Themed unit studies play an essential role in our homeschooling curriculum. Unit studies (also called thematic units or integrated studies) use a hands-on approach to effective learning as children learn by experiencing and discovering first-hand through different activities. For us, unit studies are a way to bring a subject to life by exploring the theme from many different dimensions: through fresh shelfie set up, books that come to life, sensorial bins, language, and math activities with a twist and so much more. Unit studies add an emphasis to a particular area of study, allowing us to engulf in it fully. Holidays are the most beloved themed unit studies with my children as we decorate the entire Learning Space, and I rotate the materials weekly to keep the engagement ignited and the love of learning burning. Below are the activities we have done during the months of September and October) activities. All activities are arranged by the area of study, rather than chronologically.
The story of a 🚙Little Blue Truck will touch your child's heart, as it teaches to be friendly, helpful and considerate. On its way, the 🚙Blue Truck makes friends: 🐮a cow, 🐔a chicken, and a 🐸frog (among others), who in turn will help him push the Dump Truck stuck in the mud. Children love to role-play and use animal figurines bringing the story to life!
Hello Fall! Hello Autumn!
For this invitation to create and celebrate Autumn I used waxed leaves and waxed berries to spell out Fall. I also used 3.5-4" wooden slices to create a simple numeral to quantity presentation with acorns (perfect for ages 2 yo+). I also primed 1.5" wooden circles with clear nail polish and wrote numbers one through three with a Sharpie. Lastly, we spelled "autumn" using Montessori Movable Alphabet.
I finally got to wax fresh leaves! I first tried melting a candle and dipping the leaves but melted candle left a white non-transparent residue. So I tried melting beeswax and it worked! (I melted beeswax pellets in a small aluminum pan in a portable convection oven till they were completely liquefied). It was still tricky as you have to work very quick since as the wax cools, it solidifies, and we are back to the thicker white film on leaves. Also, after dipping into wax, hold the leaf by the stem and allow the excess to drip off. Lastly, after placing leaves to dry (I used an aluminum foil) lift them periodically so that they don't stick to the foil during the drying and solidifying process. Wax preserves the color and texture and you will be able to marvel at your awesome autumn foliage forever! (I hope :)
This is a very easy🍁🍂Fall inspired DIY upper-case to lower-case puzzle activity. First, collect some fallen leaves, clean and dry them and press under heavy books. Once pressed, arrange your leaves inside a laminating pouch (start placing leaves as close to the edge as possible and leave about an inch around each leaf for cutting around). Then, run the laminating pouch through the laminating machine. (If you do not have a laminating machine, ironing works too!) Once laminated, cut out each leaf, and write upper and lower case letter on each half of a single leaf. Lastly, cut each leaf in half. Offer your child to match the two parts of the same leaf. You can also present a Three-Period Lesson, starting with three letters ~ for example, A, B, and C assembled with both halves: Part 1: This is _ A, B, C; Part 2: Where is _A? B? C?; Part 3: What is this? For detailed instructions on Montessori Three -Period lesson, see here.
S is for sticks, 🔴🔷◽️shapes like a square, ⭐️stars & 🗡swords
During our nature walks, we collected sticks and leaves and made swords from sticks and yarn. We then glued different cut-out shapes from autumn leaves such as heart shape, square, diamond, rectangle, triangle and a circle, and discussed each shape's characteristic.
See here "S" for Scarecrow (🔠 Letter Series) post.
With this fun 🙌🏻 hands-on 🔡 Language activity, 👦🏼Adrian gets to express his creativity while learning proper letter-tracing. We are using Thankful Woodblock Stamp Set (buy here) & Rainbow Finger Inkpad (buy here). For more on Letter Series read here our "🔠 Letter Series (Montessori Language)."
