Using a Toddler Language Tree!
You know how some children love to 'post' things. Some children also love to hang things. There is this repetitive fine and gross motor movement that they find satisfying that can help cement their learning and increase concentration. When I first noticed the Language Tree I knew that Otto would enjoy it. He loved our ornament tree at Christmas which uses a very similar hanging motion.
I asked Andrea O’Halloran of Montessori Materials to tell me a little more about the Language Tree:
"When I taught at Forestville Montessori School, we introduced the concrete example of an object to a child first – before moving to the abstract and showing him a picture of the object – as do all Montessori teachers. To provide further enticement, I used to place all my Aussie animals or birds inside little zip bags. The language exercise became an open/close manipulation exercise as well, and the children loved unzipping, taking them out, displaying them on the mat, naming them and then putting them back inside their pouches. These sorts of pouches are in most two-dollar stores found with tourist objects and only cost from $2.50 to $3 each. A good investment for the pleasure and practice they give a toddler!
As an extension to the concrete Aussie wildlife, I invented the Language Tree. At the time, there were lots of jewellery trees in stores, and I thought they might look very interesting and appealing to a young child.
The trees are approximately 30cm (12″) tall and are used as a language extension after introducing a child to concrete examples (either in nature or with plastic replicas). A child is intrigued by and wants to work with a tree, which offers more manipulation practice and also invites conversation about the inhabitants of trees. The hanging cards made to go in the tree are of fruit, birds, animals and insects which can actually be found in a tree. This tree has a good base for holding the cards.
I’ve worked with several different examples, but the one pictured here is my favourite design; the tree is very horizontal for easy hanging and the card-holding base is roomy. Also, the top pulls out from the base for easy storage. As an adult, I prefer the green colour shown, but it was not available when I had my classroom. We worked with the same tree in blue. The colour didn’t phase the children; they just loved working with the tree. I’ve sold the same in pink and yellow as well.
Place the hanging cards in the base and let the children choose what to hang.
I’ve retired from the classroom but now make materials for parents and teachers. See Montessori Materials for all sorts of materials."
The base is perfect for keeping the language cards. Otto (29 months) here is using the Aussie Animal Hanging Set.
This hanging movement isn't easy for the toddler, it takes concentration and coordination. It takes a lot of work by the little fingers to separate the cotton thread and place it onto the tree. Otto is doing this standing and I feel it's great work for strengthening and activating his core, he is reaching out as he is using is hands to hang the cards.
This set may be our favourite, the Birds of Australia Hanging Cards. Even though the manual action is fantastic for the child, it is all about the language, many of these birds we see and hear in our backyard "Sulphur-crested Cockatoo", "Rainbow Lorikeet", and "Kookaburra".
I love that with the language cards you can start really easy with super familiar items such as Fruit (Apples, Cherries, Oranges) and move on to lesser known animals like Butterflies, or Seeds and Leaves! The work with the Language Tree can grow with the child! We have also been enjoying the Insect Hanging Cards.
You can see the full range of Language Tree Hanging Cards here. Of course if you live in another continent this could be easily adapted!
Let me know if you've seen or used something similar.