Tuesday, 17 June 2014

DIY Montessori Movable Alphabet

Our version of Montessori's movable alphabet is still going strong in our playroom shelf!   It's one of my favourite leave-behind activities for Ladybug Girl to play with while I'm at the office.  

Want to see how we're continuing to use it?

When she was three, I discovered by trial-and-error that a home version of the Montessori movable alphabet worked best for learning letter sounds in starting to make words.  If you're new to this blog (*hello*) please see this post last year on super simple ways to get started at early preschool stage.  
We're using the same DIY set I made more than a year ago: alphabet magnets in drawer organizers.  And a cooking tray from the kitchen.
In hindsight I would have used the cheaper plastic alphabet magnets available everywhere.
These Melissa and Doug magnets went from 550 pesos to 795 pesos in a single year - crazy profit!
We still use them as Montessori intended - to enable kids to practice the sounds of the letters to make words without three hang-ups: correct spelling, legible writing and the pressure of reading aloud.  Those three things are a different set of skills that come later - otherwise they can easily discourage kids from starting to read and communicate.  I've seen all these happen with Ladybug Girl!  
Can you tell I've been reading up on this?  (*nerd cough*)   Well, we're still doing basic word-making:
I put out a simple flashcard prompt at night and sometime during the next days she chooses the letters to make the word.
Remember: don't correct the spelling unless asked!  In Montessori they start correcting spelling at Grade 2.
This one was for Halloween last October
A quick learning opportunity on the "SH" sound
Here's another way to make word-making more sensorial while working on fine motor hand strength at the same time: use moon dough as a stamping pad.  Moon dough doesn't dry up unlike play dough.
I used PlayDoh letters and numbers set and set out a stamping 'pad' made out of moon dough over a small lid.
Extra mommy credit for painstaking letter labels for my left-handed daughter, yes?  Haha
Now that Ladybug Girl is a little older at five, I can see the genius of the movable alphabet in encouraging her to write (the creative kind) even without mastering how to write (the handwriting kind).  Ladybug Girl and fine motor skills were not early friends, you see.  Massive understatement.  
I came across the idea of preschool journaling here and here, but I still need to test how it can be working-mom friendly on top of Ladybug Girl's reluctance to do handwriting.  Using our DIY movable alphabet is a start!
I leave out prompts like this:
"My favourite toys are:" invitation to make a list.
Adapt your words and handwriting to your child's skill level - example "I (heart) my toys:"

Notice the use of a big D instead of the small letter d?  She keeps doing this because that's how she learned to write the D in her name and it's gone uncorrected.  This made me realise that it's time to correct that one in her name, at least.

To make marks on the cooking tray, I used these dry-erase crayons:

Now in Toys R Us in Manila!  No more hoarding these things in Singapore!

Our last one before school started.  I'm looking forward to coming home to more stories and conversations through our movable alphabet play:

"My summer vacation story"

"Boracay, Tagaytay, Play, Write, Buy Toys" made for an interesting conversation after I got home from work.
She says "write" as "writ-uh!" with a very strong T sound in the end : hence the spelling.

For more DIY movable alphabet versions see Montessori Printshop's paper version here and Living Montessori Now's round-up of ideas here.

We have a little gallery of posts on the moveable alphabet here (find it on the sidebar too):

One hundred years old - and a year into using this at home - it's still shiny and new.  
And now it's working-mom friendly too!

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Sunday, 15 June 2014

Play to Teach Our Culture

With Ladybug Girl going into grade one this school year, I've become very conscious about modelling a love of the Philippines for her.  I find it hard because public resources for children her age are few and well, boring.
Much as I love her Montessori preschool, it is painfully Western.  

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Lazy Mom Tricks for Leave-Behind Play

Sometimes making leave-behind play trays for my daughter gets too high-maintenance.  I'm an ideas person, so if I'm not excited about a leave-behind play tray idea then I get too lazy to make anything.  Sometimes laziness takes over and her trays remain finished for days before I replace them.

I've discovered these four tricks when ideas don't come.  Or when things get too crazy for more thoughtful play.


1. Jigsaw Puzzles.  They seem like a good idea to buy at first, but the reality is they're never something Ladybug Girl reaches for voluntarily.  Turn these one-hit wonders into daily play with super simple invitations like these.

Match mommy to animal baby name

Test the learning by sorting into two piles

Leave out the pieces dumped in a tray with a picture guide to follow

2.  Puzzle Game Sets.  You know those toys where you can get a succession of play levels to pull out and play over and over?  Never happens.  So these play trays are mainstays on our shelves.  The idea is you keep advancing the progress one day at a time.

My sister gave this castle puzzle for Ladybug Girl's first birthday.  I brought it out when she turned three - and it's been out on our shelves for two years and counting!  She's now at "Expert" levels.
Magnetic tangram puzzles from Hobbes and Landes.  Ladybug Girl drew all over the original prints when she was two, so I spray painted the pieces yellow to reuse them.  It's also more challenging to match shapes that way.

A Mighty Mind puzzle a day is the easiest tray I've put out.

3. Art Sets.  I'm a sucker for these because they make things so easy... to throw away after.  That's my way of dealing with clutter.  Snap a photo and throw out!  I don't feel guilty because these art sets are meant to be consumed, not kept.  

I couldn't tell you where I bought these anymore, these were so random.
They're not that cheap (200 pesos and up) but are great at fine motor practice.

I flipped these wooden animals so that she could paint the back the next day -- extended play for the sets!

4.  Activity Books.  Rip 'em up page by page.  Do it!  It's liberating.  And it'll actually get used instead of rotting unfinished.

The ever-popular sticker activity book gets ripped and prepared this way

My favourite toddler workbooks are still super useful as regular play for my little lefty

Taro Gomi doodle book placemats are a daily art invitation.  Just leave out different art materials to keep things fresh

Creative play can be pretty low maintenance, see.  Lazy-mom tested!

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I love discovering ways that makes creating play easy during the workday for working mommas like me, so I share them on this blog as a "leave-behind-play" series.  The gallery on the upper right side of the blog has all the links all organised and visual for you to choose.