Little ones love these forms of activities over open ended play things a lot of the time. These activities build concentration and repetition. They require learning of important life skills and indirect preparation for language and maths, all the while little ones just enjoy having fun with them!
Add a child sized table and chair and a comfy mat or rug and you’re good to go! Note – keep in mind any sensory issues for little ones with special/high needs e.g. the rainbow stacker can be completed standing or laying down. Also change out coins for buttons if sound sensitivity is an issue.
Practical life shelf: these are the skills needed for everyday life: care of self, the environment and food preparation.
Teaching your little ones these skills is setting them up for an independent, successful life.
Here you can see:
These items incorporate a wide range of skills and activities.
When using multi step activities such as putting a music box inside a zipped bag, ensure that your little one knows how to open the zip. If they don’t know how to do this, it will only cause frustration. Have the unknown item as a separate activity first.
Practical life shelf:
Ideally you would have a complete shelf or section for each practical life area (care of self, care of environment, food prep) but if you are short on space then combining the three into one area works just fine!
It’s important to observe and notice what your little ones do and don’t use. If something hasn’t been used in a while, take it away and put it in storage. Alternatively you can change the tray/basket/container that it’s in and that can re spark interest. On the flip side, if something is being constantly used, keep it out on the shelves until it isn’t. You don’t need to cycle things in and out based on the TIME it’s been on the shelves for, rather how much use and interest they get.
Note – Only ever cycle out around half of the activities at once though, otherwise the change can be too overwhelming and unsettling (especially true for those with higher needs e.g. autism). If you change out everything at once it can also cause little ones to become a bit ‘frenzied’ and flit from one to another without really engaging in anything (think of Christmas morning for example).
Ordinarily you wouldn’t have any more than 5 objects in an activity, but given Miss V’s obsession at the time this was taken I added more. We also always have different art mediums and yoga mats available.
Remember to follow the child, if you notice that particular activities are no longer being used then it is time to either change it up or switch it out.
To change it up you can change the medium used (e.g. if it was rice pouring, use pasta or cacao nibs instead), you could change the basket/box/tray being used or change it slightly but keep the same ‘theme’ (e.g. car run to a ball run). Only changing half of your activities at once maximum, as changing them all can be very unsettling.
Very ‘pretend play’ focussed shelves – not very Montessori, but it’s always most important to follow the child and their interests.
The girls made ice cream shops, drive throughs and all kinds of things using it (Miss S writes up menus and signs too). Lots of imitating real life situations, imagination, and social modelling happening using these items right now!
Both of the girls utilise these activities (aged 9 and 4).
I get asked a lot about how I set up our areas at home. This is how I had Miss V’s area set up from crawling to walking stage.
This area was in the central open plan living area (photo taken from standing near kitchen bench). I’m a big believer that younger children want to be where you are, so I have play areas in the central part of the house. This means not only can I easily chat with them and keep an eye on them while I’m cooking but it means mess isn’t being carted through the house from a play room to a central area for example.
Point of note, I never have a tv on when the children are awake as it is just an unnecessary noise and distraction interrupting their concentration.
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