Classroom Tours, Montessori Materials

MONTESSORI IKEA HACKS – part 2

Montessori woodworking materials

Montessori Ikea Hacks – part 1 is by far the most popular post on this blog. Since 2019 both our Montessori classroom and my IKEA hacking skills have come a long way, so I am sharing some before and after photos from those original areas posted AND 4 more corners of our school which were made from IKEA furniture. I really love IKEA, can you tell? 🙂

Toddler Woodworking Station

The woodworking station is a special place of pride for our students. Humans have the natural tendency to use tools to do their work. Because of this, the presentations for these materials are very short because children as young as 12 months can use them intuitively. Older children use this area to make their own, small constructions. 🙂

HOW TO USE:

  • Each tool has its own pre-prepared block which fits into the table insert. This keeps the block stable, isolates the difficulty of the tool, and supports the sensitive period for order.
  • The tools are arranged from least to most difficult, bottom to top, right to left. This is useful for a mixed age classroom, or for different-aged siblings using the work station at home.
  • The presentations are hammering nails, wearing goggles, unscrewing screws, cutting soft balsa wood strips with a saw, sanding, and drilling holes. There is a small broom and dustpan available for sweeping up sawdust.
  • Older students usually prefer to work here while sitting in the chair, while babies prefer to sit on the floor or work while standing.
  • We teach safety and respect for the tools by setting limits on how and where they may be used. Safety goggles are available and the tools may be used with or without them. We don’t use gloves in this area because they get in the way of the child’s precision.

HOW TO MAKE (photos linked)

Work blocks, table insert, and balsa-wood sawing dowels are homemade by Chad, woodworker. and Montessori guide. Custom orders can be made to montessorimothermatierlas@gmail.com


Toddler Library

Montessori toddler library with reading bench and bookshelves

This library is a simple, cozy place, bright with natural light, where children can easily choose their books and read them. They love to sit on the reading bench. The little table and chair is also available because it’s more comfortable to read large books there.

TIPS: 

  • Avoid layering the books so they don’t fall down when the child chooses them. 
  • Limit the number of books on the shelves, keeping the rest on your adult bookshelf or put away. 
  • Rotation: keep the child’s favourite books on the shelf. Switch out books which are not often read or damaged books. 
  • Hang the shelves at the child’s level, very low to the ground, so that they can reach even the top shelf. 
  • If you have vintage books or treasured books that the child can only read together with you, keep these on a higher shelf within the child’s view so they can let you know whenever they want to read it.
  • Model respect for books by handling them very carefully and not setting them on the floor.
  • Try to read only one book at a time, putting them back on the shelf after looking at them. This helps to support concentration.

HOW TO MAKE (photos linked)


Plant Care Areas

Having living plants at home teaches children how to care for living things which are smaller than them. They learn about the different needs of plants and the benefits and consequences of how their needs are met. If the plant is watered well and kept in the light, it will flourish. If it is watered too much or too little, it will die. 

A plant and watering can is a great gift for a child. They can even pick out their own special plant at the store or grow it up themselves from a seed. The plant table is a special place where the plant lives and where you keep the watering can and towel. 

HOW TO USE:

  • Fill the watering can yourself and invite the child to watch you water the plant. 
  • Slowly pour half the water into the soil, using two hands. 
  • Set the watering can down on the table and invite the child to try. The child will then water the plant or possibly spill on the floor or try to drink the water. This is okay because they are learning! 
  • Use the sponge or towel to wipe up the spill. 
  • Invite the child to re-fill the pitcher of water by themselves. If the child is still not walking yet, fill the pitcher again for them with a very small amount of water from another pitcher which is kept at your height.

HOW TO MAKE (photos linked)


Parent & Child Dressing Area

A child-sized dressing area helps children to be responsible for their personal items and practice self-dressing. This area includes a child shelf, an adult shelf, adult changing chairs, a child changing bench, and both low and high coat hooks.

HOW TO MAKE (photos linked)


UPGRADES IN OUR CLASSROOM

1. Art Area

BEFORE

AFTER

Montessori toddler art corner with easel, table and chair, wall art, and hand-washing station

changes:

  • This easel and clip set up is still the one we use today! The new easel model from IKEA is great in that the height does not need to be modified and the paper roll is easier to use (we have this model at home for our toddler). However, it does not have a tray to hold paint cups. For this reason our trusty IKEA hacked easel is still going strong in our environment and is nearly constantly in use.
  • We have added another chair and table set to this area.
  • The chest of drawers is near the shelf and in its place is a Montessori hand washing station, strategically placed for washing painty hands. 🙂
  • This lamp was replaced for the lovely IKEA FUBBLA lamp. The only drawback with this one is that the button for turning it on and off is very tough and only our 2+ year olds can manage to push it completely.
  • We added a hook to the wall for the apron, so it would not be in the way if a child chooses not to use it.
  • Hidden behind the easel we have a small Tesla tape dispenser to easily hang up wet paintings and tape paper sheets to the easel at the bottom.
  • We have 3 washable Stabilo crayons in a grooved base available now on the tray.
  • In Montessori  also offer 3 colours of paint at a time now, rather than just two. In Montessori Baby Classes we either offer 1 cup of paint or only the crayons.
  • We now use a paper roll which is 60cm wide which covers the entire easel surface, giving the children a larger and more obvious surface to paint on.
  • We changed the old unfinished wooden frames for the plastic FiSKBO frames which are easier to keep clean.

