DIY Sandpaper Letter "S" (Montessori ๐Ÿ”  101 Language)

Montessori Sandpaper letters are a traditional language material used to introduce a child to letters and their sounds, but with a twist: besides visual stimulation of perceiving the symbol (seeing the shape commonly agreed upon to represent a particular sound), a child is also able to sensorily feel the shape of the letter as he/she enunciates the name of the letter and the sound it makes.

Although you can purchase sandpaper letters (buy the upper case here or a bundle here or here), they are very easy to make at home. According to Montessori language curriculum guidelines, pink color represents a consonant, while blue - a vowel.

DSC_0210What you will need to make this tactile sandpaper letter:

  • pink cardstock since we are making a consonant letter (you would use blue cardstock for a vowel);
  • sand (you can also use salt, sugar, polenta, Amaranth, or any other tiny grain);
  • and glue.

DSC_0211First, offer a child to squeeze glue following the letter's template. 
DSC_0211Next, pour sand over the glue and let it dry.   DSC_0229

Since we could control how much glue and sand to apply to the template, our tactile sandpaper letter "S" came out even thicker than a traditional one you would purchase, offering a child a more intense sensory experience. 
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See here a โœ‚๏ธDIY ๐Ÿ“ฝ video on how we made sandpaper ๐Ÿ”ข numbers. Also, see here "Letter "S" (๐Ÿ”  Letter Series)" post. 

For more on our Language curriculum and the Phonetical order sets, read here the introductory post: "Montessori Phonetical Order of presenting ABCs Alphabet letters." For individual letters, read here our ๐Ÿ”  Letter Series (Montessori Language) post.


4th (of 6)ย Phonetical Order Set: : h ย j ย u ย l (Montessori ๐Ÿ”ค 101 Language)

In a Montessori language curriculum, alphabet letters are not first presented to a child in an alphabetical order like A, B, C, D, etc. The idea is to introduce letters phonetically (the way they sound) rather than by their name. Phonetical grouping of certain consonants and vowels had proven to be very effective in allowing children to form as many words as possiblequickly. 

There are few Montessori phonetical grouping orders suggested, and we are following the one suggested in How to Raise an Amazing Child the Montessori Way by Tim Seldin (buy the book here, which is a Montessori -beginner must-have book.)

First set:          c  m  a  t          (see here)

Second set:     s  r  i  p           (see here)

Third set:        b  f  o  g         (see here)

Fourth set:     h  j  u  l

Fifth set:       d  w  e  n

Sixth set:      k  q  v  x  y  z. 

 Today, we are replicating the fourth set:  h  j  u  l. 

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We are using a traditional Montessori wooden Movable Alphabet (buy here) with vowels represented by blue color, while consonants by red color. You can also use Sandpaper letters (buy the upper case here or a bundle here or here). Sandpaper letters are very easy to make at home too (see here a โœ‚๏ธDIY ๐Ÿ“ฝ on how we made sandpaper ๐Ÿ”ข numbers). Lastly, you may use any letters: foam, paper or wooden ones you have on hand to introduce these phonetical sets: no specialized Montessori materials are required. DSC_0042

Horse, hen, and a hat for "h"

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 Jam/jar, jug and a Jaguar for "j"

DSC_0045Unicorn, umbrella, and underwear for "u"

DSC_0047Lion, leaf and a lamp for "l"

DSC_0054Tracing letters sensorially on the sand-tray (we are using polenta) allows the child to perceive alphabet letters not only visually, but also through the sense of touch, stimulating the tactile association. The more senses the child triggers during the learning process, the better is the absorption rate of the information perceived.


DSC_0054To make it more interesting, I lined the tray with red cardstock to give tracing a color-pop. 
DSC_0054You can see here a video-post "How ๐ŸŽฅ to Make Montessori Sensorial โœ๏ธTracing Tray."

For more on our Language curriculum and the Phonetical order sets, read here the introductory post: "Montessori Phonetical Order of presenting ABCs Alphabet letters." For individual letters, read here our Letter Series post.


๐Ÿ›Bugs ๐ŸœInsects and other ๐Ÿž๐Ÿ๐Ÿ•ท๏ธArthropods

While most adults do not have a deep affection for bugs, children, on the other hand, spend hours in a backyard flipping over rocks and inspecting blades of grass in search of the coolest caterpillars and tiny crawlers. And little ones are smart to befriend bugs since without little creature our entire ecosystem would shut down. Animals such as fish, bats, and amphibians would have nothing to eat; rivers and lakes would be overrun with algae, and flowers would remain unpollinated. Teaching children about insects is a great way for them to learn about nature in general since everything in our world is interconnected. Also, bugs are the most accessible of all creatures since children can most closely approach them. So, suppress your squeamishness and delve into the wonderful world of bugs and other insects!

