Bean Pouring (as opposed to pouring, you know,lunch…)

Kids love to pour things out.  I figured if I gave Bl (15 mo) a pouring activity, he might get all his pouring practice out before he got around to dumping his lunch all over the table.  Didn’t quite work, but he still seemed to really enjoy it.

Here is an easy & fun version for the little ones (although Br(3) took a turn at it as well):

Pouring Beans!


– 2 cups (I used 2 double-handled cups, the same size, to make it easy for him to grip & hopefully encourage him to go both directions – work on both brain hemispheres!)

-dried beans (for this first time I used dried lima beans as they were the biggest I found.  larger pieces don’t “stick” as much together, so are easier.  As the Bl gets better at it, we’ll move to smaller things-smaller beans, lentils, rice, salt, water… oh the messes to come :)  )

-tray (the one we used was from The Dollar Store)

bean transferring
Initially, he just wanted to transfer the beans. Hey, good fine motor practice!

I initially put the tray in front of him, with the intent of “modeling” how to pour it from one cup to another.  Before I had a chance, he was already fascinated with just transferring beans one at a time between the cups! Once he seemed to bore of just transferring, I modeled slowly how to lift the cup, then, once it is fully over the other cup, turn it to pour the beans into the cup still on the tray.  I also modeled picking up any beans that spilled & putting them back in the cup.

pouring beans 2

There is a great “control of error”- the lima beans spilling out of the cup on to the metal tray- he could easily & successfully remedy (picking them up and putting them back in the cup). Bl definitely noticed and was interested in picking up those pieces that spilled.  I know Montessori philosophy is big on “self-correcting activities”-  activities where it is obvious to the child when a mistake is made & they can correct it themselves without an external entity having to point it out.

While simple, this activity is great for a number of other reasons.  Pouring activities help build both physical & cognitive skills.  I found this explanation on the value of pouring activities at the site “Simply Montessori” that I liked.  It also helps build skills necessary for independence.  At 15 months, there aren’t a lot of things Bl can do independently yet, but this is an activity that can help build the skills necessary so he can!


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Plumbing: who new it was fun & educational?

I just got a great new resource: Montessori At Home! by John Bowman. I’d contacted him to see about ordering both the CD & the updated hardcopy book, and he offered to send it to me for feedback & to review on the website.  I’ve only read about a third of the book, and I already have post-its poking out all over it as I marked activities that I HAVE to try.  Also an awesome breakdown of Montessori philosophy and the best practical points I have seen on how to set up the activities (PHENOMENAL explanation-with pictures even!!- of the types of activities that should be set up to progressively teach your child the correct hand position for writing).

Turns out there are some things I haven’t done ideally. For example, Mr. Bowman says it isn’t a good idea to set out materials until you have the activity completely set up.  Makes sense.  If I am trying to instill in my child respect for the materials and always making sure he takes care to put his stuff away properly, I should be modeling by respecting the materials enough not to put it out until it is ready for him to do his part.  Oops… (Of course, as I write this, I still  haven’t taken the half-completed items off the shelf yet. Note to self: do before bed!)

You: “Ummm… where’s the part about plumbing?’

So, one of the activities suggested in Montessori At Home is pipe building. When I spotted that, I thought “OMG [I didn’t actually think the letters, but I am sometimes lazy in typing], Br is going to love this activity!!!!!!!” [I did think that many exclamation points] Br has loved all things tool related from near-infancy. I finally got him to sign “please” by having a tape measure on a shelf he couldn’t reach.  And while this pipe building didn’t actually use tools, it uses things that are closely related to tools.  (Br did REALLY want to use tools, and had to be reminded that his hands were his “tools” for this activity multiple times, and if he DID use a real pipe wrench, he wouldn’t be able to get it back apart when it was time to put the job away…)

We ran out as close to first thing this morning as I manage with two kids & no emergency, and got pipe parts at Home Depot.  The book suggested 1″ pipe parts, but when I had Br try to fit them, they seemed heavy for Br to handle, so I ended up going with 3/4″ galvanized steel parts.  The boxes were a bit of a mess (things weren’t matching up with their label), but a very helpful HD employee helped us to find the pieces.


-mixture of 3/4″ ‘male’ & ‘female” galvanized pipe fittings. Specifically, we used: x2 3/4″ “Tees”, x2 3/4″ “90 degree elbows”, x2 3/4″ “45 degree elbows”, x1 3/4″ “sideout elbow”, x5 3/4″x4″ straight piece, x2 3/4″x5″ straight piece, x4 3/4″x6″ straight piece

-marble/rock/bead (smaller than 3/4″ diameter)

-substantial container with good handles for storing/carrying (still working on this part…) {They are heavy!- Bl dropped one on his toe. There was crying…}

Voice of experience: We did have one straight piece where the threads were messed up & it wouldn’t screw together. Luckily we caught it early, so Br didn’t get too frustrated. It would have been a good idea to just quickly try all the pieces at the store.  I did rub the threads with soap to make it easier for them to screw together/apart.  (Yes, you literally take a bar of soap and rub the threads across it, so little soap flakes are in there. It helps lubricate it. I don’t usually use bar soap, so all I cold find was a travel size rose-scented soap in our house…) For the detail oriented, you may note a “cross” (“4 hole” piece) in the picture. I will be taking it back. Made the pipes just run back in to each/not work well. And it was expensive (over $6!).

Bl getting in on pipe fitting, too
Bl getting in on pipe fitting, too

Br built his free form “pipe sculpture”, which took awhile. Especially with attaching things facing different directions, there were a few challenges with remembering which way to turn it to tighten, as well as the dilemma movements to tighten one piece might loosen another.  Some great problem solving opportunities.  There were some partial dis-assemblies in the process.  Once he had it mostly together, I pointed out to him we wanted to cap all but 2 openings, 1 opening for stuff to go in & 1 for stuff to go out.

pipe fitting 1pipe fitting 2pipe fitting 3Bl noticed that he could also make fun sounds/sound “travel” by yelling into one end of the pipe.  That added  a bonus element of fun…

Once the pipe was built, it was time to test it out.  Mr. Bowman suggested a marble or actually running water through it.  I opted for marble, but couldn’t locate one. I did find as options 1 wooden bead, 3 small white stones, and a small black glass florist thing.  They used them all.  This is where it got super cool.  I’d realized we would be working on fine motor skills, left & right (“right-ey tight-ey, left-ey loose-ey”), & some spatial reasoning putting the pipes together.  I hadn’t thought about the sensorial & science aspects.  To get the pieces to move through the pipes, we discussed gravity & what part of the pipes to lift to make them roll where we wanted them too, & “hypothesized” where we thought they were.  Sensorially, besides Bl yelling into the pipes, there was focusing on the sounds of the objects as they moved through the pipes & using that to try to pinpoint where they were, as well as the differences between the sounds the wood bead made versus the rocks & glass piece.

Awesome, awesome activity.  Thank you Montessori At Home!







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