See here 🎃Pumpkin and Squash to Montessori 3 Part 🔖Cards Matching
We made a tree from twigs and then I numbered each branch and 👦🏼Adrian placed a corresponding number of acorns and leaves. The concept of 🔢numeral vs 🍂quantity can be confusing, especially for younger children. With this simple DIY matching 🍃🍂leaves and acorns to a 2️⃣number activity, you can turn an ✨abstract Math concept into a concrete, 🙌🏻hands-on and fun activity! Perfect for 2.5 yo+
During our nature walks, we have collected some fallen autumn leaves. It was amazing to observe how the main vein (midrib) on most maple leaves remain green the longest, while other parts of the blade turn yellow and orange. (Take this opportunity to discuss parts of the leaf!) After collecting, we washed the leaves, dried them and then punch out maple cutouts. (If you don't have foliage readily available, you can punch out a colored cardstock/paper.) I then presented Adrian a Tree template and offered a simple quantity to numeral association presentation. With smaller children (2 +yo), start with one template or up to three templates and place numbers one through three under each. Then offer your child to place a corresponding number of leaves on each tree. You can also ask to choose leaves of the same color for each number ~ enunciating the names of each color.
For older children (4 +yo), offer a simple addition and subtraction lesson. I am using wooden numerals from Montessori Hundred board and these wooden circles, which I primed with clear nail polish first and wrote the addition, subtraction and equation symbols with a black sharpie. Make up different equations and ask your child to solve them by placing the leaves on the trees (addition) or taking the leaves from the tree, and have them fall to the ground (subtraction). You can also emphasis addends, by differentiating them in color: for example six green leaves + two yellow leaves. Or in a subtraction equation, have the subtrahend (fallen leaves) be all one color while the difference (what is left on the tree) be a different color. [minuend − subtrahend = difference]. Most importantly, follow your child and end the lesson before the interest starts to wind down and before your child gets tired.
🎃Pumpkin 🔢Counters 🔍on our 🍁Autumn shelf: Number 11= 1 💛golden 🔟ten-bar + 1️⃣❤️red bead. See here "Making Teens with 🎃Pumpkin Counters (Montessori Math Intro to Teen Board)."
See here "🍁Fall-Inspired Odd and Even (Numbers & Counters)."
🍁Autumn Inspired Counting
We are enjoying the Fall season and all the beauty that it brings. So, today, I put our waxed leaves to use by creating this simple teens and tens DIY. We are also using Montessori golden beads, but you can use any counters you have handy: chickpeas, beans, marbles, poker chips etc. And, I cut paint samples from a local hardware store in strips and wrote the equations on them with a Sharpie. For solving the equation, I generally would use numbers from a hundred board, but today, I made numerals from wooden slices, primed with clear nail polish, before writing numbers with a Sharpie. Show a child an equation and offer to find corresponding golden beads before solving it. See details on how I waxed the leaves below. For more DIYs, see here ✂️DIY, Crafts & Materials.
IKEA TOLSBY 🖼Frame 🍁 Posting DIY
This Ikea hack is super easy to set up: all you need is a frame and tape. Remove both plastic inserts and tape them to the outside of the frame. I taped just the two vertical sides to make the removal of posting objects easier. Offer your child posting materials such as coins, poker chips, anything thin (we are using wooden maples leaves), and even popsicle sticks.
This activity is very versatile: smaller ones can enjoy simply posting and working on those fine motor skills wiggling chips/leaves into a thin slot. You can also ask your child to count as they are inserting, working on quantity to a numeral association. We also played an Estimation Game: when after inserting x amount of leaves, each family member had to take a guess/estimate (without counting) how many leaves are there. Each estimation is written on a piece of paper and once everyone had a turn, the leaves are removed and counted. The winner is who's estimation was the closest to the actual number.
BOTANY & ZOOLOGY
We try to go on nature walks daily (weather permitting) and look for things that are common during a particular season. Especially in the fall, when the mornings are fresh and the autumn foliage is absolutely breathtaking, we go on "nature hunts" to collect seeds, leaves, berries, or simply to marvel the beauty around us. I take this "quiet" opportunity to discuss seasons and nature's cycle such as a cycle of trees or the migration of birds we see in the skies.
After our walks, we examine our "treasures" and sort them out. Today, we matched our nature finds to the Montessori color tablets (if you don't have them, use paint samples from your hardware store). We also read A Seed Is Sleepy book, which offers young readers a beautiful and informative look at the intricate, complex, and the often surprising world of seeds.
