I’ve just read a couple of books and blogs, and have tried imitating a few things in my own home. But I continue to be inspired by the overall philosophy and by many of the most common practices. I thought I’d share some of the things I’ve tried.

But first, a little background:

Among other things, the Montessori method emphasizes practical life skills for young children. By fostering the skills children need to care for themselves and their environment, we help to cultivate independence and self-esteem. Consequently, in most Montessori-at-home books, you’ll see activities that help children learn how to dress themselves, feed themselves, and help out around the house.

In my last post, I discussed some of the ways I try to get my two-year-old daughter involved in everyday tasks, which is a huge part of learning practical life skills.

However, Montessori educators also commonly use a number of special activities that break down the different parts of frequently-used, everyday life activities, to help develop these skills. For example, to help children learn to serve and eat food, they’ll practice transferring items with a spoon or pouring liquids from a pitcher into a cup. To help children learn to dress themselves, they’ll practice doing up buttons on a dressing frame. Things like that.

I really enjoy practicing some of these activities with my daughter. I’m amazed how much she seems to enjoy them, too, repeating the same simple steps over and over again, just for fun.

A really important value in Montessori education is the child’s concentration. It’s a foundational element in the child’s future academic and creative work.

A child who can concentrate is capable of completing a task, from beginning to end — enabling a sense of accomplishment. A toddler who can concentrate on cutting up a banana or matching cards has begun to master a fundamental skill needed to someday read an entire novel by herself or learn to play the violin.

It’s a beautiful thing to see a 20-month-old absorbed in the task of pouring herself a glass of water or stringing beads onto a pipe cleaner.

A child who is absorbed in a task just for the joy and satisfaction of doing it is too busy to whine for a DVD. She is too busy building up valuable life skills and filled with pride to throw a tantrum.

That’s one of the many reasons I feel Montessori activities are such a great fit for a low-media lifestyle.

Here are a few activities we’ve enjoyed. Some of them are practical life activities; others are meant to develop the senses and a sense of order (sorting). All of them give my child a chance to practice concentration.

*Important Disclaimer:*

You are about to see a collection of photos of my child working in silent concentration. Don’t let these photos fool you into thinking she spends the majority of her time like this, productive and quietly serene. Please don’t let them fool you into thinking I’ve got it all together or even feel like I’ve got it all together.

In fact, a goodly amount of our days involve her clinging to my leg, wailing while I drag her around, huffing impatiently, trying to get things done around the house and periodically exclaiming, “I just can’t do this anymore!

And in spite of the confident tone in which I discuss my ideas, I spend a goodly amount of my time wondering how in the world other moms get anything done, EVER, and feeling like I’m failing at life in general.

Got that?

Okay. On to the activities.

Practical Life

Pouring water (and cleaning up spills)

pouring water - montessori practical-life activities for a toddler*keep a sponge handy so she can wipe up any spills

Transferring water with a sponge:

transferring water with a sponge - montessori activites for a toddler

Transferring rice with a spoon:

transferring rice - montessori activites for a toddler(I find it’s easiest to start with a measuring spoon)


3D animal models with corresponding photos:

matching animals - montessori activites for a toddler(I describe how I put this together in more detail here)

Coloured buttons with corresponding plates:

Montessori activities for toddlers: matching colours (plates/buttons)(She’s using the buttons I mention in this post)

Further Reading About Montessori:

Just as with my last post on getting your child involved in everyday life, I’m still learning how to implement these kinds of activities. I’m still quite new to the Montessori method, and have never had a chance to see anyone else put it into practice.

I draw a lot of inspiration from the blog How We Montessori. Beautiful pictures, simple ideas.

One of my favourite books on the subject is Maja Pitamic’s Teach Me to Do It Myself: Montessori Activities for You and Your Child. Lots of easy activities that don’t require expensive, specialty materials.

And I have gotten lots of ideas here: 50 Montessori Activities for 2 Year Olds from the blog There Are Only Two Ways to Live Your Life.

Related Posts:

Raising a Low-Media Toddler: Why Bother?

Raising a Low-Media Toddler: Preparing the Environment

7 Simple Sensory Table Ideas

7 Cheap and Awesome Items to Add to Your Toddler’s Toy Shelf

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  1. About what age did Lydia start being interested in some of these activities (the ones from your last few posts as well as here)? T-Rex crawls and carries things around now, and plays fetch with himself, which is pretty amusing, but he doesn’t really DO anything yet. He’s ten months old, so I’m probably just impatient, but when did you start notice Lydia being interested in specific activities rather than just crawling around and banging things on the table and putting them in his mouth?

    And/or, do you know of any resources that talk about Montessori-type ideas for infants as opposed to just toddlers? I’ll peruse the links you listed, but wondered if you had encountered anything specifically targeted toward the crawling set in your own research. :-)

    • Hi, Katie! I was very much like you — impatient to start doing “activities” with Lydia already at around 10 months or so. That’s when I started looking into Montessori. To my great frustration, I found I wasn’t able to do many of the activities until she was quite a bit older — closer to 18 months. Maybe others would have more luck, but I couldn’t pull it off.

      I still found it worthwhile to start getting familiar with the philosophy behind it, though. Two books you might find helpful include Montessori from the Start: The Child at Home, from Birth to Age Three and The Joyful Child: Montessori, Global Wisdom for Birth to Three. I read the first one when Lydia was about T-Rex’s age, and though it wasn’t my favourite book (I found it kind of “legalistic,” for lack of a better word, and some things grated against my attachment parenting heart), but it was a great introduction. I just started The Joyful Child, which I’m finding a lot more practical and possibly less terrifying.

      • I’m glad I’m not the only one! I think it’s because at this age, they’re finally moving around and interacting with the world around them, so you want to direct that interaction, but they’re not ready to have their focus narrowed. And they’re not quuuuiiite as capable as we want them to be,yet, but they’re so much closer than before they were mobile that it’s hard to be patient!

        Thank you for the book suggestions, and the warning about the one being perhaps too legalistic. I’ll see if the library has them. The Internet knows everything, but it’s nice to read an actual book, you know?

        • Hi I’ve worked in a montessori nursery for over 5 years in all age groups
          I found at this age and stage for t rex you will find heuristic play and treasure baskets of great help for building his interest and concentration .hope this helps x

      • I forgot to mention that I’ve really been enjoying this series! It’s very helpful to have real-life examples of how being media-light plays out in your home. You make it seem much more doable, and have given me lots to think about as I contemplate what this may look like in my own home. :-)

  2. I don’t have any kids yet, but I’ve really enjoyed this series. Lots of great ideas and links in keeping with my ideas of how I’d like to parent one day. Thanks for sharing!
    Carolyn recently posted..Spells & Sparkles – July SpoilerMy Profile

  3. Thanks for sharing practical examples of activities! I don’t think my daughter would be too interested in them yet though. At 19 months she still prefers to dump everything on the floor and make a big mess.
    Michele recently posted..Motherhood with a Toddler – Diapering/Elimination Communication Part 2My Profile

  4. What a great post! I will have to go back through and read the other posts. Glad to have found a fellow Montessori mama blogger :)
    Rachel | Racheous recently posted..Beach Play TrayMy Profile

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