Passover Matzah Puzzle

Passover is coming!  Passover is coming!  Whether or not your family celebrates Passover, 2-piece jigsaw puzzles are a fantastic Montessori inspired activity to introduce to your Little!  This is especially true if they’ve already mastered the simple shapes, knobbed puzzles typically introduced first.

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During the festive Passover meal (called the “seder“), three matzos are used.  The inspiration for this Montessori Box comes from the moment in the seder when the middle of the three matzos is broken.  The larger part become the “afikoman” and is hidden.

This is almost every small child’s favorite part of the seder as it becomes their job to find the afikoman!  Once they find it, they can ransom it to the adults for a prize.  The afikoman is the very last thing eaten at the seder and marks its official conclusion.  The seder cannot end without the all important afikoman!  Therefore, I felt it  especially appropriate, to create:

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2-Piece Passover Matzah Puzzles:

And the best part?  They’re kosher for Passover and year round!

Supplies:

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  • 1 piece tan-colored craft foam
  • 4 colors of sharpie or felt-tipped marker
  • Scissors
  • Matzah Puzzle Templates
  • Ruler/tape measure/measuring tape
  • Straight edge (optional)
  • Tape

Directions:

The typical craft foam I’ve come across is a 12″ x 17 3/4″ rectangle.  We want to make it into a perfect square.  To do this, measure 12 inches along the longest side (the 17 3/4″ in side) and draw a line straight up, parallel to the 12″ side (perpendicular to your measuring tape).  Cut along this line.  Hooray- you have a square!

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Using one color of sharpie or felt-tipped marker, draw a “matzah” design across ONE side of your foam.

Next, print out your matzah puzzle templates.  Cut them into 4 squares, but don’t cut the middle, “puzzle,” line.

Tape these templates onto your large matzah square.  Use them as the outline to cut the 4 smaller squares.

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Using 4 different colors of sharpie or felt-tip pen, draw a different colored matzah design on the back of each of your 4 squares.  This will serve as the “self correcting” aspect of this Montessori Box- an important principle of the Montessori Method.

Last, cut along the middle puzzle line to finish.

BOOM!  You’re done!

Presentation:

Feel free to share any tidbits about Passover or Matzah that you  want to share with your Little before the presentation.  This could serve as a great addition to your culture curriculum!  If you’re interested in learning more about Passover, Aish: Passover Collection has some fantastic resources for your entire family!

Call it kitschy, and maybe not strictly “Montessori,” but I really love presenting this activity in an empty matzah box on a tray.  If you want to be more traditional, you can present the matzah puzzles in a basket or open top box on a tray.

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Invite your Little to sit in front of you, and tell them this activity is called “Matzah Puzzles.”   Lay out the puzzle pieces, in no particular order on your workmat.  Decide beforehand if you will be presenting the puzzles to your Little with the matching color side up or down.  It will be more challenging if the matching colors aren’t showing.

Select a piece and place it in front of you.  Then, select the first piece from the workmat.  Lay it alongside the initial piece you chose to see if it’s a match.  If so, push them together and tell your little “They fit!”  If not, continue selecting pieces, in order (right to left, up then down) until a match is found.

Repeat, this time allowing your Little to chose which piece to set in front of you.  Continue until all the matzah puzzles are assembled.

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Take them apart, mix them up, and lay them along the workmat again.  Allow your Little a chance to complete the puzzles themselves.

When they’re finished, show them how and where to put this Montessori Box away.

All done!

Hopefully this activity will keep your little busy while you get some much needed Passover cleaning done…

Chag kasher v’sameach!

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Plastic Easter Eggs 3 Ways- 2nd Installment

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This is the second installment in our series “Plastic Easter Eggs 3 Ways.”  Easter was this past Sunday, so you’re probably just cleaning up and putting away your Easter decorations and that probably includes quite a few of these!

This sensorial activity focuses on auditory memory and discrimination.  It is officially called “Sound Boxes” in traditional Montessori theory, however for our purposes we’ll call it:

Sound Eggs

Listening comprehension and auditory memory are both critical skills in  early literacy development.  This is a fantastic and fun way to begin honing these skills with your Little, and you can probably create it entirely out of what’s in your home right now!