Woods and Forest is another amazing book, which teaches a young reader about nature, seasons, woods and forests. The author tells a beautiful story about nature's cycle, and the gracious transformation the trees undergo: from bare elegant branches in a winter to emerald green shoots in a spring, to bright forest-green hats in the summer, to golden crimson red in the autumn. Read here a post ~ Learning about ❄️🌸🌳🍂Seasons.
Deciduous trees grow leaves, which wither and fall off in the autumn. Evergreen trees have needles. See how forests change with the seasons. In spring, the leaves appear and the branches grow. In summer, the woodland foliage is dense and green.
"In autumn, the trees change color and lose their leaves."
We have had a lot of rain lately, so during our nature leaf hunt, we found all these amazing mushrooms! I immediately decided to set this simple sensory bin from fresh cut ferns and newly found mushrooms. This way we can closely examine our finds while reading our favorite book ~ Nature Anatomy.
We learned about the amazing underground network of white branching threads called mycelium. We also learned to our amazement that mushrooms are the fruit, appearing only when the conditions for spreading the spores are just right! ~ Nature Anatomy.
I always like to make the learning hands-on, so while referring to Nature Anatomy book, I simply cut white strips of paper and hand-wrote parts of the mushroom. We then made a mushroom from air clay. Adrian loved labeling the parts while referring our model-mushroom.
See here "🐛Bugs 🐜Insects and other 🐞🐝🕷️Arthropods" Unit Study
PRACTICAL LIFE ACTIVITIES
👻Eyeball 🌬blowing. I used washi tape to make a maze on a white cardstock and then offered children to blow the eye through the maze. This is an amazing coordination activity as you have to blow just right: not too hard and not too soft to guide the
"eyeball" through the maze: ages 5 yo - 100!
How about shape recognition while exercising gross motor skills? So, before you are ready to carve your🎃pumpkin, turn it into a simple shape identification and a fun gross and fine motor activity! This easy Fall inspired DIY will require a pumpkin and pushpins. (A hammer is optional.) Grab a pumpkin and draw a shape with a Sharpie, a pen, or a chalk and ask a child to poke pushpins in it following the shape's perimeter. You can also trace letters, numbers, or simple designs. I used a Witch washi tape (buy 45 rolls for $14 here) to give the activity a Halloween feel. I also offer Montessori Metal Insets as a reference and shape identification. P.S. Please, always supervise and guide your child while they learn and explore as pins are sharp.
- Ages 1 yo +: Focus on simply tracing the masking tape with a finger, reinforcing shape recognition, and omit the pin poking completely.
- Ages 18 m +: Draw shapes, letters, or numbers, and encourage to trace the masking tape.
- Ages 3+: offer a child-sized hammer and follow the design with pushpins.
Dried corn kernels tonging is one of the autumn activities which seems timeless with my children. Adrian has been enjoying it since he was two years old (wiggling and picking those tiny kernels off the cob with the fingers) till now (almost five) when he is skillful enough to use spork tongs.
A variation to a traditional puzzle assembly is to fill the frame with picked kernels (or use any other grain in your cupboard). We are using a Montessori Bird puzzle (buy similar here or exact in a set here) and these backyard birds. See our entire 🐦Bird Themed Unit Study here.
This is a super fun gross motor coordination game where the child would have to 🌈color match 🎃 pumpkins, balance them on ♻️TPR & paper towel rolls and then try to knock down as many as he can💪🏻with a 🏀ball. Paint samples from your local hardware store is an alternative DIY to Montessori color tablets.
We came from a nature walk today with tons of gorgeous autumn 🍁foliage. So to prepare our leaves, Adrian generally cleans them with soap and water. However, he remembered PLA of bubble making and requested a straw! This activity is extremely fun and Adrian has been enjoying it since he was two years old; however, at that age, instead of a straw, I would offer a whisk or a fork as he could have inadvertently sipped soapy water.
This is an invitation to defrost frozen leaves using warm water and salt. I simply froze in a leaf-shaped ice mold fresh cut leaves, and offered children to experiment what method would defrost them faster.
Fall Inspired 🍁Leaf 📌pin-poking with a push-pin
Pin poking is an awesome fine-motor activity for ages 3-100, that does not get "old" with my children! And, a new template, esthetically presented, always entices them to start right away, keeping those little fingers happily busy!