2. Toddler Work Area

BEFORE

AFTER

Montessori toddler work station with low shelf, table and chair, and music corner

changes:

  • These tables had to be replaced after much use and love. We now use the KRITTER tables from IKEA, which have also been shortened to stand at 38cm tall. 
  • The chairs are still the same as we have had since 2018! We have only broken 1 chair out of 15 in all this time!
  • Our wall art is now displayed in the plastic HOSTVA IKEA window frames. They are a little crooked, because we have to drill new holes after them being pulled down so many times. 🙂
  • We have a new music shelf, custom built and painted by Chad (montessorimothermaterials@gmail.com)
  • The table and chair set in this area now lives in the middle of the space, with the shelves against the wall. I find this to be more inviting for the children to sit down and work.

3. Self Care Area

BEFORE

AFTER

Montessori self care area for toddlers

changes:

  • We have a different tray which allows me to separate the different materials: trying on sunglasses, wiping nose, and brushing hair. 
  • I have added a sign to the waste basket that reads “dirty tissues”
  • I have added a backpack, a straw hat, and a helmet to the wall hooks to offer more try-on possibilities.
  • I have a larger lotion jar now and a this little round tray to hold its place.

4. Quiet Corner

BEFORE

AFTER

Montessori quiet corner with toddler library and aquarium

changes:

  • In front of the shelf I have added a faux wool carpet, TOFTLUND from IKEA, to make the area cosier.
  • The bead tracker is in a different part of the Montessori Baby Class environment. Now we have here a large ficus plant for the students to water.
  • We have a different armchair from Verbaudet. I sewed the cushion cover from the same animal print textile because I loved it so much. 
  • We have a different ball tracker from Nienhuis now in a different place in the classroom. It its place is the scale and weights from Educo with a mystery box base, custom-made for it by Chad.
  • The books are rotated every term. Now we keep 6 small books in this area, instead of 4. We didn’t have as many books back then. 🙂
  • Under the aquarium we rotate the materials in each class depending on the age group. During Montessori Toddler Classes we keep two 3D puzzles.
  • The art is a print by Monet, available on Wikipedia Commons for free. It is hung in a plastic frame, the RIBBA from IKEA.

5. Newborn Movement Area

BEFORE

AFTER

Montessori Newborn Movement Area with free movement mat

changes:

  • The walker wagon has 4 rice bags which are used to weigh it down so it rolls more slowly. I sewed handles on the bags so that toddlers can practice loading and unloading the wagon when they are in the Maximum Effort stage of development. 
  • We have a new pillow in this area, LEN from IKEA. And I sewed a fuzzy pillowcase for it. This is used in Montessori Toddler Class when children pretend that they are sleeping or decide to lay down for a rest. In the Montessori Newborn Class I remove this pillow for freedom of movement.
  • The visual mobile and materials on the newborn shelf are rotated every term. Currently on the shelf we have basket of balls, basket of brushes, sensory wheel, simple threading work – (bottom), posting sticks, outlet puzzle, transparent lock and key, and wooden blocks – (top).
  • I have added a cloud carpet to the other side of the shelf for babies to work on.
  • A small, plastic FiSKBO frame is hung on the wall with Tesa tape. The art is “Girl with a Watering Can” by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, available for free on Wikipedia Commons.

In my blogpost Changes at Home When Your Baby Becomes a Toddler I have shared 3 areas of my daughter’s Montessori home environment, which features the classic functional toddler kitchen IKEA hack.


Thank you for reading!

– Katelynn

Classroom Tours, Montessori Materials

Introducing Montessori Preschool Class!

Example Preschool Environment: Guidepost Montessori

Montessori Preschool Class is a 2 hour weekly class for children 3-6 years old to attend with one parent or caregiver allowing you and your child to learn together and bring the Montessori approach home with you!

The class is based on Dr. Montessori’s Casa Dei Bambini, a primary school which allows young children to fulfil their whole learning potential at this critical age through child-led exploration and a prepared environment.

Our materials allow children to learn writing, reading, math, geography, practical life skills like sewing, cooking, woodworking, and so much more! In every class the children will amaze you at what they are capable of when every opportunity is provided for them. To get a picture of our materials and how the children learn through hands-on experience, see the individual areas of our expanding classroom below!

Our current collection of materials represents an introductory class environment for children 3-4 year old. As these children grow, along with our school, we are increasing our collection. We intend to open the doors to our complete 3-6 classroom in March 2023!

Our teachers are AMI-certified Montessori guides with years of experience and a profound love for each and every student. You can meet our team here

Currently we offer classes ever Monday from 15:00-17:00 and from March 2023 we plan to offer these classes every day! You can join the waiting list and receive updates by filling out this application form!

To learn more about the Montessori Mother Preschool Expansion and get involved you can find full expansion plan HERE!

Sensorial Materials

The Montessori Sensorial materials have been time-tested for over 100 years! They are one of the pillars of the Montessori approach, enabling children to refine all 10 of their senses. 

Example: 

While the child stacks the 10 blocks to build the timeless Pink Tower, he trains his motor control, his visual precision, and is introduced to the metric rule of 10. The blocks are then used as measuring tools and visual aids for the proceeding materials.


Here is one of our lovely shelves dedicated to sensorial materials.