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Sound Egg Supplies:

  • 12 plastic Easter eggs-standard size (preferably 6 in one color and 6 in another color)
  • Glue gun or super glue
  • Tape (any type will work)
  • Uncooked rice
  • Dried beans
  • Dried barley
  • Dried lentils or peas
  • Course sand and fine sand OR
  • Course sand and flour

Directions:

This activity  is designed for Littles 36 months and up, however, scroll down to the bottom of the presentation for some modifications if you’d like to present it to a younger Little.

Before you begin, check your Easter eggs.  Many plastic eggs have holes poked into them.  Use your tape, on the inside of the eggs,  to tape up the holes.  I use about a 1 inch piece to cover both holes in the bottom of each egg.

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I chose to use yellow and blue eggs, but this activity typically uses cylinders with red and blue tops.  Go as “traditional” as you’d like.   I’ll be referring to “yellow” and “blue” eggs from here on out.

Add 2 teaspoons of rice to a yellow egg.  Close the egg and use your hot glue gun to run a thin bead of glue along the outside seam, sealing the egg closed.  For super glue, keep the egg open and run a thin bead along the inside of the egg.  Close to seal.  Repeat these steps with a blue egg.

Next, add 30 beans to a yellow egg and seal as above.  Repeat with a blue egg.

Continue in this fashion adding 2 teaspoons each of barley, sand, and/or flour and 60 peas to 1 yellow and 1 blue egg.

Sound Eggs Formal Presentation:

Supplies:

  • 12 sound eggs
  • Egg carton
  • Workmat

Traditionally, this activity is stored in two boxes.  Since these are eggs, I think it’s more fun to store them in an egg carton!

Arrange the yellow eggs so that the loudest one (the beans) and the softest one (the flour/fine sand)  are in a place you remember within the carton.

Call your Little over, have them sit next to you, and tell them this activity is called “Sound Eggs.”  Then, no more talking during the presentation.

Carefully and gracefully pick up the loudest yellow egg and place it on the workmat in front of you.  Show your Little the proper way to hold the sound egg- with index finger and thumb on top and bottom of egg.  Holding it a few inches away from your ear, give the egg 2 sharp, downward shakes.  Then hold the egg near your other ear, and repeat the 2 shakes.  Place the egg back down on the mat.

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Invite your Little to shake the loudest egg in the exact same manner as you just demonstrated.

Place this loud yellow egg on the left side of the workmat.

Carefully and gracefully pick up the softest yellow egg and place it on the workmat in front of you again.  Repeat the shaking routine described above and have your Little do the same.

Repeat with each of the other yellow eggs, creating a cluster, in no particular order, on the left side of the mat.

Show your Little the blue eggs remaining in the carton.  Tell them, “These sound the same as the yellow eggs.”  Arrange them in a cluster on the right side of the workmat.

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Choose any yellow egg and put it in front of yourself.  Then take any blue egg and set it to the right of the yellow egg.  Shake the yellow egg as described above followed by the blue egg.  If they sound dissimilar in pitch or sound, place the blue egg back in the carton.  Repeat until a blue matching egg is found.  Say, “These sound the same.”

Line up the matched pair inside the carton.  Remove the unmatched blue egg(s) from the carton and place them back in the group on the right side of the workmat.

Allow your Little to choose a yellow egg.  You continue to demonstrate the process until all eggs have a match.  After a match is found, have your Little shake and  listen  to them one at a time and place the set inside the egg carton, creating two columns.

Sound Eggs Finishing

When every egg has been  matched, shake each pair in turn, one egg at a time, starting with the eggs furthest from you.  Then, invite your Little to do the same.

Mix up the eggs, and allow your Little a chance to complete this activity independently.

Remember to show your Little how to clean up this activity as well as where it is stored.  Independence and care of the environment is just as important a part of this activity as the egg matching itself!