For a template, simply Google either a leaf shape or an acorn or an apple, or you can also trace a real leaf. You will also need push pins, which I keep safe on a dish-sponge. Please note, that although Adrian was three years old when he was doing this activity, you should offer close supervision since the push pin is a sharp instrument. You might also want to demonstrate safety use of it and rules: such as never bring a pushpin near the face and always put it back on the sponge. You will also need a padding such as felt, a washcloth or a sponge, or a piece of an old rug (Homedepot rug samples work great too), which would allow the pin to poke right through the paper and not into a table. You can also offer your child colored cardstock to keep their interest alive. Pin-poking is a wonderful activity to teach a child hand-control, fine-motor strength, proper pencil grip, and concentration. For more pin-poking activities, read here.
A variation of traditional pin-poking: 3-in-1 activity: first, gather some fallen leaves and color them with oil pastels. (See this craft below.) If you can find Autumn leaves, I suggest pressing them first. You can also use fresh green leaves, just color them on the reverse side where the veins are more pronoun, revealing a beautiful midrib pattern. Second, trace the outline of your decorated leaf of a piece of paper (I used colored cardstock to give it a color pop). Thirdly, pin poke it, putting the holes very closely together so that you can pin poke the shape OUT by firmly pressing on the holes. A bonus: compare the leaf and your pin-poked shape and discuss the mirror image!
By practicing pin-poking, your child will learn hand-control, fine motor strength, proper pencil grip, and concentration. What you will need is a carpet remnant, or folded felt or a washcloth for padding, which would allow the pin to poke through the paper and not into the table. Also, push pins, the larger the better because it gives your child a natural pencil grip. If you have a little one in the house who is not ready to pin poke, keep the activity high on the shelf out of reach so that the child would have to ask and would not have an easy access.
Our 🍁Autumn/🎃Halloween inspired Practical Life shelf 2017 (perfect for 2-3 yr old) with lots of fine-motor stimulation such as tonging, tweezing, picking:
- parts of the 🍂leaf work
- tonging acorns, wooden 🍁maple leaves, and 👻Halloween styrofoam balls (see details here)
- dried corn 🌽kernels picking
See here 🍁Fall 👻Halloween Inspired Tongs Transferring (Montessori 🙌🏻 Practical Life)
This Practical Life 🌽corn tonging activity is one of 👦🏼Adrian's ❤️favorites since he was 2 yo., providing countless ⏱hours of concentration while challenging fine-motor control! And this 🍂Fall, having more 💪🏻strength in those little ✋🏻fingers, Adrian would not stop until every single kernel is picked! While a child can use just fingers to picking, for variety offer tongs (buy the spork tongs here) or a tweezer and also a sorting tray or a jar where a child can transfer the picked kernels to.
Read about the benefits of this amazing fine-motor activity here "Tonging 🌽Corn Kernels at 2 yo (Fall Inspired Fine Motor Activity)."
See here "🍂Fall Inspired 🌼Flower ✂️Arranging Activity."
See here Making 🎃Pumpkin 🍪Cookies (Montessori Practical Life)
Read here "🎃Halloween Inspired 🌽Corn 🙌Sensory 🚜 Bin & 🚜Tractors 📚Books ."
See here a video post "DIY 🔶Orange Slime🕯️Light Table (🎃Halloween Inspired 🙌🏻 Sensorial 🖐️👀👂👅👃 101🎥Series)."
See here "🎃Halloween 👻 Inspired 🙌🏻SENSORY BIN with a 🔢Math Twist."
See here "🍂Fall and 🦃Thanksgiving Inspired 🐇🐿 Forest Animals 🙌 Sensory Bin."
See here "🐛Bugs 🐜Insects and other 🐞🐝🕷️Arthropods" Sensorial invitation to explore.
Read here "🍂Fall-Inspired SMALL WORLD PLAY ♻️ Green Doll 🏡 House" post, where I wrote in details about the developmental benefits of SMALL WORLD pretend play.
See here "🍂🌰🌼Fall Inspired Weighing Activity with ⚖️ Balance scales."
Also, see here "🎄Christmas Tree from Montessori Number Rods and Knobless Cylinders."
