Since I completed my most recent Day in the Life post, I decided to make some changes to our routine and our space especially because Lately (9 months) has begun to gain more independence and mobility, so I wanted to accommodate her needs and to try my best to coordinate them with Knox’s. Knox (32 months) has enjoyed re-exploring and mastering the toys and materials I set out to challenge her and she most definitely enjoys discovering all of Knox’s favorite toys.
Mixed-age grouping is an important part of the Montessori philosophy that I am continuously inspired by, and I love the following explanation of why:
“Children learn from observing and learn from each other. Multi-age groups provide a variety of activities, an enriched environment for children and a lens through which teachers observe. The teacher learns every day from the environment about what motivates each child.”~Lakshmi Kripalani (author, 70 year Montessori educator and trainer who worked with Maria Montessori herself)
The children’s learning space is ever-changing to adapt to their current interests and needs, but at the moment, this is what their spaces look like:
Knox’s shelf has become a joint storage space, housing on the top of the shelf, a few things that Lately cannot have access to (for safety reasons), and, on the bottom shelves, materials that they both enjoy and can explore together or separately.
1. Nature Jar: For observing outdoor treasures (currently holding an empty cocoon)
2. Music Box: This has a glass top which displays the inner-workings of the box. Both children love to explore this, but it’s too fragile for Lately to have access to without supervision.
3. Colors & Textures Matching Puzzle: Lately loves to explore (and taste) this puzzle, but it is obviously too challenging for her. Knox has mastered the puzzle, but he still enjoys finding the matches and will also “teach” Lately the colors and objects by identifying and pointing to them (usually when prompted).
4. Color Steps Puzzle: Again, too challenging for her and mastered by Knox, but I like that it introduces the concept of color progression. Knox also still enjoys completing it & demonstrating the skill give him a sense of pride. I think it’s very pretty, too!
5. Color Bottles: Mostly for Lately’s exploration.
6. First Shapes Puzzle: Easy for Knox, challenging for Lately (but age appropriate). Knox enjoys demonstrating things like this for her.
7. Geometric Stacker: Still a challenge for Knox and much too challenging for Lately, which is why I have provided some simple wooden rings in a separate bowl for her to use (you can see them on the dowels on the floor).
8. Wooden Tool Bench: (sorry, no link - not sure who makes this) Both children enjoy this toy. Can be used for hammering, stacking rings onto pegs, using the screwdriver and threading the screw through a square or removing pegs/screws.
9. Geometric Sorting Board: Still a little challenging for Knox and way too challenging for Lately (who mostly tastes the shapes).
10. Jack in the Box: Knox has recently learned to wind the handle and Lately really enjoys the surprise! A cute, classic toy for them to enjoy together.
11. Bead Maze: Just a fun exploration toy for both kids.
I also cleared a second shelf, bottom shelves are more appropriate for Lately, top shelf is for Knox.
1. Counting Box: To practice counting, I put sets of 2 of all sorts of different objects (2 matching blocks, 2 matching dinosaurs, 2 pegs, etc) along with the number 2 (a puzzle piece, a felt number, a flash card with the number 2 and also a matching game with the number 2 on it). Once he masters the number 2 we will move on to 3 and so on. He’s not that motivated to learn about counting at the moment, so we’re still on 2.
2. Sound Box: To practice letter sounds, I put objects in the box that start with the letter D, the “duh” sound (drum, diaper, dinosaur, duck, etc). Once he masters a letter, we move on to a new one (not really going in alphabetical order, just randomly choosing letters/sounds and we haven’t approached letters with more than one sound just yet). Also have a felt letter D, flash card with a D and puzzle piece with a D for identification and recognition.
3.Fabric Box: Full of fabric squares with different textures (lace, silk, felt, cotton, suede, satin, etc) for Lately to explore. There are 2 of each texture, so Knox can use it as a matching game as well.
4. Box with objects: Object permanence activity and also size activity. Lately can explore independently but I also use it as a game to demonstrate what fits in the box as well as teaching language (in and out, on and off).
5. Nesting cups & Egg: She can explore which cup the egg fits into and how the cups fit into each other and stack as well.
6. Small stacking blocks: Encourage fine motor skills. Knox enjoys teaching Lately how to stack these. She picks this basket first almost everytime she goes to her shelf.
7. Ball Tracker: Lately has just figured out how to put the ball through the holes and loves to watch the ball roll and drop. Knox enjoys this toy as well.
Downstairs we also have a building block area (interconnecting blocks, large wooden blocks), a music area, art area & a reading area which are shared spaces as well. I also recently moved the play kitchen downstairs and it’s getting a lot of attention. We also have a playroom space upstairs for activities that require a bigger space (i.e. gross motor play, train table, etc.), which Lately enjoys the most right now as she can practice climbing, bouncing, crawling through a tunnel and walking on a soft surface confidently.
I have also set up a little learning table with a basket of busy bags (activity bags), white board, calendar, etc. in the dining area which is mainly for Knox’s use. I’m planning to post about this area soon along with my new efforts to make room for a more structured “school time” within our routine.
The changes are working out well and both children seem to be enjoying and using the spaces a lot. You can read about how the space has changed, along with my other Montessori home learning posts here.