Time for a little more about toddlers! I will share what my daughter is currently doing right now. She loves the hex bolt board from Montessori Services. There are three in the set (although they can be ordered separately), but I recommend getting all three.
She has been working on the easiest one. The first time she tried it, she became frustrated and threw it to the ground. She kept on trying, though, and gradually needed less and less help to do it. Today, she did the entire board – removing all four bolts and putting them back in – completely by herself from start to finish. She’s probably done it 12 times to get to the point of mastery with it. It’s been really neat to observe her progress.
For pouring work, which she loves, I once again turned to Montessori Services. They have so many great items that you can’t find anywhere else. I purchased a couple of small trays, two decanters, and two large creamers. I already had some glass and wood bowls. I mix and match these items together in lots of different ways: decanter/decanter, decanter/creamer, creamer/bowl, creamer/creamer, etc.
There’s a wide variety of things to pour with these items, like colored water, beans, beads, rice, and popcorn. You can also add a spoon, scoop, or funnel to most of these combinations. The result is enough practical life activities to last us for months. She also loves standing at our sink with some empty plastic bottles, a whisk, and some small cups, playing with soap and water.
One of her favorite activities is to “classify” our plastic bin of crayons. She started doing this on her own one day – finding all the chubby crayons and putting them in one pile, all the medium sized crayons in another, and the broken pieces in another. “My crayons, my crayons!” became her cry every time we stepped into the kitchen.
I always smile when I see my kids classifying anything – it seems like such a very Montessori activity. You may catch your kids lining up toys in certain ways, organizing books, or even sorting art supplies like crayons or pencils. This is more than just fun for them; they really are applying the things they’re learning to the environment around them. They are noticing difference within sets of objects, and looking beyond the general classification (“crayons”) to subsets (“large crayons”, “small crayons”).
One of her favorite works right now is a twist on the traditional Montessori work of cards and counters. Usually this involves wooden cards with numbers 1-10, and 55 red discs. My spin on this work is to use magnetic red discs (like bingo counters) and when she has placed them all correctly, she can use a magnetic wand to sweep them up. This adds a little more interest to the work.
One other thing that is a toddler favorite is big/little sorting. I found lots of big/little pairs including buttons, blocks, mini straw hats, bells, mini flower pots, pom poms, and paper clips. I printed “big” and “little” on two index cards and showed her how to sort them. This really plays into one of the sensitive periods for this age – love of small objects.
Her very favorite work – one she does every day – is sorting rough and smooth stones. I found about 5 of each, wrote “rough” and “smooth” on two index cards, and put them all in a basket. It’s such a sensorial work; she uses her fingertips to rub each stone and decide whether it’s rough or smooth. Even though she’s done it so many times, it hasn’t lost its appeal. One tip: for the smooth stones, choose the really smooth polished ones, so there’s a big difference between those and the rough ones.
I also recommend the clay hammering exercise from Alison’s Montessori. It’s easy enough for young children to do, but interesting enough that older children like it too.
Hopefully this gives you some great ideas on fun activities for toddlers!
A Helpful Resource:
Toddler Lessons and Activities – a huge list of Montessori toddler activities, with information about each one