Modified Presentation for Younger Littles:

My LO is only 24 months.  Obviously, this activity would be way too challenging for her.  Instead, I chose to present only three sets of eggs which showed a great variance in sound and pitch. I presented flour, beans, and rice.  You could also choose to present a smaller number of eggs but with sounds which are more similar. Select the level of modification which is right for your Little!

As always, thanks for visiting!  How did this activity go for you?  What do you think  will be your Little’s favorite part?  My little loves placing the eggs into the carton and closing the lid after every match!  Can’t wait to hear how this went for you and your family!

 

 

 

Montessori Inspired Salad Bar

A big part of the Montessori philosophy is creating a “prepared environment”- a setting which fosters a maximum amount of independence for your child.  A perfect example of this principal is allowing your child to (help) make their own meals and snacks.  A fantastic place to start is with our Montessori inspired salad bar!

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Ingredients & Supplies:

  • Soft veggies for slicing (like tomato and avocado)
  • Leafy green mix
  • Protein of your choice (we used pesto grilled chicken)
  • Dressing of your choice
  • Plate
  • Egg Slicer
  • Measuring cup/scoop

Presentation:

Creating your prepared environment will be determined, in large part, by the age and independence level of your Little, as well as your personal comfort with your Little using certain kitchen tools.

Personally, I do not allow our 2 yo to use sharp knives.  Therefore, I sliced the tomato and avocado into pieces that would fit into the egg slicer.  Your objective is to find the point where you maximize your Little’s independence and minimize your involvement.

In our home, this means I slice the avocado in half, but my Little removes the peel.  She rinses the tomato and removes the stem, but I cut it in half.  She can pour the leafy green mix into the bowl, since it is  hard for her to scoop out of the bag, but I measured a few teaspoons of dressing into a bowl because I wanted to limit the amount of dressing she could use.  Use your own good judgement.

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One kitchen tool we purchased from Montessori Services that we use over and over again  is the white egg slicer.  From slicing strawberries to avocados (and also hard boiled eggs), my Little has a use for this tool on a daily basis.  She loves using it, and it is safe enough for her to prepare her own snack  with  minimal interference from me!  I feel like this is a fantastic (super affordable) investment for anyone who wants to bring Montessori into their kitchen.

I  laid out the soft vegetables first along with the egg slicer.  If this is your child’s first encounter with this tool, demonstrate it’s proper use and show your Little the wires.  Explain that they must keep their hands out from under the wires and only push down on the slicer with both hands (insuring they won’t have any fingers underneath).  The wires themselves are not sharp, but it would be painful to get a finger caught.

Next, I placed the leafy green mix with a 1 cup measure.  I instructed my Little to take 1 careful scoop.  After that was the small bowl of dressing, which was able to pour over the salad (thank you Foundational Pouring activities!) quite accurately.  Last, I had the plate of cooked chicken, which I’d already cubed.

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The most challenging part of this activity for my little was scooping the  lettuce.  This lets me know we need to add more scooping exercises to our Montessori shelf!  Which part do you anticipate, or did you  find  out, is the most difficult for your Little?  Let me know in the comments!

Check out photos of other Montessori inspired activities on our Instagram, follow us on Facebook & Twitter, and check us out on Pinterest!  Thanks for visiting, and please leave me your comments!

 

 

Plastic Easter Eggs 3 Ways

This is the first installment in our series “Plastic Easter Eggs 3 Ways.”  Easter is this Sunday, March 27, and chances are you have plenty of these guys hanging around your house!

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If you’re anything like me, you’re constantly fighting a battle against sugary treats and your Littles.  If you want to host a fantastic Easter egg hunt that doesn’t require 10 pounds of pastel colored candies, our first way  to use those plastic Easter eggs is for you!

And, even if you want to stick with your traditional Easter egg hunt (candy included), this activity is a fantastic way to use those eggs after the hunt is through rather than letting them gather dust in your closet for a year.  Instead of stuffing eggs with sweets, why not fill them with beautiful spring bird figurines?!!  Without further ado:

Nomenclature Cards with a Twist

Montessori nomenclature cards are a fantastic way to increase your Little’s vocabulary and feed their natural curiosity.  My Little is constantly asking “what’s dat?” and I bet yours is too! You can use nomenclature cards in any subject area and with practically any set of objects.  See:

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Typically nomenclature activities are presented using 3-part cards.  However, in order to make this activity toddler friendly, in our house, we only use the control cards (the ones with the label attached) and will focus on matching a physical object to the picture.

