Tag Archives: toddler play

More Transferring Activities


Charlie has really, really enjoyed transferring things. He likes to take all of my shoes from one room and line them up in the kitchen, move all of his (and my) books off of our big book shelf into the floor, carry our clean laundry into the living room while I’m folding it… I’m sure this sounds familiar to parents of toddlers 🙂

The other day, I was organizing all of my school boxes while Charlie napped (the worst thing about changing jobs as a teacher — all of the stuff that comes home!). I almost finished, but I was still sorting through my huge art bin when Charlie woke up. I mentioned yesterday that he really enjoyed a transferring activity with large pom poms when he was just about a year old, and he noticed the sparkly pom poms in the photo above almost instantly. I put a handful in a small mason jar I had nearby (too many at first! Start with fewer so the child can successfully complete the task and keep the extras in a bin nearby for backups (: ).


I also had a strawberry huller from a stash I had bought for fine motor practice (for way cheaper than $4 each, but I wanted to link to one). I gave Charlie a lesson with the poms and tongs, carefully emphasizing how I was using the tongs to pick up the pom pom and place it in the next cup.

Charlie did not understand why he would use this weird, unfamiliar tool to move the poms when I could just use my hands. This is the same child who pretty much hates to use his fork, though he is capable of spearing food and feeding himself when he tries. I swallowed my pride and put the tongs away for later.


I also had a bag of floral gems nearby I had taken out of a sensory bin (from my classroom), and Charlie was so intrigued. He wanted to touch each one. I placed a few in the jar, which made a satisfying clinking sound, and he loved simply transferring the gems from one jar to the next. I did notice, after several minutes, he put one in his mouth, so I put these up so that he can only use them when I’m giving him 100 percent attention, and put the pom poms on the shelf (without the tongs) for transferring.


I noticed that Charlie started trying to pour the gems (and his W sitting! We’re working on it!), so the next step will be providing him with a pouring water or rice activity. Montessori Services has a nice selection, or you can borrow some ideas and recreate the sets with some objects from your home 🙂 When you set up a water pouring activity, just make sure you include a plastic tray (so you don’t mind if some spills) and a small sponge for cleaning up messes (you can cut up a regular kitchen sponge, but I’m trying to find a sea sponge I can cut up for Charlie because I love the way it actually grows larger!). You can color the water with food coloring or watercolors to make it easier to see, if you’d like. I need to find my big box of Montessori materials that has been in storage since we moved here, so I haven’t introduced this yet to Charlie. Let me know if you have any other tips 🙂

Also, I should note, that since these transferring activities are seen as preparation for handwriting, they would be done sitting at a table, and not sitting on the floor in front of the couch :), in traditional Montessori settings.


Toddler Transferring Activities


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.


Playdough Provocation


Hello again, blogosphere! In the past 6 months or so, my little has grown up into a big 17-month-old toddler with a HUGE personality. When I taught early childhood in DC, I loved sharing provocations from my class’ learning on my old blog, Provocations and Play. I’d love to use this space to share some of the exciting ways Charlie and I are filling our days, if you’d like to read. My early childhood teaching was inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach, and I am halfway finished with my Montessori training, so you will certainly see those influences in our play-based, art-infused experiences. 🙂


This morning, I was struggling from a gluten reaction, and needed something to occupy the little man more independently than usual. I had made a batch of this gluten-free play dough a few months ago (it keeps wonderfully for me as long as it’s in an airtight container; though it did dry out quickly once we started playing with it) and added some Wild Orange oil for fun.

I had a stack of these colored match sticks left over with some art supplies and placed them with the play dough. They were an INSTANT hit. I did stay nearby since Charlie is getting his 2-year molars and wanted to bite the sticks, and I didn’t want them to splinter in his mouth. Charlie loved the match sticks, and it led to some other activities that I’ll post about later.

A couple of notes about set up: I started to use cookie sheets from the dollar store in my early childhood classroom, and it always works like a charm for defining a work space and containing messes. Also, I have made the play dough recipe linked above dozens of times, but when I made it a couple of days ago (intending to make lavender play dough), it ended up a sticky mess. I used a gluten-free blend flour and not rice flour, so I’m not sure if that makes a difference, but be sure to add the water s-l-o-w-l-y, and double-check your measurements, especially if you try to multiply the recipe and have a toddler running around 🙂