preschooler watering potted plants showing a child-led exploration activity

Five Home Learning Activities to Learn and Bond with Your Young Child

For our Montessori Center School families, the fall and winter are coveted seasons to enjoy quality time with the children in the great outdoors. Using Montessori principles to plan at-home learning activities for your preschooler or toddler can help you make the most of the coming holidays to extend your child’s Montessori learning.

1. Follow the Child

“Follow the child” was Maria Montessori’s advice to teachers and parents alike. To do this when choosing at-home learning activities for your preschooler, observe what captures your child’s attention and respond by offering related activities.

Sometimes a young child seems driven to practice a particular skill, such as using scissors. In this case, provide plenty of paper to cut, possibly marked with lines and curves for greater challenges. Other times, the world at large calls to a child. If you have, say, a junior botanist, you can set up a small garden plot or potted plants, and maybe plan a trip to a local botanical garden as a special learning activity for your preschooler.

Montessori-inspired extracurricular activities also “follow the child” by being open-ended. They can involve simple materials, such as a bin half full of dry oatmeal, beans, or rice, along with an assortment of spoons, scoops, and containers.

2. Take Your Time

“Following” a toddler or preschooler also means slowing down to your child’s pace and paying attention to your senses. The cooler weather offers some of the best spontaneous outdoor learning activities for preschoolers and toddlers. During a heavy rain, try turning everything off inside and listening together for a few moments to the pattering—or pounding!—of the droplets on the roof. Talk about how it sounds and how it makes you and your child feel. Later, you can go outdoors together and notice the unique smells of the after-rain earth.

Use the extra time with your child at home to give them plenty of time to practice self-care skills, such as dressing, tying shoes, brushing teeth, and so on. You may also have more time to demonstrate new skills, step by step. Self-care activities extend Montessori learning by developing motor skills as well as boosting self-confidence and independence.

3. Make a Mess

School vacations are the time to do those really messy activities that have to be kept outside. Sand play, shaving cream writing, painting with pudding, homemade “slime,” water pistol or straw painting—anything wet, slimy, or squishy makes a perfect outdoor learning activity for preschoolers and toddlers.

Children color painting

Free-form play with water teaches young children cause and effect, problem solving, and other thinking skills. Montessori-inspired at-home activities with water include any kind of dipping, pouring, funneling, foaming, floating, sinking, sponging, coloring, and “fishing” items out with a net.

4. Go Outside

With the beautiful Phoenix weather this season, it’s a lovely time to get outdoors. It doesn’t have to be a major expedition. Bringing a favorite toy or book outside can lend new life to an old activity.

In our desert home, twilight is an especially refreshing time to take a Montessori nature walk. The animals know this, too, so you may be able to spot roadrunners, deer, and jackrabbits, or even hear an owl hoot. If you start out a bit before dusk, you can often take in a spectacular sunset as well. Every moment spent in nature is a made-to-order learning activity for your preschooler or toddler.

5. Have Great Expectations

Expecting even very young children to participate in household chores is one of the best ways to prepare them for a happy and successful life. Extend your child’s Montessori learning through food preparation, meal cleanup, caring for plants and pets, dusting and sweeping, laundry chores, grocery shopping—every part of your family’s daily life. Our blog post Chores for Children: It’s Never Too Early gives age-appropriate examples of Practical Life–based at-home learning activities for preschoolers and toddlers.

Food preparation and meal cleanup as practical life-based at home learning activities for preschoolers

Enjoy Life through Your Child’s Eyes

The extra family time during the holidays offers the opportunity to slow down and enjoy life through your young child’s eyes. Witnessing moments from their fresh perspective can be surprisingly uplifting. 

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