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To explore bugs and insects in a fun hands-on sensorial play, I set up an Autumn-Inspired sensory bin with fresh leaves and acorns children found during nature walks, shredded paper, this bug loupe and these insects. 

DSC_0426 An ant, besides being able to lift 50 times its weigh, has the biggest brain relative to its size amongst the insect kingdom!

DSC_0426Entomology is the study of insects, including their relationship with other animals, their environments, and human beings; making Adrian an entomologist for a time being.
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Insects are creatures with three body sections, six legs, and usually four wings and two antennae. Although some people use the words "bug" and "insect" interchangeably, a bug is a certain type of insect such as boxelder bug, milkweed bug, assassin bug, and stink bug. True bugs have a stylet (a mouth shaped like a straw) that they use to suck juices from plants. That is all bugs are insects, but not all insects are bugs. Scientists have discovered already over one million species of insects: also called arthropods, and every day they are discovering new species.

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Some insects have wings, and some do not, but there are few characteristics that all insects have in common:

  • Insects do not have bones or a backbone like humans do, and thus are invertebrates, meaning that they have a hard exoskeleton or shell on the outside of their bodies which protects them.
  • All insects have three parts: the head, the thorax (the middle part), and the abdomen (the end part).
  • Insects have two antennae and six legs.
  • All insects hatch from eggs, and the babies are called larva.
  • All insects go through the same lifecycle: beginning as an egg. The egg hatches and larva emerge. Larvae usually look nothing like the adult insect. The larvae enter a pupa, chrysalis or cocoon. An adult insect emerges from the pupa.
  • Note: spiders are not insects. Spiders have eight legs, and they are related to scorpions and belong to the arachnid family. ๐ŸŒ Snails, on the other hand, are gastropods. 

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Bugs A-Z book (in the middle) is a perfect book for any child fascinated with bugs! A simple text from A to Z provides interesting and concise buggy facts in addition to reinforcing the first letter association: A is for Ant, B is for Bee, C for Caterpillar etc. Larger than life full-color photographs of creepy crawlies include locusts, caterpillars, beetles, flies, grasshoppers, ants, praying mantis, and more! Also, the facts provided under each insect are fascinating and engaging enough even for a three-year-old. At the end of the book, there is a glossary review, which I use to reinforce the concepts learned. 

DSC_0003Scorpions are not insects! They are arachnid, with eight legs, instead of six.

Scorpions can be found on all continents except Alaska (and Antarctica). They are predatory animals of the class Arachnida (having eight legs) making them cousins to spiders, mites, and ticks. Insects, on the other hand, are Arthropods with six legs, two antennae, and three-parts segmented body.

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Tarantulas are the largest known arachnids (spider family) measuring seven to ten cm in length, capable, however, of exceeding 30 cm (that is twelve inches: the size of a regular laptop). Besides their size, tarantulas are known for their dense and hairy body. Also, they are night-time (nocturnal) hunters who will pounce on their prey, such as insects, beetles, and grasshoppers. Interestingly, although not spinning traditional webs, tarantulas are capable of producing silk and can use it for similar purposes, depending on species. Many of the arboreal tarantulas make silken homes in tree holes or other crevices. Even the burrowing terrestrial species use silk to line their burrows, and some use silk to create door-like entrances to their burrows. The tarantulaโ€™s silk acts as an alarm system, alerting the arachnid to the presence of threat or prey outside its home. If the intruder is potential prey, the tarantula will capture and subdue it.

DSC_0006The cladogram below shows the relationship between the arthropod's groups:

Arthropoda
 

Chelicerata (sea spiders, horseshoe crabs, and ๐Ÿ•ท๏ธarachnids: 8 legs)

 
Mandibulata
 

Pancrustacea (crustaceans and ๐Ÿžinsects: 6 legs)

 
 

Myriapoda (centipedes, millipedes, and allies)

 

 

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To examine tiny creatures up close, children like to use this bug loupe, which provides a 5X view of whatโ€™s underneath! The above-shown Bugs collection (buy here) comes with twelve insects in clear acrylic blocks for up-close examination. A mini-guide that comes with it provides a concise description of the species included as well as interesting details. This set is a perfect starter collection of insects for any entomologist!  DSC_0003
Little Explorer Insects book (on the left - buy here) provides further insight into these buzzing, stinging, and creepy crawlers: where they live, what they eat, and why they are so important.

