Monday, December 6, 2010

On Our Shelves - December

Our theme for December is, of course, Christmas. I just love this time of year and I really enjoy bringing the feel of the season into our classroom. There's red and green everywhere you look! :)

Practical Life
Christmas Tree Decorating. We did this last year, too, and it was a big hit.

Tweezing Mini Bows. These little bows were a part of the amazing box of goodies I received last year.

Sorting Erasers. Another favorite from last year.

Tonging Porcupine Poms. I chose yellow poms because I thought they looked sort of like stars against the trees. :)

Open & Close Basket. Each container has a fun, chunky Christmas eraser in it.

Button Tree. This is the tree I made last year and even though James has the buttoning thing down pat, he's still loving this little tree.

Lacing Jingle Bells.

Spooning Sparkly Poms. As I've mentioned before, James has little interest in spooning, but I couldn't resist trying this variation with a melon baller. The idea comes from My Montessori Journey. I think he'll enjoy this.

Using A Dropper. James will transfer the green water from the glass by way of the dropper and then release the water in small amounts into each individual suction cup. The washcloth is provided so he can wipe up any spills. We've done this in the past and James just loves it.

Stringing Pony Beads. I saw this idea ages ago on Itty Bitty Love. The pipe cleaners (aka chenille sticks) are pushed into the holes on the top of a small shaker. Fun and simple!

Christmas Nesting Blocks. Sort of a pink tower minus the pink. :)

Sound Boxes. I purchased these from here, but you can easily create your own. Click here to read more about how to use the sound boxes.

Knobless Cylinders w/ Extensions.

Blue Series Materials. James is definitely in a sensitive period for language and I have to admit, I'm not as prepared as I'd like to be. He's just moving through everything so quickly, I can't keep up! I think he'll be finished with the blue series by the end of the month since this particular work was easy-peasy for him. The thing is, he's kind of all over the place with what he knows and I feel compelled to push through everything in the right order regardless in an effort to seal up any gaps in his knowledge. For those unfamiliar with the blue series, you can read more about it here. The materials were purchased through Montessori For Everyone (love her materials!).

Christmas Memory Game. To make these I printed duplicates of two different bingo cards from abcteach.

Various Tracing Pages. Some of these came from KidsSoup and others from the wonderful Nativity Preschool Pack from 1+1+1=1. The Santa pencil provides an added point of interest.

Books. Throughout the month we'll be reading a new Christmas book each day, thanks to our 25 Books of Christmas.

Christmas Tree Lights Game. James loves adding and subtracting and he really enjoyed using these little bulbs as well as the jumbo dice. The bulbs are real and were cut from a strand of lights that was no longer working.

Measuring Ribbon. James selected this shiny silver ribbon and I cut several pieces in varying lengths. James will measure them against the ruler and then we'll record our findings.

Math Sheet. This is a page from the 1+1+1=1 Nativity Pack.

Hundreds Board. We just received this and used it for the first time today. James L-O-V-E-D it!

It took him a long time to complete it (and he did get a bit distracted toward the middle, complaining with a sigh that this was hard work and that his back hurt! LOL), but he finished it entirely by himself and was oh so proud!

Cards & Counters. I made these cards myself and chose red buttons (think berries :D) for the counters.

Culture & Science
North America Continent Bag. I decided to pull out various pieces from the bag and place them on trays instead of just plopping the entire bag on the shelf. I think this will work better for us because it'll allow us to focus on just a few of the items at a time.

Poinsettia Three Part Cards. I found these beautiful cards on abcteach and I purchased a real Poinsettia plant so James could have a living visual guide as well.

Living & Non-Living Cards. My three part card envelopes didn't work for these cards, so I stitched up a little pouch out of felt. Very easy to make and I find the appearance to be much nicer than plastic.

Art & Music
Composer of the month. This month we're focusing on Tchaikovsky. I timed this to coincide with his well known Nutcracker Suite which, I feel, so beautifully represents this time of year.

We're also singing LOTS of fun Christmas songs, a compilation of which can be found here.

Stamping. I found this little kit at the dollar store.

Build A Santa & Christmas Tree. These are our "Felt Friends" from last year. Instead of separating the two as I did last year, I put all the pieces together for an added challenge.

Scissor Practice. Like last month, I cut strips of paper and then placed Christmas stickers on them which James will use as a guide to cut in between.

Color By Letter. This page is from KidsSoup.

I have quite a few other Christmas-y crafts in mind for us to do and I'll try to post about as we complete them. Just not enough hours in the day!

Click here, here and here to see some of the activities we did last year when James was 2.5 years old.

I'm linking this post up to The Preschool Corner and Montessori Monday.

~Thank you for your comments!~


Leesa said...

I just have to tell you that your blog is so very inspiring! I am just in awe at all of your items and have actually started to buy some of the items you suggest and also you've inspired me to make about 6 sensory tubs over the past few months. I just LOVE your blog!

