Some of the most common works you will find in a Montessori 3-6 classroom, nestled among the practical life shelf, are transferring activities. I introduced Charlie to his first transferring activity when he was around a year old, when I noticed he was showing an interest in picking up small objects with a beginning pincer grip. I had some large pom poms and cut a hole (take care to make sure the edges are smooth!) in a take-out container so that he could pick up a pom from the turquoise cup (he LOVED these metal cut-out containers from the Target dollar bin around Cinco de Mayo) and push it through the hole into the clear container. He was so interested in this activity for several weeks, and would stay engaged for several minutes. I actually created this activity before starting Montessori training, and when I visited my new school, I noticed the same activity was in the toddler room on the shelves 🙂
Shortly after this activity, I introduced a couple of other larger object transferring activities (his Easter basket had a parmesan cheese container with matchsticks which was not as successful), but he started to lose interest.
Yesterday, when Charlie played with the play dough and matchsticks, I noticed that he was extremely interested in the sticks, and he started to move them back and forth between rooms when the play dough lost its allure. I remember my earlier attempt of the parmesan cheese container, and grabbed a spice jar I had laying around. I actually keep a big box in the closet of Charlie’s playroom for containers I know I’ll want to reuse, so I had an old plastic black pepper container as well as a glass spice jar from an old spice rack. When I first provided the lesson, I carefully took a stick from the jar and placed it through one of the holes in the lid into the jar. When Charlie took over, he took the lid off the jar and placed the sticks directly into the open jar (completely defeating the purpose of carefully coordinating the placement of the sticks into the little holes). I tried to put my judgment aside and follow his lead 🙂 (so important, but SO hard for this mama!). After I let him do that, fill the whole jar, empty them out, and repeat several times, he eventually grabbed the other jar with the lid on, and spent a very long time carefully placing the sticks into the slots. [You only need one jar for this activity, but I had two out because I found the glass one when he was using the other, and I liked that the holes were smaller :)] Another variation of this activity, which I saw when we went to visit Charlie’s future Montessori toddler classroom, is a cheese shaker with cocktail picks like these. Because of the knots on those picks, the child can take them in and pull them out without needing to open or close the lid, which I think Charlie would enjoy.
In true Montessori work, the child would have a tray for this activity, but we did not. At some point, Charlie was doing the work on a cookie sheet we had nearby, and that helped to contain the sticks if he spilled them out of the first container, but don’t let it be a deterrent if you don’t have one.
I hear a lot from other mamas about how quality children’s toys are expensive, and they can be (!), but these transferring activities use mostly recycled materials or things laying around the home, and you can usually find large bags of sticks or poms at the dollar store or Walmart and can reuse things like that for several different experiences. I hope this is helpful, and I would love to hear about some things you do with your kids with recycled materials.