DSC_0074 bee copyDid you know that a bee has five eyes, none of which can see the color red!

Honey bees are very important pollinators of flowers, fruits, and vegetables, transferring pollen between the male and female parts of the plant, thus allowing plants to grow seeds and fruit. Honey bees live in hives (or colonies) everywhere except Antarctica. The members of the hive are divided into three types:

  •  Queen: One queen runs the whole hive. Her job is to lay the eggs which will spawn the hiveโ€™s next generation of bees. The queen also produces chemicals that guide the behavior of the other bees.
  • Workers are all sterile female and their roles are to forage for food (pollen and nectar from flowers), build and protect the hive, and clean and circulate air by beating their wings. Workers would be the only bees we ever see flying around outside the hive.
  • Drones are the male bees, and their purpose is to mate with the Queen. Several hundred live in each hive during the spring and summer. But come winter, when the hive goes into survival mode, the drones are kicked out! 

DSC_0003Lastly, National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of Bugs (top right - buy here) explores backyard favorite bugs, such as ladybugs and lightning bugs, and also introduces more exotic species which inhabit rain forests and deserts around the world. Colorful photos are paired with profiles of each insect, along with facts about the creatures' sizes, diets, homes, and more. "Little Kids First BIG Book of" series is my children's favorite non-fiction series. 

To put all this knowledge to use, seek out ways together with your child to get to know just how amazing Earth's little inhabitants are! Parks, local playgrounds, and forests are great places to introduce children to the wonders of the local insect population. Go outside and explore by examining dead wood, banks of streams, and the underside of rocks and leaves. Backyard bugs can usually be found under potted plants, rocks or deck furniture. On forest trails, look for bugs in flowers, on trees or near water.

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During nature walks, explore the world of bugs, insects and other creatures, first hand by doing a scavenger hunt. (Do not forget a bug container, bug tweezers, and a magnifying glass.)

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Do not rush and stay close to the ground as bugs are easy to miss. Most are small and many camouflages, making them tough to spot at first glance. 

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Take it slow and let your eyes roam the area for anything that moves.

DSC_0394.JPGLook under moss, rocks, leaves or underturned trees. 

DSC_0038With close observation, you will find that local fauna is full of surprises!

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"There is no description, no image in any book that is capable of replacing the sight of real trees, and all the life to be found around them, in a real forest. Something emanates from those trees that speaks to the soul, something no book, no museum is capable of giving." Dr. Maria Montessori.

DSC_0038If you find a caterpillar feeding on a plant and wish to bring it home, be sure to include that exact plant it was eating since many insects can only digest one type of plant and will starve without it.

DSC_0394.JPGDr. Maria Montessori strongly believed that the intelligence was a result of joyful learning and not a mere memorization. So learning need not take place inside of a classroom: there is nothing more inviting than a forest school!

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Invite your child to be a naturalist! Zoos, botanical gardens and even local parks might offer classes which introduce children to the wonders of the local insect population.

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Having contact with nature will allow children to understand and appreciate its natural order, the harmony and the beauty in it. Such contact will allow them to be friends with animals: big and small, creeping and crawling, scary and beautiful. All Earth's inhabitants are necessary for the equilibrium of life: all life form is precious. So, let's explore, go outside and be with nature!


๐ŸŒผNature ๐ŸŒฒ๐Ÿ‚ Objects & Pom-Poms Process ๐ŸŽจ Art (101 ๐ŸŽฅ Series)

We love process art and the opportunity for combining sensory movement with art. In process art, not the destination (the end ๐Ÿ–ผproduct of art) is the principal focus, but rather the ๐Ÿ›ฃroad the child takes- the "process" of the formation of art: such as gathering, sorting, matching, associating, patterning, and other initiations of actions and proceedings. There are no rules to follow, no steps to take: just YOU and the PROCESS!

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So, for our ๐Ÿ‚nature-inspired project, children collected pine cones, fern, moss, leaves, dandelions and other treasures they have found during their nature walks to use during their creative process

DSC_0196We are using these vivid washable finger paints. 

DSC_0196Colored clothespins are to be paired with color-matching pom-poms. DSC_0196This is a fun sensorial way to practice color matching while exercising fine-motor control.

DSC_0196Children are free to choose any medium, and there are no set rules for the process!

DSC_0200Using pine cones to create textured prints.

DSC_0200Process art is concerned with the actual doing of the work of art: seeing the art as a pure artistic expression.

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Your child's imagination is the limit as to the process and the end result!

