Monday, January 3, 2011

On Our Shelves - January

The theme for this month is outer space and most of these activities are space related. As I mentioned, our whole family loves all things celestial so for us this was an especially fun theme to put together!

Practical Life
Pouring Star-shaped Pasta. This is a bit more challenging than pouring from one container to another because in this case James will need to equally fill four very narrow cups and stop when each is just about full. All of these pouring activities have truly paid off - James can very easily pour his own milk or juice (from a child-size pitcher). Hooray for independence!

Spooning Marbles. The marbles are meant to resemble little planets. :) I should note that my usually anti-spooning boy LOVED spooning with a melon baller during last month's work and I'm hoping he'll enjoy using this little mustard spoon, which the marbles fit into perfectly.

Lacing the Earth. I found this image on Google, laminated it and then punched in holes about 1" apart.

Dressing Basket. This will remain out in our classroom for a long while, I'm sure. James is absolutely loving it!

Sweeping Stars. This is a common Montessori activity. To do this work James will first remove all the items from the tray, then pour the stars (crystals) onto the tray. Next he'll use the crumb brush to sweep the stars into the designated area (the rectangle) and then sweep them onto the little dust pan. From there he'll dump the stars into the leaf shaped dish and then pour them all back into the little pitcher. I used some fun scrapbooking tape to create the rectangle.

Sifting Planets. This is similar to an activity I put out at Halloween (sifting spiders) only in this case the blue rice is meant to represent the darkness of space and the glass beads are the planets. :)


Geometric Solids.

Baric Tablets. I bought these a looong time ago and I'm afraid I'd forgotten all about them until recently. To learn more about Baric Tablets, read here.

Still on our shelves: The Knobbed and Knobless Cylinders, Sound Boxes and the beloved Pink Tower. :)

Books: My Place in Space by Joan Sweeney; There's No Place Like Space by Dr. Seuss; and On The Moon by Anna Milbourne.

Memory/Matching Games. These are three separate games focusing on planets, parts of the Earth, and constellations.

Tracing Constellations. I found these on KidsSoup.

Space Flashcards. These cards have really beautiful photos and are full of significant, yet easy to follow facts on the reverse sides.

Space Magnet Pages. I don't actually use magnets with these, I use flat marbles instead. These came from Making Learning Fun.

Blue Series Work. We're just about finished with the Blue Series. Soon I'll be introducing the Moveable Alphabet (yay! I'm so excited!).

Poetry Basket. That's supposed to be the sun... my lame attempt at needle felting a landscape!

I also printed a little book about space from Since James is still reading everything he can, I think he'll enjoy being able to read this entire booklet by himself.

Still on our shelves: Sandpaper Letters.

Cards & Counters. I made these cards and used stone pebbles ("moon rocks") as the counters.

Skip Counting. We're moving into the world of skip counting! This counting mat came from here. I made that little blue envelope as well as the ones in a few of the other photos. They're really easy to make and perfect for small cards that would normally slide around on a tray. I made my own version after watching this video.

Build A Rocket. I found this idea on Making Learning Fun, but I modified and recreated it with card stock and added a 6th shape to account for the 6 on the die.

Star Counting. For this work I cut squares of black construction paper and numbered the lower right hand corners (0-10) with a white crayon. James will use the star stickers to match the correct number of stars to the numeral. There are only enough stars (55) to match the squares exactly, so if, in the end, he has too few or too many, he'll know he needs to re-check his work.

Still on our shelves: The Hundreds Board, the Red & Blue Rods, and the Sandpaper Numerals

Science & Culture
Three Part Space Cards. A reader recently asked me how James uses the three part cards. My reply (in case anyone else is wondering) was that at first I only used the labeled cards from these sets, but now that James can read he's able to match the loose labels.

Pin Punching. I have been wanting to put out a pin punching activity for a while now because I think James is going to love it. I found these jumbo pins at the dollar store and printed out the constellation cards from here. The added bonus to this activity is that once James has them all punched we'll go into a dark room, shine a flashlight behind them and project the images onto a wall!

Phases of the Moon Cards. We use these regularly on our classroom calendar, but I'm putting them all on the shelf along with the control chart.

Life Cycle of a Star. I made these myself! This is very similar to the phases of the moon work in that James will need to order the cycle according to the control chart. As with all of these activities, I keep it light and fun - I am well aware of the fact that James is only THREE and so there's no need to delve into the cosmological significance of black holes or anything. ;D The important thing to me is the fact that he LOVES doing this kind of stuff!

Space Mat. These little things are the UK version of Shrinky Dinks (they sell A LOT of UK brands here). Basically they are drawings cast on to plastic sheets which you then color and heat in the oven. They shrink down and become very sturdy. The solar system mat came with the kit.

