If you have young children between the ages of 1 and 6 then you know that they love to play with water. You can fight it or you can take advantage of their insatiable interest in water to provide rich learning opportunities. I choose to do the latter.
In this post, I would like to share with you 5 activities that can be found in a Montessori classroom which can be easily adapted for the home. All of these were put together with items that we already had or items from a thrift store.. As a bonus, these all work for children of different ages and so are perfect for siblings at different stages of development.
This has been a permanent fixture in our home since my first son was about 14 months old (I wrote about it here). The table and mirror were Salvation Army finds both for less than $10. I cut the hole for the bowl (you can tell I’m not a wood worker :D). The small dish is for the soap. This set up is mostly used for hand washing but it has also be used to pouring from bowl to bowl or pitcher to bowl. Recently it has also been used for washing. With all the activities, i usually put down a large towel when they start and let them go at it.
2. Flower Arranging:
This is another favorite with every toddler or 3-year old I have worked with. I use this tray that I got from target a long time ago. I think it’s supposed to be a dish for children but it’s perfect because it has a place for everything and it also contains any spills. Our set up is very simple. I show how to choose a vase and place it in the space beside the funnel, put the funnel in, go fill up the pitcher at the water source, pour in the water, put down the pitcher, take out the funnel, choose a flower and put it in the vase, take a doily (or a coaster in our case) and carry carefully to a location of your choice. Younger children always choose to place all the flowers in the spot. My older son puts a lot of thought into locations for his vases and usually puts one in each room of the house.
Age modifications: when my younger son works with this, I take off the scissors. There are enough steps to keep him engage without it. With my older son, he can pluck off leaves, trim the stem and then arrange.
3. Cloth (or anything) washing: I set this up when my older son was 2.5 and it has also been a favorite for both boys. In most Montessori classrooms, there is usually a dedicated table for this activity but this may not be feasible for every home. It certainly isn’t for us so we keep it packed together on the shelf. I actually love this because it adds a few steps to the process for the child. They have to set it up and pack it up everytimeThe baskets are for items to be washed and items that have been washed. One bowl is for washing and the other is for rinsing. The bucket is for emptying the basins and carrying the dirty water to the toilet.
They wash everything from clothes to dishes, the vases from the flower arranging activity, they toy fishes and so on.
Age modifications: my older son can open the container with the powdered soap and he is allowed to use 3 teaspoons for each wash. My younger son just uses the bar soap. When washing the vases, my older son can use our DIY bottle brush to wash inside the vases while my younger son just uses a sponge to wash the outsides. I make other modifications as needed
4. Watering plants: This is a pretty simple and straightforward one. This has been available to the boys since they could walk. Sometimes they just like to fill up the can and empty it in a bucket. I don’t discourage this as I realize they are meeting their need to exert maximum effort.
5. Spray bottle and mitt:
Another simple but good one. This can be used in many ways. For wiping up the table after meals, for washing windows, for washing leaves or for spraying your brother in the face 😮 (just keeping it real!)
See this in use:
We have a water dispenser available to the children on our small balcony which is set up as an outdoor space for the boys. We also have stairs in our bathroom that allows them reach the tap. There are also aprons, towels and sponges that are available to use with all of the water activities.
- When choosing pitchers, consider the container they will be pouring into and make sure the pitcher is smaller.
- Choose bowls or basin that contain as much water as you don’t mind being spilled.
- Set up these activities in an area of your house that is tiled or that you don’t mind getting wet. They can even be set up outside on a patio, balcony or whatever outdoor space you have.
What I love about all of these activities is that they are purposeful. While meeting the child’s needs for the rich sensorial experiences that water provides, they also allow him to care for himself, the environment and others. He also build coordination, concentration, fine motor skills and his vocabulary amongst other things.
If you don’t already have some of these set up, I hope you are inspired to set them up! Do share pictures in the comments if you do.
To learn more about supporting your toddler at home? Sign up for the Understanding and supporting your toddler e-course starting on April 17.