It’s been a while since I’ve posted an update about Knox’s learning spaces since we first began our Montessori Makeover. I wanted to share about his toy rotation in particular, because, as I looked back at my first post about it, I realized how much his interests and needs have changed. I found it really inspiring and exciting to see the changes that have taken place over just 9 months! Here is what his shelves look like now.
Can you tell I was holding a squirmy baby while trying to take this picture? Excuse the blur, but this is what Knox’s toy shelf downstairs currently looks like. Here’s the breakdown:
1. Bugs: As I mentioned in a recent post, bugs are a big thing for Knox right now, so here’s a basket of bugs and some books about bugs. This shelf section is used quite often, I don’t foresee it leaving the rotation for a while.
2. 12 Peice Puzzles: These are still a challenge for him, but he has started to get the hang of them within the past few weeks. Sometimes he’ll ask for help before he even tries, other times he will try by himself and independently put up to 4 pieces together. After that it takes a little bit of verbal instruction (I usually ask questions like: “Where should this piece of tree go, at the top in the sky or on the bottom on the ground?”, or “This dinosaur needs a mouth, do you see his mouth?”, instead of giving direct instructions like “This one goes in the middle”). I will rotate this puzzle set out with a few others like it every week or so to keep his interest.
Here he is working hard on a stegosaurus.
3. Animal Matching: This simple game requires that the child match a mother animal with her baby. It was given to Knox as a hand-me-down & while it’s pretty easy for him, he still loves it, so I put it back in rotation every few weeks. It also helps him with his puzzle skills because the pieces match together the same way a puzzle does. The skill of putting together the two pieces took him a while to master, even once he could easily find the correct pairs. (P.S. You can’t tell from the (again) blurry picture, but these cards are so beautifully made. My friend who gave them to us got them from Germany & I love the way they look!)
4. Dinosaurs: This is the most used basket in the house. It holds several dinosaurs along with a dinosaur reference book and a dinosaur activity book. This shelf won’t be going anywhere for a while. It’s the first thing he goes for every single day. I can’t imagine the day coming when he doesn’t want to play dinosaurs…what a strange feeling that will be.
5. Montessori Geometric Shapes: This one is on loan from a fellow Mommy. Her daughter & Knox are close in age and share interests in a lot of things. She and I often exchange ideas regarding practicing Montessori in the home and we’ve recently begun trading materials. This activity was pretty easy for him after he tried it once. He can do it completely independently, and, while he’s mastered it, he still enjoys it a good bit. An activity like this will stay on the shelf until I see he hasn’t used it in at least a couple of weeks, or if I ask him if he wants to use it and he shows no interest.
6. Animal Puzzle Set: This set of puzzles is quite easy for Knox to complete, but I like to use it as a grouping/sorting activity for him. Each puzzle is a different group of animals (ocean, pet, zoo, farm), and each puzzle is classified with a color (blue, green, purple, red). So when he uses the puzzles all together, he’s grouping them and sorting them by animal type and color. He really enjoys this set, too, and even though it doesn’t present a major challenge for him, he still needs to use his identification skills to place each animal in the right spot. If you think about it, this is a pretty complex idea for a young child. I’ll replace this set with different puzzles as needed due to his level of interest.
7. Ocean Animals: Ever since our beach trip this year (especially the aquarium visit), but even before that, Knox has enjoyed learning more about marine life. This basket includes some bath toys and finger puppets representing several different ocean animals. He enjoys playing with them by making them interact as he does with the dinosaurs & bugs, but also enjoys looking them up in the books on the shelf with them. I will rotate this shelf section out with other types of animal toys and books depending on interest level. Zoo animals and farm animals are popular choices for him as well.
8. Sea shells and crabs: After our failed attempt at introducing Knox to the world of pet ownership by bringing home a hermit crab from the beach trip, I decided to hold off on that idea for a while, and instead created this shelf for him. In the basket are some seashells he collected on the beach along with a small crab toy. He loves helping the crab try on all of the different shells to see which one fits (unfortunately none fit very well, but he’s okay with that). There is also a book about shells and a book about a hermit crab on the shelf along with a marine bottle which is supposed to look like an ocean wave when turned sideways and moved correctly. It’s just 1/2 oil, half water with blue food coloring and presents a nice sensory experience that Lately enjoys as well. This shelf should probably be changed out pretty soon, along with the ocean animals one, to provide a little more variety, since he hasn’t been playing with either very much lately.
9. Birds: As I mentioned in another recent post, birds are something Knox has taken to, and in response to that, I’ve prepared this basket for him along with a library book with several different bird types pictured and named. This basket can be a sensory experience or an interactive one, or both. There are a few eggs (one wooden, one plastic & one paper-covered), some feathers, a small stuffed toy & a small wool owl finger puppet. He really enjoyed using the nest we made with the items in this basket.
Along with this shelf, downstairs in our main living space, he has his wooden blocks, a basket of musical instruments, a reading corner, and I’ve just started working on an art corner downstairs as well (right now it’s just his easel). I keep extra toys (for rotation) and special activities (play-doh, art supplies, games) in a nearby closet. The playroom upstairs is a whole other story for another day, but much less structured than downstairs. It’s a larger space where he can let off steam when we’re trapped inside.
The teacher in me has so much fun keeping tabs on this type of thing. It really is fascinating to me to watch little minds develop as they absorb every little bit of information they are exposed to. It’s fun to see how taking mental notes and making adjustments here and there can really allow for independent learning.
After writing this post, I’ve realized I need to get better about doing updates more often so that they don’t get so long! Is anyone still with me?? :) I’ll try to break it down better from now on, I promise! Do any of you enjoy creating a play environment for your little ones? I would love to read some posts from other parents regarding how they use their space and why they fill it with the things they do.