It is harder and harder to choose favourites as the children get older as the children’s interests and skills levels vary greatly. They are also moving from the unconscious absorbent mind (0-3 years) to a conscious absorbent mind (3-6 years) and starting to enjoy sensorial classification and perhaps showing interest in symbols like letters or numbers.
So I’ve picked 9 of my favourite Montessori activities for 3+ years but, as always, use the age as a guide only. Your child might be interested in these around 2.5 years or after 4 years. All is ok. Follow the child.
1. Making a wool necklace from straws – this is a simple activity that my children loved. Cut a long piece of wool, thread a thick darning needle onto the wool, and secure the ends. I’m using up some plastic straws I had still but otherwise cut paper straws into 2 cm pieces and the child will love to thread the pieces on. You could also make this a waste-free activity by recycling paper to make paper beads and then thread them on. Once the wool is full of straws/paper beads, tie a knot and cut off the needle – et voilà, a necklace.
2. Composition puzzles, 12+ pieces – often around this age, children can manage a traditional style puzzle with around 12 pieces. We might start by offering them only the top 4 pieces first, then the middle 4 pieces, then the bottom 4 pieces and over time they will be able to build on this to manage more and more themselves. This puzzle is by Melissa and Doug.
Note: young children do puzzles differently that an adult. They look at the whole picture not for the corner and edge pieces (unless they have been taught that way!).
3. Dish washing – this activity gets popular around 2.5 years. We don’t need to get a special dish washing table for this, we can place 2 bowls onto a low table or shelf. We have a drying rack, a wooden dish brush, and a travel sized container with a small amount of washing liquid. On the bottom shelf is a jug for collecting water, a bucket for emptying the water at the end, and a towel for drying the dishes and a towel for drying their hands.
4. Buttons – we do not need to buy a special button frame like in class. We might have a cardigan with large buttons they could practice on or when they are wearing clothing with buttons on. Think about all the steps it takes to open and close a button. Practice breaking it down into very small steps to model for the child to have most success.
5. Matching colours and learning names of colours – Again we don’t need to buy this material. We can make something similar from paint chips or objects in the home. Children from around 2.5 years are often becoming interested in colour. Dr Montessori had these in her 3-6 classroom but I observe many children knowing these before 3 years. And for some children it can be closer to 4 years. In our class we use the colour tablets for the child to find the pairs of colours that are the same and to do a 3-period lesson of their names.
6. Sandpaper shapes, numbers and letters – I like this series of books for at home where the child can run their finger around the shape or the number or the letter as we say the name of the shape/number or the sound that the letter makes – they see it, feel it and hear it. Montessori: Shape work, Number work, Letter work
7. Buddha board – the children really enjoy this special board which is like magic. Dip the paintbrush in water and make patterns, paint the whole surface, make a drawing, or write numbers or letters. And then you have to wait until it dries til you can start again.
8. A farm – a simple wooden farm with animals is lovely for our youngest toddlers and preschoolers. I like to use it for language learning the names of the baby animals too. And provides open-ended opportunity for them to play out feeding the animals, putting them to sleep and being on the farm.
9. Grading nuts and bolts – this appeals to children around 2.5/3 years as they enjoy mastering screwing the nuts onto the bolts, working out which is bigger and smaller, as well as learning language like big, bigger, biggest.
For children 3+ years
This will be the last in the series of my favourite Montessori activities by age. Over 3 years old, a child often starts in the Montessori preschool and then I recommend the activities at home be less like the activities in the classroom as they are already at school 3-6 hours a day, we want to keep these exciting for school, and we might also introduce them in a way that is different to how their teacher shows them which could ultimate confuse them more than help them.
Look for activities that are hands on, use natural materials, allow for self-discovery and exploration, and are holistic – ie, meet the needs of their whole development from language to gross motor to self-expression to practical life to fine motor skills.
- being outdoors – building huts, exploring nature, using binoculars, looking up bird guides
- hide and seek
- reading together
- reading alone
- dance and music
- self-expression with beautiful quality materials to explore
- playing “I spy”
- collaborative board games
- activities you can come up with to follow their interests, for example, maps, bell towers, trains, the hospital etc,
- building materials like lego, magnatiles
- an atelier with wood, hammers, saw, nails
Wanting more activities?
- 3 – 6 months
- 6 – 9 months
- 9 – 12 months
- 12-15 months
- 15 – 18 months
- 18 – 21 months
- 21-24 months
- 2 years – 2 years 3 months
- 2 years 3 months – 2 years 6 months
- 2.5 – 3 years
- 3+ years
You can also download a free 42-page pdf of Montessori activities by age (0 to 4 years) from my website.