I saw this really cute idea - Make Your Own Universe - on The Work Plan. IF we have time we'll make one, but as you can see we have a lot to do already!

Still on our shelves: Parts of our North America Continent Bag and our Continent Puzzle.

Art & Music
Compose of the Month: Mozart. I always print out a portrait of our composer and upload the corresponding music onto my iPod, which then plays during schooltime. We're really enjoying our Composer of the Month routine! Throughout December whenever James heard either Swan Lake or The Nutcracker Suite, he'd shout out, "Chikovsky!!". As you can see, I have yet to print out my new Instrument Cards.

Space Songs. I hunted around online and collected a bunch of fun and simple songs about space, which we'll sing at circle time.

Stamping Stars. This is a self-inking star-shaped stamper and a little booklet of scrap paper stapled together. Simple, but fun!

Various Coloring Pages.

Painting Planets. I saw this idea on My Montessori Journey. We'll use watercolors to create some unique planets and then string them together and hang them in the classroom.

We'll be revisiting the solar system artwork we created last year and, if James is interested, we'll create a new one.

Be sure to check out the wonderful Montessori blog, Leptir, for LOTS of space related lessons.

NASA has a great kid's section that's lots of fun, too.

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

~Thank you for your comments!~


Sippy Cup Central said...

Wow, love all your space ideas. I would love it if you would share your star PDF. Your needle felting looks lovely. Karen
Sippy Cup Central

Di Ryan said...

You are completely inspiring! Thank you!Your post is just what indeed to get a move on with myself and my schooling for 2011. Thank you for blessing my Monday!

Unknown said...

Wonderful activities! I especially love the poetry basket. I would just love a copy of the Lifecycle of the Star work. Thank you for visiting my blog and the link up. Thank you so much for sharing.

Anonymous said...

I love everything you do! How do you come up with your monthly theme ideas?

Karen said...

Wow!!!!!! You're a STAR!!!! This works are BEAUTIFUL!!! Love the space theme!!! and the beautiful trays and utencils!! Beautiful my friend..... and the sensory tub it's AWESOME!!!!

Ashlea said...

Hi Mari-Ann. I love all your space ideas for this month, especially the star playdough and the rocket ship building game. I was wondering if you've found any kids songs about planets that don't have pluto as a planet? The only songs I can find are still using pluto in them. Thanks!

Leptir (Nataša) said...

Thanks for link to my blog! You are so kind :-)

Anonymous said...

I have no idea how you can come up with so many ideas, let alone put all these activities together, but it all looks great and inspiring!

Counting Coconuts said...

Thanks so much for your sweet comments!

I'll post the Life Cycle of a Star PDF in a post later this week.

@Terri: re my monthly themes, I usually align them with whichever season or holiday occurs that month or quarter. Sometimes I just know of a unit I want to cover (like this month's space unit) and so I simply pick a time to do it.

@Ashlea: I'm afraid I'm a bit old school when it comes to Pluto. :) It'll always be more than a dwarf planet to me! I didn't bother to look for songs that excluded it because I plan on explaining the new distinction to him at some point.

Leigh said...

I am in complete and total awe. Seriously.

The girl who painted trees said...

I love how you incorporated the theme into all the "subjects". When we did space, ( I didn't go to that extent, but it's so fun! You've inspired me to try harder with my other units.

Susan said...

Oh girl you hang the moon this month. LOL! Such terrific activities. Hope you are enjoying your new 'space' (home). Hugs!

twolittleseeds said...

I will do this next as I started reading about space recently with my son!
Thank you so much! xxx

Counting Coconuts said...

Thanks for sharing your link, Julie. I really think it’s important to spread the theme across the board. I consider it twice the learning fun - if you're going to teach math, why not slip a little science into it, too? :)

Rebecca said...

HOW FUN!!! Your going to have one smart little astronaut on your hands!

Förskoleburken said...

Oh, I want All of the activities!!! I especially like the sifting, build a rocket, and the geo-shapes. Truly wonderful!

The Activity Mom said...

Wow! That is an awesome variety of learning materials. =)

Plants seeds of knowledge...for our future! said...

I don't know if you can use any of the activities from this link. However it is a whole astronaut unit and is free!

There are somethings that I think you could adapt to the Montessori method.

Jessie, The Education Of Ours said...

This is amazing to see everything laid out this way. I end up rotating things by week, but I never photograph them. Are you finding it easier to put new work out monthly? I may consider that here.

I'm so very impressed :)

Corrie said...

Here is a link to another blog that was also exploring outer space. It isn't Montessori, so you may not be able to use it, but just in case...

Kylie said...

