This year, the preschool children and I will be basing our mini unit studies off of classic fairy tales and folk tales. We’ve already done Cinderella and Puff the Magic Dragon, and today we are starting Jack and the Magic Beanstalk.
One of my favourite ways to embrace a child’s interest or introduce a new unit study, is to swap out some of our classroom materials for themed variations.
Counters (used in our spindle box and alongside the sandpaper numbers) are one of the easiest materials for me to integrate into our work room, as they still serve the function of the original material while adding a bit of fun and whimsy to activities that may get stagnant or boring over time.
By making the simple swap of replacing the traditional spindles with these “magic beans,” children who may have lost interest in a material will often experience a renewed interest. This is especially important with children who don’t like repetitive activities and always want to move onto something new – although we might know that repeating an activity is how we gain familiarity and understanding (you don’t learn how to count by counting once and then moving straight on to addition).
When swapping out any classroom material, I look at the original material and try to determine what it’s functions and purposes are so that any swap will still achieve those same goals.
For the spindles, not only are they used as simple counting objects, they are perfect for children practicing that pre-writing “pincer grip” by grasping objects with their thumb and forefinger, and there is a specific number available (45) so that children can double check their work. (If they have 10 spindles in the 9 spot, they know that one of the other numbers is missing a spindle.)
This is a good principle to keep in mind as well if you are DIYing a learning material: what are the primary and secondary uses for this material?
The kids loved this simple magic bean counting invitation and it was a simple way to encourage the children who resist “simple” math activities to practice this basic skill.
Materials we used for our magic bean counting:
- Montessori spindle box
- Montessori sandpaper numbers
- White beans
- Gold spraypaint (I initially tried painting them by hand – tedious and quickly abandoned)
- Small metal bucket (ours with the vine pattern is from David’s Tea)
Today, several of my fellow Montessori bloggers are sharing their own math activity posts – be sure to check them out!