Writing and Reading

Although in traditional schools children learn to read and write from 6 or 7, we find that the best time for children to teach themselves how to first, write and then, to read, is closer to 3 and 4 years old! From the first sandpaper letters to the grammar analysis materials our students are reading books by 6 years old and they LOVE it. 

Example: 

A 3.5 year old child starts with a puzzle then uses our wooden letters to match the starting sounds of the words to their letter Peach, Cherry, Watermelon…. Then crafts those letters out of clay or writes them with a water paintbrush onto a chalkboard. A passion for calligraphy and the intrigue of sounds and their symbols continues and grows until the child can write their own name cards to match to their pictures.

Here is one of our shelves dedicated to writing materials where you can see our tracing letters, wooden moveable alphabet (on top) and all of our writing materials. The bottom shelf holds more sensorial materials for refining the tactile and visual senses.

Math

There are SIX groups of math materials in the 3-6 classroom: numbers 1-10, decimals, counting, abstraction, memorisation, and fractions. Starting with understanding quantity and the number symbols, by the end of their time in the Montessori Preschool Classroom, children have learned to divide numbers by the thousands! 

Photo: our shelf dedicated to the introduction to numbers 1-10. As you can see this is just the start of our mathematics area because it is one of the largest and most expensive parts of the primary classroom. Our focus currently is teaching all the students to recognise the numbers and have a strong understanding in concepts of quantity, adding, and subtracting numbers from 0-10. 

Geography and Biology

This is one of my favourite areas of the preschool classroom as our international community includes families from every continent. Children not only learn the countries, continents, landforms, and bodies of water, they learn about the cultures, animals, plants, foods, et cetera which come from each place. 

Example: A three year old child chooses a country from map puzzle and finds it on the globe. Then they find the flag of that country, the corresponding animal replica, name card, landmark replica, and photo of a view of that country. Although they might not have been there, they build a knowledge of that place and a respect for its culture, widening their world view with every minute spend working in this area of their classroom.

We currently have the first globes, maps, and early puzzles in rotation on our shelf, but this is an area I plan to expand on significantly in our classroom and include a geometry cabinet of all kinds of objects and photo cards to be sorted and grouped with the continents, countries, and ocean puzzles.

Practical Life Skills

Practical life is the link to the classroom for toddlers entering the preschool environment. At three years old the children are already familiar with cleaning, cooking, and self care, and this area includes all their favorite materials with an elevated level of challenge. New materials include ironing, polishing silver, sewing, woodworking, tending the garden, grinding spices and making tea, and so many other beautiful activities which allow the child to learn lifelong skills. 

For example: The child knows how to thread beads using a needle – now those skills are elevated to embroidery and perhaps the child will use them to sew a purse or pillow or weave a cloth on the loom. 

The practical life area in our classroom extends throughout our entire school as the children have their own complete kitchen, washroom, woodworking bench, herb garden, cleaning area, self care area, various washing stations, and of course, this shelf of lovely materials. Children can use their materials to polish, sew, wash, grind, grate, braid, screw, spray, and explore their curiosity whenever they want. That’s why this shelf is found right in the middle of the room. 

Art and Music

Our art shelf continues to offer interesting opportunities for children to develop their creativity. We also have a music shelf complete with various instruments. In the future we plan a large expansion of our music area to include materials for learning notation (how to read music) and discern the notes on the scale using their auditory sense.

Food Preparation

Every class children enjoy a meal which they help prepare together. Children can also prepare a snack for themselves or use materials to make clay or pasta. The table is beautifully set by the children with flowers they arrange themselves and the napkins they have ironed and folded. This is perhaps the greatest visual of their great capacity for independence and mutual consideration. 

Our classes are fully equipped in this area already and in the future we plan to set up a full child-sized kitchen complete with countertops, a mini stove and refrigerator. 🙂

Grace and Courtesy

Grace and courtesy is a fundamental concept of Montessori, which is an education for world peace. The activities promote self awareness and social awareness through control of movements and exercises of sound and silence. The two most well known are the ceremony of passing the bell (without making it ring) and walking the line (without faltering). 

Here is the line we’ve set up on our carpet which is home to all of our hellos, goodbyes, and exercises of grace and courtesy. 

& more! 

In addition to all the wonderful areas of our classroom above, we also plan to have the following in our new expanding Montessori environment: 

  • outdoor garden to teach horticulture and give a farm-to-table experience
  • climbing wall for gross motor coordination and spacial awareness
  • water lab for fun and experimentation with volume, pumps, and gravity

The Montessori Movie

Would you like to see a Montessori Preschool in action? This documentary follows a Montessori 3-6 classroom in France for one year and it is truly moving to see what children achieve after just a short time in this beautiful school.

Stream HERE: https://www.montessorimovie.com/


Thank you for reading! 

– Katelynn


Sources

The photos of our environment are property of Katelynn Johnson. 

Other photo inspiration is property of Guidepost Montessori and Let the Child Be the Guide

Classroom Tours, Montessori at Home, Montessori Materials

Montessori Materials for Snack Preparation

Our snack preparation area is one of the children’s favorites in our Montessori Toddler and Montessori Baby classes! These materials can be used as early as 14 months up to 3 years old! Find 12 Montessori snack materials for toddlers below, including their presentation descriptions and links where to find all the tools!