Also, how old is James? (in months) I wanted to compare his age to my oldest son's age to see if they are close enough that I could use your current items for him. If that even makes sense. :-P Noah is 41 months.

kewkew said...

Oh my, you have so many cute Christmas objects to use with your activities.
I love all your ideas.
I am still searching for a suction cup "thingy" like you have. The girls have really enjoyed the dropper activity I introduced a couple of weeks ago, just transferring the water between two containers. But from working at the Montessori I knew I wanted to do the activity you have here.
The porcupine pom poms are perfect.
My girls love the pipe cleaner activity. I even have a mat for them to match it to the correct number and numeral.
Really, I could comment on every thing here. Everything is great and so inspiring. I need to come back here more ofte. Shhhh, don't tell my hubby I said

Deb Chitwood said...

Wow - so many WONDERFUL Christmas activities, Mari-Ann! I love your creative ideas, like tweezing mini bows. Your seasonal touches always add so much interest. And great choice for composer of the month - I have lots of wonderful Christmas memories of the Nutcracker from the dancer in my family! I just featured your post on the Living Montessori Now Facebook page at

Elle Belles Bows said...

All great works. We have been sorting erasers too, but you have a much better tray for it. Thanks for sharing all that you do. Kerri

Christine said...

These are fabulous! I've been trying to think of some more Christmas-y things for next week. Thanks for the ideas!

Natalie PlanetSmarty said...

Wow - you do prepare everything in advance. I am impressed with James work on a hundred chart - he is definitely a smart boy!

I Make Scleroderma Look Good said...

Mari-Ann, as always, your shelves are looking fabulous. I was wondering when you put each month together and if you have certain things that in one form or another are always out? Also, where do I start? And how would you suggest, without the space to have everything as available as I would like it to be... how can I offer work to my son if I don't have room for a classroom etc?

Sippy Cup Central said...

That looks great, thanks for sharing. Happy Holidays. Karen

tracey (aka rainbowmummy) said...

Sorry I've been so comment-less. Depression, problems at home etc. I'm still reading :)Love it all!


Counting Coconuts said...

Oh my goodness, you're all so sweet! Your emails and comments were such a treat to read through this morning. Thank you!

@Leesa: James was born in April 2007... I'm not sure how many months that makes him - I stopped counting by months when he turned two.:) It's my humble opinion that once children reach a certain age, it's no longer easy to assume what works for one child will work for another simply because they are close in age. Children's interests and skill sets become so varied as they evolve into their own person. My recommendation is for you to simply put out some work that you think your son would enjoy and just go from there. Trial and error is really your best bet.

@Grace@home: I plan each theme well in advance and I keep track of it all in an excel spreadsheet. Some themes will carry us two weeks, others for an entire month (as is the case for December). I remove the old work and prepare the new work all in the same day (usually a Sunday). I always start our themes on a Monday and I aim to have the work out on the shelves the night before so it's ready to go.

Yes, there are certain key materials - like the pink tower, the dressing frames, the knobbed cylinders - that are out all the time no matter the theme. If you're asking if there are certain skill sets I maintain through each theme, the answer is also yes. This changes over time, though, as James masters certain skills. If you take a peek at my Flickr sideshow (on my sidebar), you'll notice which skill sets have been repeated.

Where to start? As I mentioned to Leesa above, I'd suggest you simply put together a few trays and try out different things to see what interests your child. Read other blogs for ideas and just... start! I know it's all very overwhelming right now, but just dive in and get a feel for what's right for you and your child. After a while you'll figure out a rhythm and settle in.

You do not need a classroom to offer works to your child - a bookcase or table in a corner of a room is perfectly suitable! This means you'll need to rotate the work a bit more frequently, of course. Your child can do the work on a plain colored rug on the floor or at a table (preferably a child size one).

Hope that helps!

Karen said...

OMG!!!! Mari-Ann!!! Sooooooooo beautiful activities!!!! I LOVE THEM ALL!!!!!lol truly you're an inspiration!!!!!

Please receive a BIIIIIIGGG HUG!!! Thanks for share them!!!

Anonymous said...

I can't believe all the things you have going on at your house. I love everything you have going on.

W-S Wanderings said...

It is inspiring to see how adeptly you adapt the activities to reflect the seasons and festivals. I mean, you really know how to pack alot of wonderful lessons and skill development into a single activity, all the while keeping it fun. Brilliant!

Blessings and light...

Amy said...

Just had to come by to say how much my kids 2, 4, and 5 love, love, love decorating their playdough Christmas trees. So simple, but so fun!
Thanks for the time it takes to put this all together. I try to copy as best I can!!

I too have not been able to find the suction cup thing--what is it exactly? any recommendations of where to find?

Leptir (NataĊĦa) said...

Great activities. I always find inspiration here :-)

inspiredmontessori said...

Your ideas and works are endless amazing! Beyond Wow!
You are the leader in the admiration club!

Anonymous said...

Everything is so beautiful and so well presented! I am sure James is just bubbling over with Christmas excitement! I know Sammy is :-)

Jessie, The Education Of Ours said...