See here ✂️ DIY 🍂Fall Inspired 🖼Puzzle
How about an 🍁Autumn 🍂DIY ✂️puzzle! Simply laminate a picture (expired 📅calendars have high-quality pictures and are inexpensive) and ✂️cut according to your child's level. With really small ones just cut in half, or in quarters. I suggest that the older child, the more pieces you can cut your picture into to increase the level of difficulty.
🍂Nature 🍃Inspired 🎨Art
Inspired by Nature Anatomy book, today, children enjoyed "printing patterns" of different leaves. First, offer your child to make an arrangement from leaves on a paper. You will then take each leaf, cover one side with paint using a paintbrush, then carefully place that leaf paint-face down on a paper, cover with another piece of scrap paper and carefully roll over with a roller or a brayer.
Make sure to cover the leaf you are rolling over with a paper to prevent staining the roller or a brayer.
We also added glitter to the paint while it was still wet to give it a sparkling effect. Frame your nature-inspired art and your child's masterpiece is ready to decorate a wall!
🍁🍃🍂Leaf 🐦 Birdy
This is an invitation to create a bird from laminated autumn leaves (although you can use fresh as well). As a reference, we are using Montessori Bird puzzle (buy similar here or exact in a set here) and these backyard birds. Nature Anatomy book (top~ left) had won our hearts and is our absolute favorite nature encyclopedia! I never thought I would fall involve with anything but real pictures and this book had shown us the world in a whole new way! We are also reading Look What I Did with a Leaf! book which shows how to use nature's bounty to create fanciful animals and natural scenes. Although the only birds in a book are a parrot and a peacock, we felt inspired enough to create our own backyard bird pattern.
This is a super fun art activity to promote creativity, learn color names and discuss different types of leaves and its shapes. We are using various type of leaves (fresh and dried) and oil pastels. Ideally, you would want to press the leaves first to prevent curling up (e.g. under heavy books lined with scrap paper) and then offer your child to color them. Advise your child to hold the leaf with the other hand and gently color from the midrib (midvein) out towards the edges of the blade (such will hopefully prevent ripping of the leaf). Julia actually discovered that we can even color fresh green leaves, but on the reverse side, where the veins are very pronoun, creating a beautiful pattern.
Can you tell that blue is Adrian's favorite color! (Buy Oil Pastels here ).
See here "🍂Fall Harvest Inspired 🍡Popsicles 🌾Scarecrow DIY Craft."
See here "🍂Fall Inspired 🍁Autumn Tree 🎨 Art & Craft."
See here "🖍️Shading over First 🍁Autumn 🍂 Leaves."
See here 🖍️Coloring 🎃Pumpkins
🎃Halloween Inspired LEARNING SPACE
🍂Fall & 🎃Halloween Inspired 📚 Books:
- Halloween Fun for Everyone! Dr. Seuss/Cat in the Hat (buy here);
- Little Blue Truck's Halloween Board book (buy here);
- Little Blue Truck Board book (buy here ) & Little Blue Truck Farm Sticker Fun! (buy here);
- Woods and Forests, My First Discoveries book (buy here);
- The Tree, First Discoveries book (buy here);
- Awesome Autumn: All Kinds of Fall Facts and Fun Hardcover (buy here);
- Look What I Did with a Leaf! Naturecraft (buy here);
- Fall, First Step Nonfiction (buy here).
What is🔍 on our🎃Halloween Inspired Shelfie:
- Halloween Memory Game Basket;
- Books (we absolutely love Awesome Autumn book - buy here);
- Fall-Inspired Stamps;
- Nature Play Dough basket (see our🍁 Fall Inspired Natural Play Dough Cookie Cutter DIY Craft here);
- Halloween Golf-Tee hammering and balancing activity (see below).
See here a 🎥 video post "⛳️Golf Tee 🔨Hammering •Ball Balancing •🙌🏻 Practical Life."
See here 🍁Fall Inspired Natural Play Dough 🍪Cookie Cutter DIY Craft.
See here Adrian's first Pick-Your-Own Raspberries experience.
Pumpkin Train Ride
See here our "🦃Thanksgiving Inspired Homeschooling 101 Unit Study."