Montessori Kitchen Setup

To encourage independence and responsibility, set your little one up for success by preparing a couple of these snack materials every day so your little one can make themselves a snack whenever they feel hungry. Your child can also prepare extras to share with you or a sibling. We also always have our little water dispenser available so the little ones can take a cup of water whenever they feel thirsty. There is just a little bit of water inside. In case it spills everywhere,

only offer as much water as you are willing to clean up afterwards.

Toddler Snack Table

A little snack table is a wonderful addition to the eating area, as little ones can take their work to the table, sit down and prepare their snack, and enjoy it in peace. Of course, when having family meals the child still joins the family table, but this space is for all the times they eat snacks alone. We love our adjustable table and chair set, handmade from beechwood.

Washing Dishes

Of course after enjoying their snack, your little one can help to clean up by putting their trash in the bin and placing their dirty dishes in a box to be cleaned. If you have a learning tower up to your sink, or a little wash station like this one, they can wash up their dishes themselves!

In our classroom the toddlers get water using this pitcher from the sink, fill the basins, wash and dry their dishes, and empty the dirty water into this bucket. They can then carry the bucket to the sink and empty it out again. It seems like a lot of steps, but the toddlers LOVE all this purposeful water work and they also enjoy seeing the result of a dirty to clean dish. This activity builds so much self esteem and is about much more than just washing up their dishes. 🙂 This is a custom wash station built with love by my husband, Chad at Montessori Mother Materials. 🙂

Montessori Snack Materials 1-6

Find the corresponding material presentation descriptions and links below! I tried to find the exact links I used wherever possible, but some materials I purchased a long time ago so I have listed the closet alternative I could find.

FoodDescriptionSetup
EggCrack egg on both sides with pestle, peel, add the bits of shell to mortar, slice egg in egg slicer, spoon onto plate, crush eggshells with pestle, enjoy!Tray
Anti-slip cover
Mini mortar and pestle
Egg slicer
Mini plate 
Mini spoon
Hard-boiled egg
Crackers and Cream CheeseSpread cream cheese onto rice crackers with tiny knife, enjoy!Tray
Blue cutting board
Small glass bowl – filled with 1 cream cheese box
Mini plate 
Spreading knife
2 unflavored rice crackers
Orange JuiceSqueeze halves of mandarins or clementines, pour into fancy cup, enjoyTray
Anti-slip cover
Yellow plastic goblet
Small bowl
1 mandarine (cut in half)
Mini juicer
Mini sponge (moistened)
StrawberriesPluck off leaves, slice in strawberry slicer, spoon into bowl, enjoy!Tray
Red cutting board
Trash cup
Small bowl
Strawberry slicer
Mini spoon
2 strawberries with the leaves on
PeanutsCrack with nutcracker, separate from peels, enjoy!Tray 
Blue cutting board
Small bowl
Trash cup
Wooden nut cracker
A few peanuts in the shell
BlueberriesEnjoy eating blueberries with chopsticksTray
Blue cutting board
Small bowl
Children’s chopsticks
Toddler-sized handful of blueberries

Montessori Snack Materials 7-12

FoodDescriptionSetup
BananaPeel banana, place peels in the trash cup, cut with knife, add to bowl, enjoy with fork, enjoy!Tray
Green cutting board
Green toddler knife
Small bowl
Trash cup
Half banana, cut 3 peel-deep lines along side
Mandarins/ClementinesPeel clementine, place bits of peel in the trash cup, divide into slices, enjoy with a fork!Tray
Anti-slip cover
Small bowl
Trash cup
1 mandarin (with corner pre-cut out)
CucumberPeel cucumber, place peels in the trash bucket, Cut into slices with toddler knife, transfer to bowl, enjoy!Tray
Mini cutting board
Toddler knife
Mini plate 
Trash bucket
Mini peeler
Snack cucumber
CarrotPeel carrot, transfer peels to trash bucket, enjoyTray
Red cutting board
Mini plate 
Red trash bucket
Mini peeler
1 sweet carrot
Tea BrewingCut mint and/or lavender from the gardenWash in the sinkPluck or cut leaves and place into flowered teapotAdd warm waterCount to 10 or 20 with the child to let the tea brewPour into glasses Invite friends to teaTray
Anti-slip cover
Pitcher for tea
Saucer
3 glasses
small scissors
Tall pitcher of warm water (1/2 hot, 1/2 cold)
Mini sponge
WaterChoose a cup, pour water into small pitcher from dispenser, transfer water into cup, enjoyWater dispenser
Mini pitcher
Mini sponge
Washrag on hook
Mini cups on shelf

Thank you for reading! I hope you found this post interesting and helpful.
Happy snacking!

-Katelynn

Classroom Tours, Montessori Materials, The Montessori Method

Practical life in the Montessori Toddler Community

montessori toddler classroom, wooden staircase, art area, montessori table and chairs, toddler environment, infant community, shelfie, berlin montessori school
photo by Natalia Smirnova

WHAT IS PRACTICAL LIFE?

Practical life work is the cornerstone of Montessori from 0 to 3. Caring for the environment and self-care is the greatest goal of the walking toddler. Now that they can carry themselves upright like adults, they want to achieve total functional independence. Their school can offer rich opportunities to reach functional independence because the entire classroom should be prepared to suit their needs. At school the teacher is observing them constantly and can change the environment for them. This means offering concrete practical experiences by which children can do purposeful work and have success in doing so. This is the work which will open the door to responsibility and self-awareness, and link the child to the world.

