How do we follow a child's interest in a Montessori way? We need to provide hands on, real learning opportunities, but how?
Here are some ideas that I like to explore when following a child's interest:
- Materials that are age and developmentally appropriate.
- Materials displayed in a way that is attractive and accessible to the child - on children's low shelves or on a child sized table.
- A relevant field trip - if possible. You or the child can take some photos, you can print the photos out and use them to explore the topic further.
- Learning experiences that use all senses - or as many as possible: smell, sight, touch, sound, taste.
Materials I like to use include:
- Items from nature.
- Real materials that are safe for the child to use and explore.
- Accurate models - useful for animals, some plants, life cycles, vehicles. For older children anatomy models are good!
- Printed language materials - for a toddler I love to use anatomy cards to teach and develop language around anatomy, three part cards or matching cards can be useful and can be found on almost every topic.
- Photographs - real accurate images that show detail and printed large, I like to use photographs printed on A5 card, I often use images found online, if you already have a printer this is a super affordable way to create beautiful images.
- Books - age appropriate books, we don't need to get all the books on the topic but we can explore books from our own library, from the public library or display a book open to the relevant topic like a children's encyclopedia, My First Discovery books are fantastic for young children.
- Sound recorder - we like to use a little child friendly sound recorder, you can record your sound for 1 minute, the child simply presses the button to play the sound. It's perfect for recording animal sounds, I've found many animal sounds online, I play them on my computer with the sound up and put the recorder close, it works perfectly.
- Art materials like themed play dough tray (for toddlers) or clay, stamps, painting.
Things I keep in mind:
- Use real, scientific language - educate yourself if necessary, we don't know it all so do some research if needed.
- Consider what it is you want the child to learn - for animals this is often habitat, anatomy, life cycle, food chains.
- Observe the child using the materials - especially if they are new materials and see how the child responds to them.
- We don't need to teach the child everything at once - we don't want to overwhelm the child or have them lose their interest.
- Keep the learning environment dynamic and evolving - keep out materials the child is using and increase materials in specific lines of inquiry, you don't know where it may take you, frog study may turn into pond life study.
- We don't need to put out all we have on the topic or start buying new materials - start with the materials that are most relevant that you already have, observe see what works/captures the child's attention and change/rotate materials if needed.
- Don't seek approval online - our children's learning environments should not be driven by a desire to publish online, there are many beautiful learning environments shared on social media that may not be age or developmentally appropriate.
- We may be able incorporate learning through free, open-ended play or through art.
At the moment we are looking at Frogs with my toddler (2.5yrs). We have a local Frog habitat on our daily nature walk path. We can see the signs (it's in a nature reserve) and hear the Frogs but we've never seen an actual Frog there. The area is fenced off so we can't go exploring. I want to show Otto what the Frogs that live there look like and explore Frogs and Frog habitats generally. I always aim for accurate and real experiences that use lots of our senses.
Our Frog materials pictured here include:
- Montessori Zoology Frog Puzzle (AU link)(similar US here) - I chose this puzzle as it looks similar to the Frogs known to be in our local frog habitat.
- Model Frogs - these are realistic looking.
- Frog Anatomy Chart - this is a prompt for siblings and adults for language development.
- Frog Books - we have lots of Frog books that we can rotate through.
- Frog Stickers with habitat paper.
- Photographs of real Frogs and Frog habitat - I've downloaded these and printed with my own printer, I sought out the type of frog that is known to be in our local environment.
- Plastomount Frog (AU link).
- Frog sounds on toddler-friendly recorder - I've recorded frog sounds found online, Otto only needs to press the recorder to play the sounds. (AU link here).
Home printed photographs of a Frog from our local area with lots of detail. A plastomount Frog.
Another printed photograph of a Frog habitat, Frog stickers with habitat paper.
We use our Ikea FLISAT Children's table for work like this. A table cloth or in this case a play silk signifies that this is a special learning or play area.
Tadpole to Frog is my all time favourite Frog book!
The images are photographic and toddlers love the little flip pages.
Montessori Zoology Frog (with Skeleton) Puzzle. This looks similar to the frogs found in our local habitat. I generally don't recommend using Montessori classroom materials for the home but we do have a few zoology and biology puzzles.
I've put a Frog sticker on our sound recorder so Otto will know what sound to expect. I'll change the sticker when I record another sound. The sound recorder with Frog sounds and a photo of the relevant Frog would be lovely presented on a tray, I could rotate the photos and the sounds.
If you have an older child I love this printable Frog Set, these animal x-rays look fun too. Last weekend we spent hours at our local rock pool so I feel a theme around shells, ocean, crabs, seaweed coming soon!
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