Here’s one of the first Montessori-inspired activities that I made for Freestyle. I got the idea from the great book, Montessori from the Start: The Child at Home from Birth to Age Three by Paula Polk Lillard & Lynn Lillard Jessen.
DIY Puzzle Box
Age: 15 months + (variations for younger children below)
Purpose: At this age, the child has more or less learned to connect her brain and her hand movement. Now that she can coordinate her hand movements and is ready (and wanting) more challenging work. This activity is great because it allows for
- Concentration (repeatedly putting the discs through the slit)
- Eye-hand coordination (accurately placing the disc into the slit)
- Practice of the pincer grip (holding the disc between her thumb and forefinger)
- The understanding of object permanence (the discs disappear once dropped into the box and then found again when the lid is lifted up)
- The satisfaction after a challenge is met!
- box (I used a shoebox)
- 4-6 discs (I saved up a few frozen juice lids, but you can use anything you have, such as poker chips, bottle lids, etc.)
- utility knife
What to do:
To make: Using the utility knife, make a slit in the lid that is just big enough to fit the discs. Voila!
1. Take out all the discs and put them to the right of the box. Show your child how to pick up one disc and fit and drop it through the slit.
2. Allow her to try this on her own. Help guide her if needed, but if she is getting frustrated, that’s okay. Just redirect her to another activity and put this away for another time.
- For younger children (8 months +), they can try putting a small wooden egg into a cup or a small wooden cube into a box that just fits it. The child should be proficient with the egg and cup before trying the cube and box because it is much more challenging.
- If you have wooden blocks at home (triangular prisms, cubes, sphere) you can trace those onto the different sides of a box (make sure that it is just large enough to fit the shape). Many people have a toy like this at home too. They work the same way, but are usually made of plastic. Montessori materials are natural materials (wood, wicker baskets, glass, real flowers instead of fake) as much as possible to cultivate an appreciation for the world. These natural materials also add to the sensory experience (weight of glass VS lightness of plastic, smell of wood, etc.).
- Wooden puzzles with knob handles on the pieces are a great activity and are readily available. Fitting the piece properly gives the child the feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment. When they are younger, the knobs will make using the puzzle easier.