The activities are called ‘Exercises in Practical life’ because real everyday life is carried on in which all housework is entrusted to the little ones who execute, with devotion and accuracy, their domestic duties becoming singularly calm and dignified.”

— Dr. Maria Montessori. The Discovery of the Child. Ch. 3.

Das Kind Magazine

For the full version of this article (translated in German!) and other Montessori inspiration by the Deutsche Montessori Gesellschaft, you can sign up for biannual issues of “Das Kind” magazine for €20 a year.

PRACTICAL LIFE FOR NORMALISATION

In Montessori we refer to “normalisation” as the integration of intellect and movement. Especially for children who struggle to find peace and balance, through practical life they find opportunities to create order, repeat movements, explore the senses through manipulation, move freely, and imitate adults.

Movement is the secret for holding the attention of the child.”

— Dr. Maria Montessori, Creative Development in the Child I

Activities in practical life have a cycle of preparing the work, concentrating on the process, and satisfied rest once the work is complete.

GUIDELINES FOR PRACTICAL LIFE

  • Organise activities in the appropriate areas.
    Water materials should be near the water source; tooth brushing should be in the bathroom; and so on…
  • Each activity has its own place in the environment.
  • Every activity is complete.
    The presentation of the material should be logical so that the child can follow the use of the material easily. Have extra materials available in case something needs to be replaced.
  • The characteristics of the materials should be appropriate for the child.
    Weight, size, fragility, and other factors must be considered.
  • Make the materials beautiful.
  • Colour code the materials.
    Most of the materials should be matching. This is for the sake of beautiful presentation and to remind the child which materials go together. If an activity is not colour coded it does not need to be excluded from the environment.
  • Use points of interest.
  • Points of interest encourage the use and repetition of materials. This may include sensorial experiences such as making bubbles, fogging a mirror, or anything that is exciting and interesting for the child.
  • Only keep a limited number of materials.
    There are few materials of which we have many. For example, you may have several cutting knives so multiple children can cut together in the kitchen area. However, in principle there should be only one of each exercise. This teaches the child to wait for his turn and respect the work of others.
  • Check the activities often.
    Prepare the environment before the children arrive and constantly over the course of the day. Check every exercise to make sure that everything is clean and ready to use. If you find an abandoned mess, invite a child to help you. If no children clean up with you, clean it yourself with precision, in case a child might be observing you. If you don’t have time to clean at that moment, take the material out of the environment and finish cleaning it later.
  • Practice your presentation until it is done normally and beautifully before you present it to the children.
  • Observe the child and make changes you observe help them to have success.

HOW TO PRESENT PRACTICAL LIFE MATERIALS

  1. Invite the child.
    Approach the child and model how to get someone’s attention respectfully. Give an enthusiastic invitation which is not a question, nor a command.
  2. Go together with the child.
    Keep the child’s pace. You may offer your hand to the child and the child may accept it or not.
  3. Involve the child.
    During the first presentation, do only the first half of the work and let the child finish it.
  4. Analysis of movement
    Observe your own movements: how fast they are, how you stand, if you are blocking the child’s vision…
  5. Language
    Give the child the names for things before presenting. This is done by isolating the noun or verb and avoiding moving while speaking. “sponge”
  6. Be aware of your body posture.
    When you bend over, bend the knees and lean forward slightly. Remain standing. Don’t squat or kneel less the child could also squat or kneel.
  7. Wear aprons
    The adult and the child both put on an apron when the activity calls for it.
  8. Let the child take over the work.
    When the child shows they want to take over some work, let them take it over. As soon as a child loses their concentration on a new task, you should be nearby and ready to get involved. Sometimes letting child hold something or fetch something for you is enough to let them feel involved.
  9. Clean up.
    As soon as you see a working child has lost concentration, you should get involved and give the clean-up presentation. Always encourage the child to clean up independently. If need be, you can go back over spills or fix small things in the material later. Children often forget or don’t clean up and need to be reminded to do it. This doesn’t mean that they don’t enjoy cleaning.

a photo tour of the practical life in our classroom

– WELCOME TO MONTESSORI CLASS! –

montessori dressing area, frames, ikea hack, shoe shelf, shoe brushing, spice rack, book display, frame display, toddler shoes, cube chair, selfcare, nienhuis, berlin montessori school
photo by Natalia Smirnova
  • Get ready!
    The first thing toddlers do when they come into class is sit down, take off their shoes, put them in a “special place on the shelf”, hang up their jackets, and put on their indoor slippers. They feel so proud as they put their things away and get to work.
  • Cleaning shoes
    If they are very interested in shoes, there are also two shoe brushes fastened to the side of the shoe shelf where they can clean all their friends’ shoes and even the parents’ if they like.
montessori toddler sink ikea hack, watter source, child sink, montessori bathroom, practical life, hand washing work
photo by Chad Chittenden
  • Washing hands

Having a low source of running water is by far the greatest resource I feel that the environment offers toddlers. As soon as they are standing, they can stand in fascination for minutes letting the tiny stream of water fall over their fingertips and turning the spout on and off. The sink satisfies the sensitive period for water and gives the child access to all the water-based practical life activities. It allows them to explore and “play” with water, while having the responsibility and focus of purposeful work.

montessori potty, toilet awareness, potty awareness, elimination communication, prepared environment, montessori toilet
  • Toilet Awareness

    In the bathroom there is this beautifully and simply prepared area for potty learning where little ones can practically explore their interest in the potty and learn how to use it Montessori-style.

