By Mel @melswrapart
Well firstly the knobs are easy for little ones to grasp & each piece is an interesting shape! Secondly, nature is all around us so it’s easily accessible to all.
Go on a nature walk & collect the fallen leaves
Your little one will notice not only different shapes but also different colours & sizes too!
In the Montessori approach to learning, this is the perfect way to start & follow the child’s lead in their wonder & curiosity in wanting to learn more about leaves and what they do, the plants & trees they belong to and more!
Puzzles & matching work is a great concrete (as opposed to abstract) & hands on way to make learning fun for the young learner too.
Having the real leaves or photos of the real leaves is preferable but a puzzle & adapted 3 part cards as shown here is totally acceptable as well.
Adding in some counting work is easy to incorporate too & Mr 2.5 began counting the empty spaces on the board before even using the wooden tactile number discs provided also.
Adding in a sensory base, such as the green split peas is not necessary but again allows for extra skills to be worked on such as using tools - the mini scoop & spoon - to transfer from one area to another, as well as developing those fine motor muscles in the hands.
Providing tools is also an optional extra & you may find hands & fingers are preferred by your child anyways.
Dr Maria Montessori, the founder of the Montessori Approach to learning, believed that introducing young children (as young as preschool) sets the foundation for further learning in the sciences such as biology.
In today’s Montessori Schools, the Guides (as they are referred to in this setting instead of teachers) begin with this type of work & progress through the years building on the child’s learning & knowledge gained with the conclusion in this area being the achievement of a fully working farm! So the whole process of planting a seed, watching it grow, harvesting & cooking the produce is experienced first hand.
Pretty amazing huh! For now though, I think I’ll stick with the puzzle & matching cards. We can also look at what leaves do & which trees they belong to. as well as which leaves are edible - and these are just a few ways that leaves, trees & flowers provide plenty of scope for learning at this young age.
To further the learning of leaves & how they play an important part in our lives you could introduce plant foods into a fun snack activity.
For example, you could use - spinach leaves as leaves, a celery stick as the stem, cauliflower & broccoli florets for the petals on a flower, sultanas as the pollen & perhaps alfalfa sprouts for the roots to complete an edible version of various plants that grow around us. You could also discuss the importance of plants in our lives - as they provide a food source and oxygenation, as well as the importance of caring for plants and the environment.
Caring for ones self & environmental stewardship are two important areas that the Montessori approach utilises too.
Another area to explore when playing with this puzzle or going on a nature walk, is the two types of trees that exist - deciduous trees which tend to have broad leaves, where you can see the veins or lines on the leaf & evergreens which tend to be more narrow, thinner & often more needle like, such as coniferous trees.
Fun fact - leaves all pretty much have the same job of making food for the plant, through the process of photosynthesis (which is creating energy for the plant from sugars that have been converted from carbon dioxide, gained from the sunlight) but even leaves on the one tree can be different depending on if growing in the shaded side of the tree or on the more sunny side! Alright enough from me, time to head outside with your little one & go on a leaf hunt & see what you discover together.
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A little bit about the author-
Mel is currently a stay at home mum to two boys aged 2.5y and 7.5y. She was previously a fully qualified primary school teacher, having taught for well over ten years at all levels, subjects and sectors. Mel found her niche in the visual arts room, which is evident in her amazing art and craft set-ups on her Instagram account! Over the past two years, Mel has actively sought out information and has taught herself the principles of Montessori learning, and includes this way of learning in much of her home play.