Well, this post is long overdue, but I’m slowly trying to catch up! It’s been a while since I’ve posted about our Montessori At Home adventures, but as I mentioned in one of my previous posts, Knox took a great interest in birds this summer, so we delved into a pretty intense bird study. It all began with our newly adopted chickens and, of course, our backyard wild birds. The ideas were introduced as a real life experience and the learning stems directly from the curiosity which that experience instilled.
Then it became my purpose to build upon that curiosity, to keep that fire burning and to provide ways for the children to find answers to their questions.
Some of our favorite bird-related books used throughout the study:
1. About Birds , Cathryn Sill (I love this series of educational books with life-like beautiful illustrations and simple but valuable information laid out in a child-friendly format).
2. See Me Grow , Penny Harlon (This books is not specifically about birds, but includes a chicken and robin life cycle section).
3. Feathers For Lunch , Lois Ehlert (I adore this author. This book is great for wild bird identification purposes and the beautiful bird illustrations are even life-sized).
4. A Home For Bird , Phillip C. Stead (A very cute fictional story about a bird who finds a home in a cuckoo clock).
5. Are You My Mother? , PD Eastman (A classic book that I’m sure everyone knows already, but I thought worth mentioning anyway).
Some of the books I used we already owned, I bought a couple and borrowed lots from our libraries.
I’ve once again rearranged our space to adapt to the current needs and this shelf became our unit study shelf, I’ve moved the other materials and manipulatives to another accessible area of the room. I still try to keep items on the higher shelves and top of the shelf if they are not age appropriate for Lately. We’ve had “bird” themed items out for a while now, so they’ve been rotated to accommodate the children’s interests and needs, but here are a few of the activites in the rotation:
1. Handmade Felt “Parts of the Bird” Puzzle (I laminated this free printable from Montessori Print Shop, cut out matching felt pieces added velcro dots to help keep the pieces in place).
2. Bird Picture Matching (Another free printable from Montessori Print Shop)
3. Size Sorting (Free Printable from Homeschool Creations’s Preschool Bird Unit Pack, sorry I don’t have a close-up shot, but it’s downloadable here. Illustrations of small, medium and large birds in a nest can be sorted into columns).
4. Colored Birds (These could be easily made, but mine came from a library kit I borrowed. Just colored laminated bird outlines. These birds were made for a flannelboard “I Spy” activity. The short rhyme that goes like this: “Red bird, Red bird, high up in the tree, what other red things can you see?” I like these birds for color identification purposes for Lately, too.
5. Egg Matching (Easy DIY activity. Opening and closing of eggs as well as fitting eggs into their coordinating colored spots are great for fine motor. Great for color identification again. Color matching is an extension on that for Lately, and, of course, easy for Knox. Both kids enjoy this activity).
6. Feathers (I had this set up as a sorting activity for Knox at one point, but he lost interest, so now it’s just an exploration basket & Lately especially enjoys the sensory experience of the feathers. I got these at the craft store a while ago and realized when I put them out that the 3 colors included matched our 3 different types of chickens - white, red (ish) and brown. That’s been fun to discuss with Knox which feathers match which chicken, and even to compare the feathers to the ones we find on the ground around the coop).
7. Transferring Birds & Worms to Nest (This is a great counting activity for Knox as well as the transferring. The tongs are small and great for little hands - I have had trouble finding a pair that worked well for little hands. You can buy these here. Lately enjoys using the tongs, too, although she can’t quite pick anything up with them yet, the practice is great for her small hand muscles, enhancing the fine motor skills. I got the cardboard birds from a craft store around Christmas and they are challenging for Knox to pick up but he can do it with concentration. He loves using this is a pretend play activity - putting the birds in the nest and pretending to be their mama and feeding them worms).
8. Simple Shape Bird Puzzle (From this set. These are easy for Knox, but he loves them still. Lately really needs to be using pegged puzzles, but she likes to play with the pieces & I like using the simple shapes for color and shape identification). I have had a few different puzzles floating around during this unit. One is a size progression chick puzzle, which was a lovely hand-me-down, but it’s from this set. The other is this duck puzzle, a bit more challenging, meant for Knox.
9. Open/Close | Does it fit? (Sorry I don’t have a close-up, but it’s the same idea as the basket I have for Lately in this post. I have 2 boxes; one with a removable top, one with a hinged top, and a bag with a drawstring - each of these is a different size. I then have different sized and textured objects - a wooden egg, a felt parrot finger puppet, a small stuffed owl, a silver bird pendant. The boxes and bag are for practicing opening and closing, while the objects can be placed inside of the boxes and bag as a size recognition activity and an object permanence activity as well for Lately).
I also encouraged them to use the feathers in their artwork. Here’s Knox painting a bird while looking at our local bird brochure that we found at our local bookstore. He wanted to use it as a guide (always the perfectionist!). He added feathers to the bottom picture. We also tried feather printing, which he was less than impressed with, but I thought it was really pretty!
And, this is our outdoor basket (to which things are added and subtracted depending on the day/level of interest), that I try to remember to bring out with us every time we go. Some of the things it has included over the past several weeks are the bird field guide (it has gotten lots of use), a small clipboard with a piece of contact paper attached (to collect anything worth collecting), binoculars, bird information cards, bug jar with magnifier, bird seed, scavenger hunt egg carton, camera, small bag & small clasping folder for collecting anything worth collecting…oh, and, a stick (for poking, throwing, digging, scratching, or any other use yet to be discovered).
Another activity we tried out, also a printable from the aforementioned downloadable preschool bird pack. This one wasn’t very popular for us but probably because it was a little too challenging in more ways than one.
The kids also made (on their own) a nest in the corner of the living room with our collapsed tunnel & some blankets. Endless hours of pretend play stemmed from this nest! It was fun to see Knox’s pretend play progress as he learned more and more about birds and eggs and hatching.
We try to limit screen time to when we desperately need it (I.e. when one or both of the kids is sick), but a good app is a good thing, in my opinion, especially if its educational and cannot be replaced by a real life experience. Knox & I explore apps together from time to time and occasionally on a long car ride he will want to play on the phone as well. A few of the apps that I found and that Knox really liked were:
Bird Calls: 2000+
My Bird World
The Sibley eGuide to the Birds of North America
Birds Lite by National Geographic
As with everything we do, I kept this completely child-led and play-based. I provide the materials and try to set up the environment in a way that encourages learning and supports the curiosity I have observed. I try to pay close attention to the things they use and don’t use so that I can add and subtract as needed. We had a lot of fun exploring all this bird this summer!
Hopefully it won’t be so long before I do another Montessori post. We’ve started a sort-of official home-preschool, so there’s lots to share and I look forward to writing more about it.