Process art is an open-ended art. Children are free to express their creativity without trying to make something exactly like a sample product. Also, there are no real directions! Process art allows children to explore and create freely; naturally and effortlessly bringing up creative little artists in them. Also, because there are no set goals, children can repeat the same project many times, creating different end products each time, without ever perceiving the art project "old" or redundant.



DSC_0196Adrian's version of his process art.
DSC_0200Julia's version of her process art.

DSC_0234And a finger painting finale!

Process art often entails innovativeness, inherent motivation, and personality. Therefore, art is viewed as a creative journey or process, rather than as a deliverable or end product. Enjoy the PROCESS and have ๐Ÿค—fun while exploring your ๐ŸŽจartistic expression!


Science in a Bottle: DIY ๐Ÿ‚Terrarium๐Ÿƒ and The ๐ŸŒง๏ธ Water Cycle (Science๐Ÿ”ฌโš—๏ธโš–๏ธ 101 ๐ŸŽฅSeries ๐ŸŽ‡)

Today, we are learning about the water cycle by making a terrarium and simulating rain, while understanding a very basic concept of how clouds hold water. Did you know that the amount of water on Earth is finite and has been the same since the early formation of the Earth? Yes, the glass of water you might be holding in your hand could have fallen from the sky when Brachiosaurus walked through lakes feeding on plants. And, when knights and kings ruled the land, they drank from wells, your glass of water could have been part of. And that same glass of water might fall from the sky as snowflakes hundred years from now. 

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To make a terrarium you will need:

  • nature's objects: such as bark, moss, marbles, leaves, pinecones, acorns, chestnuts (you can also use pea gravel or potting soil);
  • we also added forest animal figurines (buy here);
  • water + blue water coloring;
  • cotton balls to resemble clouds;
  • Gauze to seal the terrarium with a rubber-band.

 DSC_0087Since the Earth has a limited amount of water: the water keeps going around and around in what we call a "Water Cycle." This cycle is made up of few main parts:

  • Evaporation: the sun heating up water in oceans, rivers, and lakes, and turning it into vapor or steam. Also transpiration: when plants lose water out of their leaves.
  • Condensation: when water vapor gets cold (usually high up in the atmosphere where the temperature is cooler), it changes back into liquid, forming clouds.
  • Precipitation occurs when so much water has condensed that the air cannot hold it anymore. The clouds get heavy and water falls back to Earth in the form of rain, hail, sleet or snow.
  • Collection: when water falls back to Earth, it may fall back into the oceans, lakes or rivers or it may end up on land, soaking into the earth and becoming a part of the "groundwater" which plants and animals use to drink. Or it may run over the soil and collect in the oceans, lakes or rivers where the cycle starts ... ALL OVER AGAIN!

 DSC_0094Children used a dropper and blue-colored water to saturate the "clouds" causing precipitation.

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A terrarium (plural: terraria or terrariums) is a glass (or a see-through) container containing soil and plants, which is usually sealed, however, it can also be open to the atmosphere (similar to what we created).

Children learned, while practicing fine motor skills and eye-hand coordination, that when clouds become too heavy, it starts to rain. 

DSC_0094On the other hand, closed terraria create a unique environment for plant growth, as the transparent walls allow for both heat and light to enter the terrarium.
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This experiment was very illustrative to discuss the water cycle and how it works: 

  • Through transpiration, the moisture is carried from the soil through the plant's roots to small pores on the leaves.
  •  Evaporation occurs when tiny drops of water transform from a liquid to a gas (generally due to increased temperature).
  • Condensation takes place when the water vapor collects and turns from a gas back into a liquid.
  • And finally, precipitation happens when a lot of condensation forms, getting too heavy and falling to the ground, as here in the form of rain.

DSC_0087If you create a sealed terrarium, the heat entering through glass walls would naturally allow for the creation of a small scale water cycle. This happens because moisture from both the soil and plants evaporates in the elevated temperatures inside the terrarium. This water vapor then condenses on the walls of the glass jar and eventually falls back to the plants and soil below, representing a complete natural water cycle. 

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As the light passes through the transparent terrarium wall, this can also be a fun experiment on photosynthesis, which is an important aspect of plant growth.

For more on Science, and property of water, see here "Pour ๐Ÿ’ฆit in! Liquid Illusion," and also see here a video post "๐ŸŽถMusical ๐Ÿ’ฆWater ๐ŸŒˆGlasses (Science๐Ÿ”ฌโš—๏ธโš–๏ธ 101 ๐ŸŽฅSeries ๐ŸŽ‡)."