Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Hands On Education

The late Barbara Curtis wrote this:

Think I'll explore this rock.
Look closely at children's activities and you will see a sense of purposefulness, working toward understanding and mastering their small worlds . . .
God gives the child this drive to explore and learn. You see it clearly in the toddler years: learning is what we are made for. It is our drive to learn that causes us to seek to know more about God and the world he created for us. Watch any preschooler learning to peel carrots, write his name, or count his pennies -- you will see a child completely engrossed, a child who isn't learning because he has to, but because he wants to, a child who loves to learn.

A friend and I were folding laundry this morning and saw this sense of purposefulness in action. How cute it was to watch her fourteen-month-old daughter squat next to a laundry basket, grab an item or two, and toss it all into another basket. Ainsley enjoys the four-year-old version of this -- standing on top of a laundry basket tossing clothes into the washing machine for me.

Young children like to transfer things, a fact I learned when I began my Montessori training. My friend and I talked a little about Montessori works I've seen and used in our Atrium -- spooning beans, pouring rice, pouring water, transfer works using tweezers and tongs.

As we were talking, I thought of a few of my favorite hands on learning tools:

1. Lacing Cards

 As you can see, Ainsley's mastered this skill.

2. Stringing Beads

Great for fine motor skills and patterning.

3. Japanese Water Painting

A huge hit for kids of all ages. Adults love it, too. Buy one and put it in a public area like a kitchen island or the break room in the office. Everyone will enjoy it. And no clean up required!

Children can use the wide brush that comes with the set or use a finger dipped in water. For help learning to write letters, children can trace their names in white rice poured on a colored tray. For the more adventurous mothers, there's shaving cream or flour spread on a cookie sheet. (Can't say I've tried either one of these.)

4. Spooning and Pouring

I can't fully explain it, but young children love to spoon dry beans or rice from one container to another. From spooning they advance to dry pouring, transferring, again, rice or beans from one container to another. Finally, there is wet pouring. 

Sophisticated transfer work courtesy of Ainsley.

You can find child-sized materials for these activities on any Montessori website. I'll say two things about Montessori materials: they are well made, and they are pricey. The tightwads among us peruse the Montessori websites and then head to Goodwill or Walmart to buy our supplies.

5. Perfection

Fine motor skills and the added fun of the whole board exploding when time runs out.

If you're looking for pre-writing skills or other tools to hone fine motor skills, Pinterest is an amazing resource. In fact, it has loads of enrichment activities for every age and grade-level. To help John, a first grader, learn to count by fives, I hopped over to Pinterest and searched for connect the dot sheets that were in increments of five. Score!

As John has struggled with fractions, I found activities that explain fractions using Hershey's bars and Legos. Needless to say, these are far more motivating than worksheets.

I love this stuff, love it all. Some people spend hours on Pinterest looking at gardens or clothes. I look at little girls' bedrooms and early education materials. (And hair braiding, but I never quite get around to actually doing that).

I'm adding this to Hallie's collection of Five Favorites. Head over to Moxie Wife to add yours.


Jen M said...

My daughter has a difficult time in math (2nd grade) and Pinterest has been very helpful for hands-on activity ideas!
I should make a new bean/rice bin for my youngest. I don't know why kids love that so much, but my oldest could sit for hours, it seemed, and pour them from cup to cup!

Kris said...

When my boys were little, I had a large, flat rectangular bin with a lid on it that I filled with rice. I kept some small construction trucks in there and some measuring cups. They would spend HOURS playing with that thing, and easy clean-up for me!