– WORKING IN THE KITCHEN –

orange juice toddler making orange juice montessori practical life, food zone ikea cups, bed bath and beyond mini orange juicer, montessori snack, functional independence, montessori kita school in berlin
toddler cutting a bamama using a joie crinckle cutter toddler knife in the prepared kitchen area of montessori mother learning center in berlin, germany. This encourages funtional independence and the child can prepare food for himself whenever he feels hungry
photos by Kerly Ilves

  • Get a drink

When toddlers feel thirsty, they can go to the kitchen area and take a cup and pour themselves some water from a pitcher which comes out of a dispenser or prepare themselves fresh orange juice made from toddler-sized mandarins.

  • Prepare a snack

When the feel hungry they can go to the kitchen and prepare a snack for themselves. I always put out 2 food preparation activities at the child’s level, one group snack preparation activity (at my level to bring down and do with the children), orange juice squeezing work, and the water dispenser with just a minimal amount of water inside. As my trainer Patricia Wallner would say, “Never put out more water than you are willing to mop up.”  🙂 Food preparation activities include cutting bananas, cucumbers, or strawberries, peeling pears, peeling mandarins or hard-boiled eggs, plucking grapes, cracking peanuts, and spreading cream cheese on crackers.

This dishwashing station is one of the montessori practical life tables which we diy made from an ikea bathroom shelf hack, muender email enamel, and montessori design by nuccia polka dot toddler apron. Toddlers wash their own dishes when they want to in the montessori infant community or playgroup and have fun playing with water in a purposeful work way.
  • Washing the dishes

Sometimes after eating or drinking a toddler may want to wash their dish or those of their classmates. I also put out 2 “dirty” metal plates each class with just a little bit of coffee grounds on top to give the opportunity to make a distinct dirty-then-clean connection.

beautiful montessori dish washing presentation with child-sized materials and muener email white enamel basins a dish brush and mini bottle of soapy water
photo by Karen Ong

PRESENTATION:
The child fills the basins with water, squeezes/shakes in some liquid soap (90% water, 10% baby-safe dish soap). They carefully choose which single dish they would like to wash. Often, they enjoy using it to transfer water between basins – a beautiful discovery. After they have finished washing the dish, they set it to dry on the rack and pour out the basins into the bucket. They bring the bucket to their low sink and dump it out. After replacing the materials, they mop up any spills with a mop for the floor or a towel for anywhere else.


– CARE OF THE ENVIRONMENT –

Taking care of their environment is a toddler’s favourite activity because it is their way of connecting and having an impact on the world around them.

our montessori cleaning area is beautifulluy color coded in blue to support the montessori sensitive period for order in children and toddlers from twelve months to six years. this area includes mopping child mop and adult mop from obi in berlin, a table washing cart handmade by montessorimmaterials in berlin with muender email enamel so toddlers can care of the environment in berlin's first montessori playgroup, sweeping toddler proom and dustpan, and wall photo duster for toddlers and babies to clean all hanging from string loops off wall hooks to support order at the child's level
photo by Chad Chittenden
  •  Washing the table

Presentation: When you or the child notice that a table is dirty, invite them to wash it. The child fills the pitcher of water and pours it into the basin. Replace the pitcher in the basket. Wheel the cart to the table which they would like to wash. Wet the brush and soap and rub the bar of soap into the brush. Show the child how to scrub the table and let them try. After the table is scrubbed replace the brush and take the sponge. Slowly wet the sponge and squeeze it out – invite the child to try. The child wipes the table. Show the child where to put the sponge. Use the mitt to dry the table. Invite the child to clean another table. When they are finished, dump the water from the basin to the bucket. Carry the bucket to dump it out. Replace the bucket. Push the cart back to its place.

*This cart was made by hand with love by Montessori Mother Materials*

  • Mopping
    The toddler’s fascination with mopping is truly beautiful. Once the floor was wet, and now it’s dry! One of the first signs I see when a baby is becoming a toddler, is that they start mopping! In the toddler class, the mop is almost constantly in use because toddlers often spill drops of water when they do practical life and are eager to mop up every drop.  
  • Sweeping

It’s quite difficult for toddlers to sweep something up and dump it into the trash. They love concentrating on this work and doing their best. I also have a small vacuum they can use to clean up messes if they spill sand or soil.

  • Dusting

Recently I added the duster to our cleaning area for dusting the walls and picture frames. Because brooms and mops can only be used on the floors, I found that the toddlers also needed something to clean the walls with and this was important to many of them. As Montessori guides we must observe the child’s needs and adapt the environment to meet them where they are at.