Fabulous Unit. These posts will be so helpful to me over the next year or so as my little one comes into his 3rd year.

May I ask, do you allow your ds free reign in the classroom (as in a regular class) to pick and choose or do you help to direct to him towards certain works, especially if it is coming to the end of your theme and some of the trays have been untouched? Just curious how your days run really.

Counting Coconuts said...

Thank you again for stopping by and for leaving such kind words.

@The Education of Ours: I find preparing the work for the entire month is definitely easier than doing it every week. Only takes a bit longer to do it. I should note that I, too, rotate weekly. I do not put ALL of these works out at once - I do not have the space for it, and more importantly, it would be far too overwhelming for just one child. I prepare the trays, set out some for each area, and then store the other prepared trays in my closet. Before the beginning of the next school week, I simply pull some work off the shelf (assuming it's been worked with) and replace it with something new. I believe repetition is important, so I often return an "old" tray to our shelves later in the rotation. I am careful to make just enough trays so that each activity gets a good amount of time on our shelves.

@Kylie: I do both, but your latter solution only rarely and only if absolutely necessary. I like to avoid interfering, but, as you accurately mentioned, there are occasionally some works that do not get touched and in other cases there are skill sets I need to make sure James understands, whether he opts to do them on not on his own. In those cases I just gently suggest he do this or that work. A little nudge is all it takes.
I do my best to make the trays look interesting and inviting and so, in truth, it's rarity James doesn't chose to work with everything at least once.

Sorry for the long explanations, but I hope that helps!

Ewa said...

Hi, I love your blog and I think you really deserve an award which is waiting for you at my blog! I am so happy I found you! Ewa

Evenspor said...

I was thinking of doing a space or sky theme next month, and you have given me lots of great ideas. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

How wonderful! Could you please tell me where you found your dot to dot constellation pages? I was looking for something just like that - to use with the lite bright! I thought that would be very fun and a great way to memorize the constellations! I came up with lots of ideas of how to make them, but they didn't quite work out. Dot to dots seem like a great way to make that happen. Maybe James would like to do that too? Thanks! : )

Counting Coconuts said...

Hi Karen, the dot to dot page came from Making Learning Fun. I'll go back and link to it now - thanks for bringing it up!

A Lite Brite would definitely be a fun learning tool! They don't sell them here, unfortunately. If you find a way to make constellations with them, let me know - I'd love to see what you come up with!

Anonymous said...

I got one at a consignment shop for $6. I'll keep my eyes open for another one if you like. Maybe we could swap for some interesting shells or something? : )

Kylie said...

Thanks Mari-Ann for replying so quickly. :-)

Deb Chitwood said...

Wow! What an amazing unit, Mari-Ann! You always have such creative (and attractive) ways to present activities - and variations of activities. Something like pin punching is so popular in Montessori schools, and your variation of it is truly wonderful! I featured this post and your space lessons post at the Living Montessori Now Facebook page at

Umm Umamah said...

Hi Mari-Ann.......WOW!! beyond that I am speachless. I simply LOVE sifting the planets idea. Only yesterday I set aside a sifting spoon for my lil one. Now I know what to do!! THANKS!!! You seem to have the perfect trays to make activities and so cute too.

Anonymous said...

Wow!! Too many good ideas! =)

Anonymous said...

I am way behind on blog reading.. but I am glad I saw this post!! I love all of these ideas! Sammy isn't very into space just yet.. but I think we will have to do that theme at some point. My Dad has an amazing telescope so we will have to try and incorporate that in as well :-)

Deb Chitwood said...

Now I've featured your post at!

Donaji said...

hi mari-ann.. i loveee your ideas... did you post the pdf of the star cycle? also where did you get the memory game for the constelations? thanks so very much

Caterina said...

I was wondering if it would be possible if you can post the links or the songs you use for each of your themes. If it is not too much trouble.

Anonymous said...

Yesterday, I made play dough for my kids with the idea of space and remembered your post. Though I didn't have the right food colouring, so it's not dark blue like yours, but it's still very blue and I added the glitter like you did and the kids LOVE it! I also used marbles and such for accessories to play with it and it was a huge hit. I wrote a post about it and linked back to you :)

Caterina said...

Congratulations on the news that you are expecting. Hope you are doing well. My sister is also expecting. I'll be sure to pass along this blog.
Keep coming back for more ideas. Thanks for getting back to me about the songs. I truly appreciate it. I was wondering about your Poems and where you get them from. In particular the Space Themed one.
Thanks so much,
P.S. Our boys will be 4 soon (4/3) Goes so fast!

Deb Chitwood said...

I featured your post again! This time, I featured your post and constellation pin punching photo at


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