In keeping with the spring theme of Easter, we will be making Backyard Bird Nomenclature cards!!!  Your Little will be learning and identifying 7 common birds you probably  have flapping around your neighborhood right now!

Backyard Bird Nomenclature Cards Supplies:

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Directions:

I created two sets of nomenclature cards within the same document (link above).  One set is just the control cards for younger Littles (18mo-3 years) and the other set is the typical 3-part cards for older Littles (3 years and up).  Print which ever set you  plan on using, and cut them apart.  If you’re using the 3-part cards, make sure to leave the control card in tact, but cut the label off the other card.  Put one bird figurine in each egg and snap shut.

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I like to store the birds inside the eggs in a bucket and the nomenclature cards in a small wooden box.  I purchased both at Hobby Lobby.

Backyard Bird Nomenclature Card Formal Presentation:

Invite your Little to see a new activity.  Bring a workmat and the tray containing the birds in their eggs and the cards to the floor or a table.  Tell them this activity is called “Backyard Bird Nomenclature Cards.”  Remind them that you will have a turn first while they watch, and then they will get a chance.

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Presentation for 18mo-3 years:  Remove the cards, one by one, from the box and place them on the workmat in rows.  Then, remove one egg from the bucket and open it.  Using a pincer grasp, remove the bird from the egg.  Compare the bird to the first picture.  If it does not match, move on to the next picture.  Continue until you have found the matching picture.  Place the bird on top of the matching picture.  Open the next egg and repeat until your Little grasps the concept, then allow them to complete the activity.

Once they have finished, remember to show them where this activity is kept.  Foster independence by having your Little clean up and put the materials away properly.

Presentation for 3 years+:  Remove the control cards (the ones with the labels attached) and place them in vertical rows on the workmat.  Take the first picture card (without the label) from the box and compare it to the first card.  If it does not match, move on to the next picture until you have found it’s partner.  Set the card down to the right of the control card.  Continue in this way until all of the picture cards have matches.

Next, open an egg and remove the first bird.  Find it’s match using the same protocol described above.  Continue until all the birds have been matched.  Last, take the top label card and find it’s match in the same way, laying it beneath the correct picture card.

I can’t wait to hear how this activity went for you and your Littles.  Please let me know in the comments along with any other fun Easter egg activities your family does!  Remember to follow us on Twitter to get updates about our blog.  Check out our gorgeous photos of other Montessori inspired materials on Instagram.  Like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel- we put up videos every week.

 

 

 

My Family Hamentashen Recipe

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As a bonus addition to my Montessori inspired Hamentashen Triangle Exploration activity, here is my  family’s tried and true classic Hamentashen recipe!

Ingredients

1/2 c. shortening

1/2 c. butter or margarine

1 1/4 c. sugar

3 eggs

1/4 c. orange juice, milk, or almond milk

1 1/2 tsp. vanilla

4 c. flour

1/2 tsp. salt

2 1/2 tsp baking powder

Filling of your choice (jam, Nutella, etc.)

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Directions:

Preheat oven to 350.

Stir flour, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl and set aside.

In a stand mixer or with a hand beater, cream the shortening, butter, and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs and beat until combined .  Add milk and vanilla and continue beating until incorporated.

Fold in flour mixture until just combined. Shape dough into a ball.  Cover and let rest 10 minutes.  Divide ball and roll into 3 disks.

Using a biscuit cutter or the top of a glass, cut dough into rounds.  Place rounds on a lined cookie sheet and fill with 1 teaspoon of filling.  Do not over fill!

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Shape into triangles by folding up and pinching the circle into 3 corners.

Bake 15-18 minutes until golden brown.  Enjoy!

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Can’t wait to hear how your Hamentashen turned out in comments!