using an aquarium in the toddler classroom or montessori kita toddlers love to feed the fish in this quiet cozy reading zen corner of the environment which is very meditative, small, sunny, and beautiful. It also supports a love and respect for life nature while encouraging gentleness and calm around smaller living things.
photo by Kerly Ilves
  • Feeding the fish
    Feeding the fish teaches respect for other life. It is also so relaxing to watch the fish swim around and can help the toddlers find calm.
Montessori cloth washing station with a polkadot apron by montessori design by nuccia and drying rack red enamel in the prepared montessori toddler community environment
photo by Karen Ong
  • Washing cloths
    Cloth washing is one of the most advanced practical life activities for toddlers who really need to exercise their concentration and do work involving lots of movement and multiple steps of varying difficulty.
montessori toddler sink filling up red polka dot pitcher made from enamel for the practical life cloth washing table station the sink is in the prepared montessori bathroom with mini sink from ikea
  • AGE: from 2 years
    PRESENTATION:
  • Invite the child to put on an apron with you. Ask them to choose which cloth from the bucket they would like to wash. Put the cloth in the left basin. Invite the child to fill the pitcher and carry it to the basin. Fill the first basin and go back for more water to fill the second. After soaking the cloth with water, demonstrate how to lather the cloth with the soap bar and scrub it. Wring out the cloth and hang it on the clothesline. Both of you take a clothespin and secure the cloth. Invite the child to wash another cloth by themselves. When they are finished washing or lose concentration, begin the cleanup process. Put the bucket on the floor. Each of you pour a basin of water into the bucket. Let the child carry the bucket of water to the sink and empty it. Replace the bucket and use the mitt to dry the basins and table. Mop up any spills. Hang up the apron.
montessori window washing small mini spray bottle from nienhuis special toddler sized water work practical life in the montessori parent child community playgroup in berlin germany
photo by Natalia Smirnova
  • Washing windows
    This is material is a very popular material on the shelf. Toddlers love to go all around the school and spray the windows, glass doors, mirrors, and aquarium with this tiny spray bottle and watch the water slowly run down. They use a squeegee and a small towel mitt to wipe up the water. Older toddlers like to bring a step stool so they can clean even higher. It is one of the best materials for very active toddlers because it offers movement, water, and clear before + after results.

– SHARING CULTURE WITH TODDLERS –

The child has the potential to incarnate any human characteristic, language, religious/spiritual connection, and culture. Here are two practical life activities for sharing culture with toddlers.

montessori wooden stair art hanging work choosing the photo art to hang on the wall in the montessori toddler community environment in my montessori parent child playgroup in berlin
photo by Natalia Smirnova
  • Hanging art

This material allows the child to choose which art they would like to hang on the wall. In the basket there are various famous paintings, photographs and drawings by famous artists like Van Gough and Renoir.

culture practical life activity decorating a holiday christmas tree with toddlers
  • Decorating a holiday tree

    Over the holidays the toddlers really enjoyed decorating this real tree with baby-safe ornaments and bead strings.

– CARING FOR PLANTS –

montessori sweeping watering can green garden work on wall hooks prepared in the montessori care of the outdoor environment in nature farm to table little ikea wall shelf
toddler watering the flowers barefoot in child garden in montessori school in berlin germany
  • Working in the garden

In the garden the toddlers really enjoy watering the flowerbeds, planting seeds, sweeping the deck, blowing bubbles, jumping on the trampoline, exploring the sandbox, and collecting the herbs and strawberries they grew.  

plants in the child's room classroom in montessori caring for nature, basket of balls, white monhtessori shelf, cube shelf, plant watering work purple mini ikea watering can, flower arranging, practical life, tulips
  • Flower arranging
    In this sunny corner toddlers can water their plants and arrange fresh flowers into tiny vases. These flower arrangements adorn our table during the group snack time. Usually one toddler arranges all three and carefully places them side by side on the table with lace doilies underneath.
  • Plant watering work for babies
    It’s such a special experience when children are discovering plants, how to care for them, and thus how to respect other living things.

    AGE: standing/12 months
    PRESENTATION:
    The first time I present this to a child I fill the watering can myself and invite them to watch me water the plant. I slowly pour half the water into the soil, using two hands. Then I set it down and invite the child to try. They will water the plant or possibly spill on the floor or try to drink the water. This is okay because they are learning! Use the sponge or towel to wipe up the spill. Invite the child to re-fill the pitcher of water. If the child is still not walking confidently, I fill the pitcher again for them with a very small amount of water from another pitcher which I keep at my level.

– LIFE SKILLS –

  • Self-Care

Toddlers love themselves deeply. In their self-care area children have access to several activities such as brushing + combing hair, wiping their nose with a tissue and tossing it in the waste basket, applying face cream (baby lotion), and trying on hats and sunglasses.

toddler beading sewing activity life skills practical life shelf work, montessori materials, wooden beads, sewing activity
photo by Natalia Smirnova
  • Sewing
    In our classroom an entire shelf is dedicated to threading and sewing activities arranged from the simplest to most challenging. Eventually the toddlers can embroider with a yarn needle – work which they tape off and get to take home with them.
montessori woodworking station by ikea with a light and small todler tools so children can use wood and tools, saw, drill, hammer, nails, screwing, srewdriver, bamboo broom and dustpan, ikea pegboard and stool, made by montessori mother materials, the only montessori playgroup toddler classroom in germany montessori kita school in berlin
montessori woodworking station toddler sawing using a saw with soft balsa wood, cutting wood safely with asaw, montessori moments
photo and materials by
Chad Chittenden
(Montessori Mother Materials)
  • Woodworking station
    Woodworking is a very special area of pride in our school. Humans have the natural tendency to use tools to do their work. Not surprisingly the presentations for these materials are very short, because toddlers as young as 12 months can use them intuitively.