Mari-Ann, this is absolutely beautiful. What a lucky boy, what a full room of purposeful and attractive materials! AMAZING.

Becky said...

Wow, great activities and links. I just had a note of concern about the light bulbs...wasn't there a report that some of the Christmas lights had lead in it? I could be totally wrong with yours, but just in case...

Mara said...

When I grow up, I want to be organized like Mari-Ann! lol No seriously, you do a fab job!

tracey (aka rainbowmummy) said...

Hi Mari-Ann, I tried to do a comment like this on another blog a while ago and it didn't work but here goes. I wanted to leave a few links for those who asked about the suction pad thingies. Search on US Amazon for Tub Treads. (FEET CIRCLE BIG FROG SPORTS BALLS CINDERELLA). There's also these SPLATS. Just watch as some of the results that come up for tub treads are "bath tattoos" which I assume means stickers as appose to suction pads, all the ones I have linked are suction pads. On Amazon UK nothing will come up if you search doe tub treads so instead try mini bath mats (SEA THEME 1 SEA THEME 2). There are some on Montessori n Such (KIT 1 KIT 2 KIT 3 KIT 4 FROG AND DUCK) but most seem to only be available as part of a full kit. There might be more options on there but if I stay on that website for much longer my purse will start to shake with fear ;) Hope this helps. x

melissa said...

Everything is so very beautiful!! Thank you for sharing!

Anonymous said...

You have some amazing things planned for December! What fun.
I bought the materials to make my girls a button pillow but the whole project seems a bit overwhelming and intimidating to me so I haven't even gotten the items I purchased out of the bag yet! So sad.

Jen said...

You are amazing!!!!! Thank you for the ideas and links and everything you do!!! How do you come up with all of this stuff? There's such a variety! I love how you incorporate real life things, like the poinsettia plant. I've noticed there are less photos of James on your blog so I was happy to see his smiling face in this post. He is cuter than ever, if that's possible! :)

Joanna said...

I'm a new reader, and you have really inspired me! I absolutely love the button Christmas tree - what a fabulous idea. I also love that you post links and resources, that has helped me so much. Thanks for writing such a great blog! :-)

Confessions Of A Homeschooler said...

Love all the ideas, your blog is such an awesome resource, thanks so much for sharing!

I Make Scleroderma Look Good said...

Mari-Ann, thank you for both your thoughtful answers here, and your gracious comments on my own blog. I have really enjoyed following you, and feeling like I have someone to guide me through this journey.

We definitely use a child size table, oh yes. With my son's sensory issues, and simply because he's young, he has a hard time sitting at the kitchen table, so he does most things at his smaller table in the living room, including eating most of his meals. I've wanted to have better storage around the TV for a while now. There is room to have a "built-in" type of bookcase/cube storage combo, and I've been scoping things out. I think it will be a great spot to keep work out for him.

I recently found a number of sites that have an extensive album of Montessori works and activities, and I went through and compiled a list of what was age appropriate. I then separated them into skills he has already mastered, skills that are emerging, and skills he has yet to demonstrate. I compared them with his OT goals to find a mixture of the things that he should work on first. Most of the practical life works are helping him meet his goals. (I am excited to see how much he has improved at our next visit.) And I am offering things that give him the opportunity to practice these skills, as I am inspired by others, and as they fit into whatever theme I am trying to work within.

I was so happy to see your little tree on your shelves for December as I have one also and was inspired to offer it to him to decorate. I found tiny bows at Walmart last night, 10 for $1 and will put that out today with a pair of tweezers = ) So we are on our way!

I have already seen the benefits of having works that cause him to track his eyes from left to right to simulate the tracking necessary to read. We have been doing an Advent calendar every day and it took two weeks for him to realize the pattern of which window to open next, but now he's got it! And I think it has everything to do with tracking from left to right (which unfortunately is a delay for him.)

This comment ended up being longer than I meant it to be! But I truly wanted to take the time to thank you for all the work you put into your homeschooling and your blogging. And to give you tangible examples of how you are changing the world, one child at a time = )

Have a Merry Christmas!!!

The Hemleys Blog said...

Hi Mari-Ann,

So here goes my daily posts until Friday. Our boys are only a month apart and mine loves maths too. I've been reading a fascinating article on combining RightStart with Montessori and going to give it a try. It was from a montessori conference. If you'd like a copy, please let me know. But it's basically RightStart use visualisation of 5, so that kids easily understand that 8 is 5 and 3, etc. Really fascinating.

Sorry I can't send you the link, as it's lost!

Thanks so much for your hard work.
Tracey from Canberra, Australia

Deb Chitwood said...

I always enjoy returning to some of your previous posts, Mari-Ann! I featured the photo of your felt pouch of living and non-living cards at Have a wonderful week! :)

krasimira said...

Mari-Ann, you're once again full of ideas! My total admiration for how organized you are and how much you're able to accomplish with a baby and a 4 year old! Happy Holidays, and many thanks :)


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