Triangle Exploration- Making Hamentashen

Hamentashen Triangles Banner

March 24 is swiftly approaching, and with it comes the happiest day on the Jewish calendar: Purim (pronounced POUR-im)!  If you’re looking for a way to expand your Montessori Culture activities, look no further.  Montessoribox has a terrific way to introduce your toddler or preschooler to this fun, engaging holiday AND learn about different types of triangles all at the same time!

The Purim story is a favorite of children everywhere, and it’s easy to tell why- it includes a king, a beautiful palace, an evil villain, and a brave queen who saves her people from destruction!  Jewish people everywhere read the Megillah (the Book of Esther from the Bible), shake groggers (noisemakers) to “boo” the bad guy, deliver baskets filled with goodies to friends and family (often containing hamentashen), and give charity to help the needy on this holiday.  If you’re interested in learning more, Aish.com has articles, videos, and plenty of family-friendly resources about Purim.

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The quintessential Purim treat is a delicious triangle shaped cookie filled with jam called hamentashen (HAW-men-tosh-in).  Using craft foam, you and your Littles can have a hamentashen bakery right on your very own Montessori shelf!

Hamentashen Triangles Supplies:

  • 1 sheet beige craft foam
  • 1 sheet colored craft foam (for “filling”)
  • Triangle Template (PDF)
  • scissors
  • pen or pencil (for tracing)

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Directions:

  1. Print the Triangle Template (this template contains a large and small version of an equilateral, scalene, and right-angle triangle).
  2. Cut out the triangles from the template.
  3. Lay the large triangles templates on the beige craft foam and trace.
  4. Cut out the large triangles.
  5. Lay the small triangle templates on the colored craft foam and trace.
  6. Cut out the small triangles.

Triangle Exploration Supplies:

  • Work mat
  • Large “cookie” triangles
  • Small “filing” triangles
  • Tray (optional)
  • Bowl (optional)

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Triangle Exploration Formal Presentation:

This activity is designed for Littles 22mo and up.  Since my Little has just turned 2, we were simply working on the basic shape “triangle.”  However, if your LO is older, you might wish to introduce some of the triangle vocabulary (equilateral, scalene, right-angle) as a foundation for future work with the Montessori geometric cabinet.

Now the point of this Montessori box is to “make hamentashen”- that is pair up the matching triangles- the small equilateral triangle centered on top of the large equilateral triangle, etc.

I like to put the “cookie” triangles on a tray and the “filling” triangles in a bowl for the presentation.

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Remove the cookie colored triangles from the tray and lay them out in a line on the mat in front of the child. Then, remove the filling triangles from the bowl and law them out in a line above the triangles, matching.

Tell your child this activity is called “Hamentashen Triangles.” If your child is unfamiliar with hamentashen, tell them any pertinent details you want to share now.

Using two fingers, outline the shape of the first cookie triangle on the mat. Then outline the corresponding filling triangle. Say “Let’s see if they match”- and lay the filling triangle centered in the middle of the cookie. Say “They match.” Repeat with the other triangles.

Take the filling triangles off the cookies and mix them up, laying them back out in a line. Repeat with one example, outlining a cookie triangle and then outlining it’s corresponding filling, repeating “let’s see if they match.” Allow the child to complete the rest of the triangles.

Even though this is not specifically a fine motor activity, your movements should still reflect elegance and beauty. Try to perfectly center each triangle in its cookie as well as outline each triangle smoothly.

If you are presenting this activity to an older child, you may want to tell them the name of each triangle as you first present it. Your initial presentation will look like this:

hamentashen labeled triangles

The setup remains the same. As you outline the triangle say “This is an equilateral triangle” Then outline the corresponding filling triangle. Say “Let’s see if they match”- and lay the filling triangle centered in the middle of the cookie. Say “They match. They are both scalene triangles.” Repeat with the other triangles.

As a bonus- if you’re interested in baking up some real, edible hamentashen, I have posted our family recipe here.

Let me know how this activity went for you and your Little in the comments!  Check out gorgeous pictures of other Montessori inspired activities on our instagram, follow us on Twitter @montessoribox, and like us on Facebook!  Also, feel free to leave comments about other activities you’d love to see in the future.  Thanks for visiting!