Arts and Crafts For The Montessori
In almost all homes and nurseries in the world, children are encouraged to draw and paint: there are already thousands of books devoted exclusively to this topic, so here we will just focus on the general aspects of preschool art activities. There are no unique Montessori art activities, but most Montessori schools recognize children’s inherent need for expression through art.
Try not to limit your prepared environment to academic learning materials only. As much as their absorbent mind wants to learn new concepts, children also need materials which allow their imagination to create with freedom.
Drawing and painting
Always offer children a variety of activities, so that they don’t have to work with the same materials all the time: rotate between coloured pencils, markers, crayons, watercolors, etc. Leave at their disposal different types of paper in various sizes and shapes.
Activities for the youngest ones
Babies and younger toddlers enjoy finger paint and stamping. You can create your own stamps carving potatoes, or have some fun with stickers, etc.
Play dough and similar materials
Play dough is a very versatile material which can be used to support many kinds of academic lessons.
For example, you can create letters with play dough while you are learning letter sounds; or make little balls and count them to practice the numbers from one to ten.
Kinetic sand is a newer material which doesn’t dry out. It’s not as easy to mould as play dough, but it offers many possibilities to create and stimulate the senses.
Pottery: shaping and baking clay cups and dishes in the oven (with the help of an adult) is a great learning activity too. You can even use it as a startpoint to learn about history and the origins of pottery in the Neolithic period.
Learning to cut with scissors is a very important and useful ability during the preschool years. You can draw cutting practice strings for your child, such as the ones shown in the illustration below:
Cutting practice worksheet.
Integrating multiple activities
Whenever you can, try to add some mathematics or reading to your art activities. Some ideas are:
- Draw a big letter A (or whatever letter you are learning at the moment) and paint it with finger paint.
- Draw flowers with a certain number of petals (counting, parts of the flower),
- Work with stickers which contain words, which have to be matched to the right object in a drawing.
If you own a musical instrument, leave it in a visible place in your home and show it often to your child, so that he can hold it in his hands: depending on his interest you can even teach him to play a few notes, or a very simple melody such as Twinkle, twinkle, little star. If you had no musical education as a child and have never played music before, you can still get something inexpensive, such as a recorder. Other budget options are small electric keyboards or xylophones. Just be careful when buying a xylophone for your child because most toy xylophones are completely out of tune (and therefore useless). Avoid children’s pianos with strident colours, flashing lights and pre-recorded melodies: our goal is to teach the child music with real instruments, and not to divert his attention with toys that do everything themselves by just pressing one button.
Keyboards are a great tool to learn the musical notes.
Attend a classical music concert if you can: this is an unforgettable experience for all children, which will teach them much more than music: the whole experience can be a lesson about proper social behaviour during a concert. In many cities, you can attend matinée concerts for children where they explain the parts of an orchestra, show the sounds of each instrument separately, etc.
Create an instrument sound matching activity at home: print pictures of several musical instruments and search for the sound of each one on the internet. Then use a three-part lesson to teach your child to distinguish them:
“Now we will listen to the harp.”
“Which of these two is a harp?”
“Do you know which instrument this is?”
Homemade musical instruments
You can make your own musical instruments using recycled materials. This is a fun way to learn about the different musical instruments and how they work.
- A xylophone: fill a few glasses with different levels of water and hit them (gently!) with a metallic spoon,
- A guitar: make a circular hole in the middle of a shoebox and place a few elastic bands over it, to mimic the shape of a guitar,
- Spanish castanets: glue two plastic plugs to a strip of cardboard and hit them against each other,
- Maracas: put some pebbles into empty plastic bottles or yogurt containers.
Learning the musical notes
We adults just tend to accept that some people have a good ear and others don’t. But the truth is that young children can learn perfect pitch much more easily than adults: that is, the ability to differentiate musical notes just by hearing them. The more they listen to notes, the easier it will become.
This is a simple exercise that you can do at home:
- You will need a musical instrument, such as a recorder, xylophone, etc. Don’t use toy instruments because they are mostly out of tune and will just confuse your child. If you don’t have any, you can download one of the many existing free piano apps to your tablet or phone.
- Play three different notes, making pauses between them, for example, C, D, E (do, re, mi). Sing their name and write it on a piece of paper.
- Use a three-part lesson to learn which note is which and its position on the keyboard.
- Then try playing a note and let your child guess which one it is.
Game to learn the position of the notes on an oversized staff.