    IN PRACTICE:
    Each tool has its own pre-prepared block which fits into the table insert. This keeps the block stable, isolates the difficulty of the tool, and supports the sensitive period for order. Toddlers love to sit at this station and go through all the tools which are arranged from least to most difficult, bottom to top, right to left. The presentations are hammering nails, wearing goggles, unscrewing screws, cutting soft balsa wood strips with a saw, sanding, and drilling holes. There is a small broom and dustpan available for sweeping up sawdust.

– GROUP WORK –

group practical life, community toddler snack time and washing the table wiping with sponges and small mini toddler-sized water spray bottle
adorable toddler with visor at montessori class in berlin's only montessori playgroup
toddler baking day making banana muffins with ikea aprons working together as a group mini muffin trays and banana mashing
tea brewing work for toddlers garden farm to table mint and lavender tea for toddlers to make for themself and their friends
  • Group snack
    After the toddler work cycle one or two toddlers volunteer to prepare the snack and dishes for everyone. They push the food and plates to in a cart over to the table and sit down together. I invite each child individually to join us at the table where they may serve themselves or each other food and water.
  • Wiping the table
    After snack the toddlers can help clean up by wiping the table with sponges and water, putting their dirty dishes back on the cart and bringing the cart to the kitchen. Usually the interested toddlers do this for the rest of the group.
  • Baking days
    In addition to preparing snack for each other, once per month we have a baking day when we make muffins or cookies and enjoy them together at the end of class.
  • Brewing tea
    AGE: from 2.5 years, or when the child uses scissors
    Brewing tea using the mint and lavender leaves from our garden is the closest experience available in my school to a farm-to-table experience. They carefully brew the tea for their friends and enjoy it together at the table.

– SAY “GOODBYE” –

After a long morning of hard work, we gather together and sing songs. Then we say ‘goodbye’ before toddlers and carers get ready to go home.

montessori dressing area toddler wardrobe montessori practical life shelf, work carpet, montessori mother and parent and child
photo by Natalia Smirnova

Thank you for joining me on this practical life tour through the Montessori Toddler Class! I hope you found it useful and interesting.


You can learn more about our school HERE > About Montessori Mother ELC

You can order Montessori furniture + materials HERE > Montessori Mother Materials

Photographers:
Natalia Smirnova
Kerly Ilves
Chad Chittenden
Karen Ong

Classroom Tours, Montessori Materials

Baking with Toddlers | Lemon Cookies

toddlers baking lemon cookies, montessori-style

For our baking days this month the toddlers will bake lemon thumbprint cookies in pairs. The cookies turned out deliciously – I even baked an extra batch for the parents to enjoy! 🙂 In this blogpost I will walk you through how I prepare this baking workshop and share with you the vegan, gluten-free recipe that I used with my students. Enjoy!

Step 1: Prepare the trays

I had to practice the workshop a few times to make sure that the trays were set up for the toddlers to have maximum success during the workshop! The proportions also had to be perfect. In the end I used the recipe below divided into 5 portions to be baked by 10 toddlers working in pairs. Here’s how >>>

download recipe card:

(for 15 thumbprint cookies)

Step 2: Set out the mixing bowls and first trays

Two toddlers are sharing one mixing bowl and one tray of work. On each tray there are at least two tasks to make sure that every child has something to do during the whole workshop.

The reason I don’t give each toddler their own bowl and tray is because
a – I like for them to work together on group cooking projects like these
b – If one child is not interested and leaves their work, the other can continue
c – Children of different ages can work together on tasks of varying difficulty

THIS TRAY INCLUDES:
(in baking order + left to right)

  • Transferring the dried flowers (rose petals and lavender) using the pincer grasp
  • Transferring the sugar using a spoon
  • Pouring the lemon juice
  • Zesting the lemon using a cheese grater (grater from Joie)
  • Mixing it all together (wooden spoon from Ikea set)
  • Smelling the sweet, citrusy scent*

Step 3: Set out second trays

As the pairs finish mixing – in their own time- you can remove everything except the mixing bowl and wooden spoon. I set them up and bring them the next tray.

THIS TRAY INCLUDES:
(in baking order + left to right)

  • Chopping the margarine using a toddler knife (from Tescoma or Joie)
  • Transferring the flour mixture using a spoon
  • Mashing the margarine (masher from Ikea set)

Step 4: Form cookies and arrange on baking trays

I bought a mini baking tray for each toddler so they could make their own cookie forms. This is done by rolling the dough into a ball, placing it on the baking sheet, and pressing the thumb down. After each child finished arranging their cookies, They placed them on a large tray and started washing up.

TIPS:

  • I pre-cut parchment paper for the mini baking sheets to save myself time with cleaning
  • If the cookies are too large or too thin they won’t all bake properly, so I had to re-shape a few of them before putting them into the oven
  • You MUST pre-heat the oven before putting the cookies in or the will spread
  • The cookies are finished baking when the tops are dry. If they start to brown on the edges they are burned.

Step 5: Cleanup

I prepared 2 basins with a small amount of warm water, 6 half sponges, 4 dry rags, and 2 broom and dustpan sets. The toddlers had just as much fun cleaning up as they did baking, maybe more. 🙂

Step 6: Decorating the cookies (optional)

For the Open Day Baking Workshop we decorated our cookies by spreading lemon frosting and sprinkling dried coconut. This was such a cute touch and the toddlers loved it. However since frosting is so sugary, this step is, of course, optional. The cookies are also delicious without frosting. 🙂 I have included the fluffly lemon frosting recipe below.