Forcing the Bloom

Happy, Healthy Mommy Blog

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Montessori Trays: Why they work

What’s up with the trays?  The first thing you will probably notice about a Montessori-inspired home or Montessori classroom is the TRAYS.  In our home, I use whatever is available – wooden trays, wooden bowls, woven baskets, plastics serving dishes, etc – usually picked up at a consignment shop like Goodwill.

I didn’t really understand the purpose of the trays until my three-year old had friends over who pulled everything off our shelves and threw things on the floor.  We actually didn’t mind but Boaz busily put everything back into their correct places.  Order and placement is ingrained into his habits and nature.

His learning experience begins when he enters the room.  How are things organized?  How are they grouped together?  The next challenge – can he pick up the tray with the activity and carry to his table or the floor to play?  This requires balance, coordination, and focus.  When he’s done, can he put it back without dropping it before getting a new activity?  Again – focus, attention, patience.

Don’t give up before they start!  At first, they may throw things on the floor.  After awhile they understand the process.  And this process – organizing toys and activities on shelves with trays or other containers – makes clean up quicker!  It also promotes continual learning development from the minute they enter the room.  That’s why we love Montessori trays!

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Montessori Resources / Inspiration

I always need inspiration from other Montessori moms about what to put on our shelf.  I was therefore very excited to see Living Montessori Now make a post yesterday dedicated specifically to Montessori Toddler Resources.  Perfect!  She also does a link-up every Monday so you may want to join in.  What are some of your favorite Montessori (or other) resources (aka mommy blogs)?  Where do you go for inspiration and new shelf ideas?

Here are some other great inspirations (Montessori-inspired and others)…

Mary’s Montessori School


The Pinterested Parent

Happy Holligans 

A Homeschool Mom

Cooking with Toddlers

YouTube is also a great resource for ideas.  I often put up videos of our Montessori-inspired play/work room online.




Ideas for Pre-k Homeschool Room

Here is a peek at our little pre-K, Montessori-inspired toddler room with new shelf-work ideas.  Below is link to a YouTube video showing you a view of the room.  B (31 months) was most interested in the sensorial tray that included small sea creatures and rocks laid out on blue felt (an ocean theme).  If possible, he’s become MORE interested in sensorial activities recently.

B will start back at his Montessori school on Monday and attend two days a week.  I’m interested to see how he transitions back into the classroom after being away for several months, especially considering his recent developments.  Within the last three months he has become more talkative, social and he’s now potty trained.  I hope that our “Montessori in the home” approach has the effect of supporting a smooth, productive transition and that the classroom will encourage further growth.  I always have mixed feelings about sending him off to school but I’m looking forward to a little “me” time.  I just never like being apart from him, if you know what I mean!  🙂








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Activities for Toddlers

Here are some activities on our Montessori-inspired shelf this week.  B (25 months) is working on mastering numbers 1-10 and new vocabulary words.  We are working on number values (not just memorizing the numbers).  Sorting and number graphs help explain numbers values.  Check out for some great ideas and printouts.  We also have fun counting random things around the yard or house.  B is also working on mastering the alphabet phonetically.  The letter activity allows practice with letters out of order to assist with mastery.  We are consistently work on beginning sounds of words and then finding the corresponding letter.

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Time to be in the garden!  We had fun planting flowers and herbs this week.  B has fun watching our strawberries turn from green to red.  He is learning to be gentle with flowers and general body control.  What is okay to pick and how do we care for plants (and animals)?  We talked about how the sun is hot and trees create cool shade.  We observed birds and had fun listening for them even when we couldn’t see them.  What do you talk about with your  toddler when you are outside or on a walk?

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Toddler Activities (2 years old)

Need some new ideas to keep your toddler busy?  I don’t know about you but my mind goes blank when I’m trying to think of a new activity for my 2 year old.  That’s why I often check out what other moms are doing with their toddlers either through Instagram, Pinterest or Blogs.  You can also find some great ideas on YouTube.  You can search and find great ideas by using the keywords: Montessori, shelf work, activities.  Below are some of the activities my 2 year old (25 months) is enjoying this week.  What is your toddler’s favorite activity?  How has his or her interests changed over the last six months?

Here is a picture of our downstairs play/work room before I added this week’s activities.  I usually clear the room before I put out anything new, although I will rotate toys throughout the week.







Here are two sorting activities.  In the first one, B will sort the buttons from big to small.  B does not yet say “big” and “small” but he will open his arms wide and growl for “big” and put his fingers together for “small”.  Very cute.  In the second activity, B will match the buttons in the middle with the ones on the outside of the tray.  This also exercises his fine motor skills.


















