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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Rainbow Rice: Foundational Pouring

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Happy Friday everyone!  Looking to kick off your gorgeous spring weekend with a bang?!  Create this week’s engaging Montessori Box- Rainbow Rice: Foundational Pouring Skills.  Your Littles are guaranteed to love it, and you only need a handful of materials.  Don’t feel like dying rice today?  Scroll down to the Pouring Activity which can be done with plain, white rice.  Don’t let your Little miss out on this fantastic fine motor practice!

Rainbow Rice Supplies:

  • 1 cup white rice per color (uncooked)
  • 1/2 tsp. white vinegar per color
  • container with tight-fitting lid
  • assorted food coloring
  • baking sheet (or other flat surface, lined with wax paper/parchment paper/plastic wrap, where rice can dry)

Ingredients

Directions:

Get ready to have your mind blown over how EASY this is.

  1. Pour 1 c. uncooked rice into your container.
  2. Add 1/2 tsp. vinegar and several drops food coloring (the more you add, the more vibrant your colors will turn out).
  3. Tighten that lid
  4. SHAKE SHAKE SHAKE- until color is evenly distributed over the rice                      ****If your Little is 18mo or older, they can help you with this part.  They’ll love the noise the rice makes and love seeing the color spread!***
  5. Pour rice onto baking sheet or flat surface and spread into a thin layer to dry (several hours or overnight).  The vinegar smell will completely dissipate over time.
  6. Rinse out your container and repeat steps 1-5 until you have as many colors as you’d like!

Foundational Pouring Activity Supplies:

  1. Work Mat or Tub (a large, plastic tub will keep the rice contained for easy cleanup)
  2. Two Measuring Cups with Spouts
  3. Rainbow Rice (or regular rice, beans, or lentils all work great)

Foundational Pouring:

This activity is designed for Littles 18mo and up.  Of course, you can go as “Montessori” as you’d like or just let your Little explore and figure it out for themselves.  The traditional Montessori method dictates you wordlessly demonstrate each step, deliberately and with perfection, for your Littles.

When I first introduced pouring to Rosie, she was only 17 months.  I knew she’d never sit for a presentation, so I didn’t try.  I just laid out the materials as described below during her nap, so it was all ready in her playroom when she woke up.

She figured it out all on her own, though without the “beauty” and precison Maria Montessori would have liked.  When she was a few months older, I did a formal pouring presentation.  We are definitely in the “sensitive period” for pouring now!

Rainbow Rice Setup

Formal Presentation:

Arrange the two measuring cups on the Mat (or in the Tub).  Fill the one on your Little’s right with rice.  Leave the other empty.  Invite your little to watch a new presentation.  Tell them this activity is called “Pouring Rainbow Rice.”  First they will watch while you have a turn, and next they get to try.  Then, no more talking.  Remember- we don’t want Little to be listening to your words, we want them watching your actions.

Deliberately and s l o w l y pick up the cup filled with rice.  Center the spout over the middle of the empty cup.  S l o w l y pour the rice until the cup is empty.  Gently and silently place the cup back onto the mat (or tub).  Pick up the newly filled cup and repeat.  Invite your Little to give it a try.

Remember to only observe.  The whole theory behind Montessori is that you are not a teacher you’re a director.  Don’t jump in and yell CUT if you can tell your Little has the cups lined up wrong and is bound to pour rice all over the mat.  Just let it happen.  They will learn way more by seeing the result of their mistake.  This is so hard, but just step back.

Make mental notes of what movements could be corrected.  Perhaps Little isn’t centering the spout.  Perhaps Little is pouring too fast.  Next time you or your Little want to do rice pouring, you can lead another presentation emphasizing the areas they’re struggling with.  Remember to stay silent while you present so they can really watch.

After your Little is finished tell them you will now show them how to put their “tools” away.  (Remember, Montessori activities aren’t toys- they’re tools.)  I love a 3-compartment box for this activity.  I pour all the rice into a little plastic tub in one of the compartments and place the measuring cups in the other two.  Then, carry the box with two hands to the shelf or area where it will live.  From here on out, encourage (*cough* demand *cough*) Little to clean this activity up and put it away each time they’re finished.  Depending upon their age, of course, your Little might need help cleaning up.

Leave comments on how this activity worked for you, and which skills or activities you’d love to see more of!  Also, remember to follow us on facebook, twitter @MontessoriBox and  check out the videos of this activity on YouTube.