I’m delighted to introduce you to Keri today. I came across some of Keri’s work in the Montessori 101 Facebook group and thought she had some fabulous Montessori DIY ideas. I’m sure you’ll be inspired by her amazing work!
Hello! I’m Keri, mom to two boys, ages 3.5 years and nearly 7 months old, who we regularly refer to as E1 & E2 on social media. Before E1 was born, my husband and I decided we would be homeschooling any children we may have so it was then that I started researching various homeschooling methods. I’d like to say that we started Montessori teaching from birth… but I did not discover anything about Montessori until he was around a year old. That said, my degree and studies in anthropology had given me a very good understanding of child development and that young children can truly learn much more than society (in general) is willing to allow them to. I knew instinctively to follow my child’s interests and my husband was on board with that as well.
I discovered Baby Led Weaning as his six “monthiversary” neared and absolutely loved the idea of letting him be in charge of his own weaning process! As his first birthday approached, I decided that I wasn’t doing enough for him (not true, but you know how a mom brain works) so I began researching again and ultimately discovered Montessori.
I read a lot but perhaps not quite enough because I’d come to the conclusion that the Montessori method couldn’t be implemented until 3 (or 2.5, “if the child is showing signs of readiness”). So, I didn’t look into materials at the time. That said, I was no slouch, I purchased an ebook that encouraged doing Montessori inspired activities with younger children in the home, without having to buy much of anything, and started teaching my 18 month old how to do things on his own (for example, practical life skills as he became interested in the processes.)
I continued to read and learn as I could and found so much information- Maybe too much information! I decided that I would wait to start our home preschool until he was closer to 3.5 (his birthday is in May and I wanted to start him in the fall, just in case he ever had to go to public school) so I kept doing different types of practical activities and sensory bins.
Then I found out I was pregnant with E2 and, as the pregnancy progressed, it got harder for me to do as many activities for E1 but he would often create his own activities with whatever tools and materials were available to him. This past summer, I started gearing up for our first day of school in fall and started purchasing a few materials, mostly manipulatives. I had previously purchased the knobbed cylinders but knew there wouldn’t be much else that I would be able to afford to buy. I started trying to find cheaper alternatives. Inspired by the ebook and a few blogs aimed at doing Montessori cheaply, I determined that I would just make as much as I could.
I’ve made a lot of things in the past few months and I’m proud of my work so I shared it on a Montessori page on Facebook, which is where Seemi first saw my materials. She asked me to create a post for Trillium and share my methods and materials, so here is what I’ve done thus far!
The first thing I made this summer was the Hemisphere Map, which is made from craft foam and mounted on mat board. I used the printable hemisphere coloring page from The Helpful Garden and enlarged it on my copy machine by 150%. Each hemisphere is about 14″ in diameter. I used an Xacto knife to cut out each continent from their respective color craft foam sheet. I traced the continents onto the blue hemispheres and then painted inside the lines with a white acrylic paint marker. I discovered that the paint actually got absorbed by the foam pretty rapidly so I applied a few layers of Mod Podge to all of the blue foam and repainted with the white. Each continent is coated with Mod Podge as well, for durability. I also painted the larger islands onto the blue with the same type of acrylic paint pen (Uni-Posca pens) and then applied another two layers of MP. After everything dried, I attached Velcro to each continent and stuck them in place.
Sand and Continent Globe
After that, I made a combination Sand and Continent Globe. This is a 6″ globe from a craft store that I thought would work pretty well. I started by painting each of the continents and oceans with acrylic paint pens. Then I carefully applied Mod Podge to one continent at a time and sprinkled the same color craft sand over it. I got this idea from Making Montessori Ours and decided to follow her advice to paint the continents first in case the sand got rubbed off. It has held up remarkably well… Well, the paint and sand have, the globe came off of its base so I’ll be displaying it on a stone sphere base from now on.
After that, there were a whole bunch of little things I wanted to make so I started and finished them at various times in August and September.
These are jewelry tubes that I’ve had for many years so I’m not sure where to get them now but I did a search on Amazon for “plastic tubes with caps” and got a lot of results. These are about 10″ long and have the diameter of a US quarter. I actually think they are a bit big for the sound cylinders but my son loves them so whatever! I used blue and orange (to match the orange pencil box; I didn’t have red boxes!) electrical tape to wrap them. I cut circles of different colored papers to stick to the bottom for control of error.
I’ve made 10 sets of these bead stairs thus far – it will be a long term project – and will soon be making the negative stairs and b&w stairs. I got the idea from many blogs but they all credit the same lady for inspiring them. Here is her blog post.
This is a geoboard that I was super excited to make but decided that it could be dangerous since those bolts are actually quite sharp on the ends. It’s in storage until I find a way to soften the ends or replace the bolts with wooden dowels. I got this idea here.
I made these color tablets with foam poster board and printed color grade sheets from Montessori Print Shop. I cut each tablet from the foam board to about 1.5″ by 2.5″ using my Xacto knife and then wrapped and glued each color around the center (roughly). I also coated each one with some Mod Podge to seal them and make them last longer. In hindsight, I don’t really like them and wish I’d just gotten the paint chip samples from a hardware store and cut and laminated those. I may do that still but I’m trying to let these grow on me a bit.
These are made from five different grades of sand paper and some ivory cardstock mounted to mat board.
Felt Continent Map
This is just a world map that I cut from felt. The blue piece is 9″x12″.
I ordered 100 shaker pegs from eBay – you can find them at hobby stores but trust me when I tell you that you want to order them – they get pretty pricey otherwise! You can get them on Amazon too. They are just natural wood when you order them but I dyed them rather easily with liquid watercolors and a ziplock bag. The peg board is a piece my husband cut from the leftover piece we had from the geoboard project. I had to bore out the holes with a 9/16″ bit to get the pegs to fit right.
Pink Tower/Broad Stair
My father in law made these for us using the measurements provided on this site
I cut several 3/4″ dowel rods (yes, me – my FIL taught me how to use the bandsaw! AND all of my fingers are still in tact!) and decided to dye them red… Probably not very Montessori but they sure are pretty.
Made out of Duplo 4x4x2 blocks. They were all red to begin with because those were the only ones I could find in bulk so I painted the blue ones with acrylic paint.
Object Permanence Box
Since E2 is now 7 months old, I decided I should start making things for him too. This was my first infant Montessori project and I’ll likely make some sort of coin drop box or tube next. I cut the box (but not the lid) at about the two-thirds mark,then trimmed the smaller section by about 3 inches. I took the scrap piece and cut it into smaller pieces to fashion a ramp and chute for the ball to come out on its own. Then I cut the holes and taped it all together.
Prior to this past summer, I also “made” the geometric solids by staining the 19 piece set from Learning Resources blue around E1’s 2nd birthday. At first, I use food coloring but the wood turned out very teal in color (you can see them in the fabric box picture) so I painted over them with dark blue liquid watercolor. They look pretty neat but may be too dark and my son discovered that the blue transfers very readily to his hands so I’ll be either waxing them or painting them with something to seal the color better.
And I also made a light box about a year ago, though it’s only recently that he’s been interested in it again. Here’s the link to the site that inspired me to make it.
Thank you, Seemi, for the guest post. I’d love to see the Montessori method made more accessible to everyone but the prohibitive costs of materials prevents so many from further exploring it so I hope that this post might allow someone to delve deeper into the topic. I hope to help others see that Montessori materials don’t have to be expensive for home use and that many can be made rather easily with the right tools and just a little time. I hope I can inspire others to make materials for their own children so that they can do more works similar to children in Montessori classrooms.
I’m happy to answer any and all questions about anything I’ve posted!