With the onset of this COVID-19 crisis, I found myself devoting a majority of my time to a young toddler with an ever-increasing capacity for concentration. His play has become much more explorative and in depth in nature. He will now sit with the same activity for 5-10 (and sometimes even more!) minutes at a time, where as even just a few weeks ago he would go from toy to toy, shaking objects and putting them in his mouth.
I needed to create some purposeful, engaging activities for him to explore. And with all the store closures and elongated delivery times, I decided to get a little creative with objects I already had around the house. Some of these objects are repurposed from household items, and some of them are available at very reasonable price from an “everything” store like Walmart or Target.
Here are 4 budget-friendly Montessori activities that I put together for my one year old to work with:
Five Ducks in a Basket – The inspiration behind this was actually the song “Five Little Ducks Went Swimming”. This activity serves several purposes. First and foremost, it is an introduction to the quantities 1-5. I count them for him, and put two and two together to make four, etc. Second, I use them as props to go along with the song. And third, Noah is going through a phase in which he loves to put things back into containers. He knows the ducks belong in the basket and will put them back inside when prompted.
I found the mini ducks in the baby shower section at Walmart. It was about $4 for a pack of 4, and I got 2 packs. The little basket was about $3 at Walmart as well, in the Easter decor section.
Hand Transfer – Eventually these little rubber, spiky balls could be used for color sorting, or transfer with tongs. But for now, I am showing him how to use his hand to transfer them into a mini muffin pan. The balls fit perfectly inside. Now if only I could get him to transfer all 12 without picking the pan up and flipping all the balls out everywhere…
The balls came in a pack of 12, and can be found in the party favor section of Walmart or Target for less than $5. They have other color schemes as well. I have had this mini muffin pan forever, but probably got it at Target. I found this one on their website for $8.99.
DIY Infant Coin Box – This is an idea I’ve seen all over the internet, but it was SO EASY to make. I just had to wait until my husband finished his giant tub of coffee and use a sharp knife to cut a rectangular slot in the top. (The plastic was surprisingly soft). It may not be as aesthetically pleasing as one from a Montessori retailer, but this was definitely much cheaper and he enjoys it just the same.
The plastic poker chips (which, by the way, I recommend supervising 110% while using the chips!!!) were about $4.99 for a 100-pack from Walmart. I only took out 6 blue chips and put the rest away. I store the chips inside the coffee container when not in use, as he hasn’t quite figured out how to remove the lid on his own yet.
Treasure Basket – This is another classic Montessori infant activity. I first introduced Noah to this as soon as he could sit up on his own at age 6 months. The treasure basket he has on the shelf now is Easter themed. The only reason I haven’t switched it out yet is because he adores the plastic Easter eggs. He loves to open them, stack them, put objects inside them, and he tries so hard to close them. He will easily concentrate on the eggs for 20+ minutes.
Treasure baskets are great for seasonal objects or themes. I’ve used kitchen objects – measuring cups, small tupperwares, spatulas, sponges, small whisks. You can use fruits and vegetables or objects from nature. You can use different types of fabrics (wool, felt, velvet, cotton, leather). The opportunities are endless.
When your baby is younger, the treasure basket is more of a sensory/exploratory experience. As he grows into toddlerhood, the treasure basket becomes a great way to introduce categories and vocabulary.
I hope you are inspired to create your own Montessori activities for your young child. There are so many ways to educate and engage your toddler without breaking the bank. Many of the objects in these activities are things that you probably already have around your house, and if not, can acquire very easily.
If you have any amazing suggestions to add to this list, I would love to hear them and incorporate them into my son’s playtime!
Thanks for reading!