Next are two practical life skills activities.  B will practice screwing the top on the empty juice bottle and putting different size pom poms inside.  We will again talk about big and small pom poms.  The second activity allows B to practice pushing a button through the pieces of felt.  Each felt piece has a slit cut in them.











Here is a counting activity and a language activity.  B will count the animals and find the corresponding number.  B can count from 1-10, so this will reinforce numbers he knows.  We also will work on numbers 11-20, which are new and require slow introduction.  The second activity lets B practice letters.  He knows all his letters so he will match the magnet letters with the letters in the words.  I never put out words without a picture or item demonstrating the word.  I don’t expect B to learn or read words yet.  This is more of matching game and sounding out the beginning letters of words.  We will say “fish” together and find the “f”.

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Finally, here is a spring-themed sensorial board I created with things about the house.  I added a decorative bird house and sand in the bottom.  There are also shells and plastic bugs.  I also put in some cut herbs from our garden.  I provided a magnifying glass and rake.  B can move the bugs around and see the trail they leave in the sand.










Here is a picture of the shelf now full of activities.  As you can see, I always include some free play toys.  Although the room is full of activities, it is still neat and organized.  This allows for easy clean up and supports a toddler’s inherent interest in order and placement.  Enjoy!

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Process vs. Product

I learned from our Montessori teacher that up until about 4 or 5 years old, kids are focused more on the process verses the outcome or product of their work/activity.  Around the age of 4 or 5, kids switch and become more focused on the finished product.  I’m really glad that I learned this because my two-year old toddler’s actions and decisions make more sense.  I can tell he isn’t worried about finishing an activity.  In fact, I’ll often observe him taking down an activity from off our Montessori-inspired shelf, playing with it for a minute, and then putting it back on the shelf.  He’s working on mastering the process of shelf work, the routine of pulling a tray down and putting it back.

Below is a picture of B working on sorting color bears.  He never put more than a few bears into the cups.  He never put all the bears into all the cups thereby completing the activity.  Although he sorted them correctly, he was not worried about completing the activity.  He enjoyed taking all the bears out sorting a few and putting all the bears back.  Knowing that B is working on the process and isn’t worried about the product is powerful – and cool!  Not only am I more patient, but I’m also better at preparing an activity for B’s shelf.

Have you noticed a focus of the process or the product when your children work on a project or activity?











Here is another picture where B is working on an activity.  B is starting to work on lacing.  I only put out 6 beads.  I put out only three pipe cleaners and let him match the colored beads with the pipe cleaners.  In this way, he was color sorting, something he already did well, and lacing without knowing it.  Soon, I will add lace (string) and more beads.  Later, I will make patterns with the beads that he can match.

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A few other cute pictures…

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Montessori Shelf Work for Toddlers

Here are some new toddler activities you can do at home.  As you can see, we use a Montessori-inspired method of learning by keeping activities and toys on a shelf.  I rotate out the activities depending on B’s interest level.  B has learned to take activities down and put them back when he’s done.  He only takes one activity at a time.  We do many of the activities together but B also plays independently.  When not playing with these activities he is usually following me around the house helping with the chores, cooking and cleaning (as shown in my last post).  At two years old, B can pretty much help with everything.  He does laundry, makes snacks and meals, feeds the dogs, cleans up messes, and washes dishes – all with supervision.  I hope you find some of these shelf activities interesting.  I put much thought into what activities are placed on the shelf.  I try to provide a variety of easy and challenging activities and ones that cover math, language, practical life skills (such as transferring), sensorial, art, music and creative play.  I would love to hear YOUR ideas as well!

Here is our shelf downstairs in the playroom (right) and upstairs in B’s room.

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These two activities/toys were found on Etsy and given to B for his birthday.  Check out: Aroswoodcrafts and Richardsonrarities.

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The first picture below shows is a language activity.  I read the word and have B find and place the object next to the word.  The second picture is a sorting and counting activity with bears.  B loves feeling the bears.  He used to throw them but he’s gotten over that now.  The third picture is a practical life skill where B transfers the beads into the other bowl.  Always go from left to right.  The fourth picture shows a sorting activity where B puts all the spoon in one cup and forks in the other.  He likes real forks and spoons and it’s a challenge to keep the cup upright.  We are also working on the words “spoon”,” fork”, and “cup”.  The fifth picture shows some eco-friendly eggs that B can match and put together.  It’s too difficult to pull them apart but he can put them together.  The sixth and last picture shows a pinching activity with different sized clips.  B practices clipping the paper and exercises the finger muscles he will later use for writing.  Enjoy!



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