the new “activity shelf”

We found a lovely Montessori preschool for Br to attend the days I am working outside of the house, and my husband is trading building classroom furniture for schooling.  My husband built a “prototype” shelf (& small table) out of scrap wood, so I absconded it last night to set up some of the activities for the kids.  (“Yay, hobby woodworker husband!”)

new activity shelf
The new activity shelf

Br hadn’t really noticed it until Bl came out and pulled one of the activity trays off.  Bl had grabbed the 1-to-1 correspondence tray. I’d set it up with tongs, figuring Br would be using it.  Bl doesn’t have the fine motor skill yet to operate the tongs, so I gave him a spoon.  He wasn’t quite getting the concept, but he was amused with moving the pompoms around with the spoon.


Blake using the 1-to-1 tray
Blake "using" the 1-to-1 tray

Br had turned around on the couch and noticed the touch-matching game. As he was out of reach of Bl, he was actually able to try it a bit! He did initially match a popcorn kernel bag to a lentil bag, but I checked it and then offered him the two (popcorn & lentil) in the opposite color so he could self correct.


Br trying the touch-matching game
Br trying the touch-matching game

Br came around to try the 1-to-1 correspondence tray after Bl had wandered off, and tried out the prototype table. I had put the spoon away when I gave it to Br (leaving the tongs), but Br complained “I wanted the one with the spoon!” Unfortunately, by this point Bl had wandered back.  I’ll need to figure out a way to set things up so Bl isn’t always interfering with Br trying activities.  Let me know if you have any suggestions….

Br doing 1-to-1 correspondence activity
Br doing 1-to-1 correspondence activity, with Bl's "help"

Bl enjoyed having a turn after Br was done:

Bl's turn!
Bl's turn!

With the touch-matching game as well:

Bl touch-matching game 1Bl touch-matching game 2Bl touch-matching game 3

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1-to-1 correspondence

1-to-1 correspondence activityThis is a quick-to-set-up activity to help develop 1-to-1 correspondence, with a million variations.  “What is 1-to-1 correspondence, and why do I care about developing it?,” you might ask.  Here is a very nice explanation I found on 1-to-1 correspondence by Love and Lollipops.


-something with multiple “holes” (ice cube tray, deviled egg tray, paint palette, divided veggie tray,etc.)

-some things to put in the holes (amount corresponding to the # of holes)

-a container to put the things in while they are waiting to be put in the holes

-*optional* (for the more advanced): something to use to move the things into the holes (tongs, spoon/ladle, chopsticks- will help with fine-motor development)

The example here shows a tray with a small pyrex bowl filled with pompoms (15, 3 of each of 5 colors.  “why?,” you may ask.  “Um, because those were the pompoms I had. Uh, they looked summery on a cold June day?” ), some tongs, and a 15 “hole” silicone ice cube tray.
The goal is to have the child fill each “hole” with one of each item, ideally from left to right and top to bottom.  “Why left to right & top to bottom?” Because that is the way we read! Sneaky way to fit in some indirect preparation for reading…

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Bead Counters

So, our first post of an activity we tried:

Today Br made bead counters, which was a good activity for building fine-motor development, as well as a great activity to build on.

If you aren’t familiar with them, bead counters are a typical Montessori-type material.  There is a single “bead strip” for each number from 1 to 9, and then 10 additional “10 bead strips”.  With these, you can physically represent all numbers from 1 to 100 (well, I guess up to 109…)

Once we have these completed, I will work on some “jobs” with them to help Br develop a concrete grasp of those numerical values.

Materials needed:

-pipe cleaners (it took us 3 to make bead strips for numbers 1-10)

-beads (55 for numerals 1-10, another 90 to make the other 9 “10 bead strips”. I used “pony beads”, which I found in a mixed color pack at Target for $2.00 for 400 beads)

-something to cut the pipe cleaners (there is thin wire in the middle, which may trash nice scissors.  I used “Trauma Shears” left over from my old paramedic days…)

Starting a new bead counterTo start, I bent the pipe cleaner at one end to keep the beads from sliding off.  The wire in the middle of the pipe cleaner is a little sharp, especially after cutting.  (I initially tried to wrap it in on itself to bury that end, but the beads kept sliding off, so finally just bent it up)

threading the bead on the pipe cleaner
Br threading a bead on the pipe cleaner


I had Br thread the beads on the pipe cleaner (the fine motor skill).  Once he had placed the appropriate number of beads on, I had him pass it on to me to cut (about 1/2 inch past the last bead) & bend it.  I let him try cutting it a few times (with clear direction on where the cut need to be), but the “trauma shears” were a little large for him to do comfortably.

showing the almost done "9" counter
Mom helping show him a helpful distance from the camera lens, after his first "super close" picture was blurry

After the first two, I decided to have him use the same color beads in the same order for the rest of them.  My theory was it might help him more quickly recognize the different “numbers”.  We’ll see how that works out… It did end up being a good opportunity to help reinforce color identification: I told him which color bead he needed next to have it match up to the previous counters made (“you got the yellow bead on, now we need the green bead next to have it match up to your other ones…”)

He was showing signs of “fatigue” by the time we got to the “10” counter (using the pipe cleaner as a “bull dozer” in the bowl of beads, leaning pathetically on his hand), so we’ll do the other “10”s counters later.  I might try to do the other “10” counters differently, maybe alternating colors (emphasize odd/even?) or all a single color?

Finished bead counters for “1” to “10”:

1- 10 bead counters
Here's the counters for "1" to "10" (slightly mangled, as Bl was "helping" at the end, and counters had to be rescued)


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