In our house, the playroom is for imagination, for open-ended toys, for free exploration. We have dress up clothes (mainly play silks and scarves), building materials (wooden blocks or legos), musical instruments, and other pretending toys.
In the rest of the house, the kids tend to gravitate toward helping with real-life chores, like cleaning surfaces or windows (check out my nontoxic homemade cleaner recipes), helping with the laundry, and assisting with a bit of food preparation. They can get themselves snacks and water, and do more physical activities that require more space, like dancing or riding their rocking horse all over the place (they rock it so much that it scoots forward on the carpet).
I don’t always have Montessori lessons out for the kids, but if they express that they’d like to do something a little different, or they seem to need a bit more focus, I’ll quickly set one or two up for them. It doesn’t take much. A simple skill to practice, and the materials required, all on a tray or in a basket to show that the items belong together is at the root of most works/lessons.
Paper-punching is a great type of work for toddlers to do to practice fine-motor skills and to improve hand-strength. It’s effectively a pre-writing practice, believe it or not!
This work is one of the simplest to set up. Only a few things are required.
Toddler Paper-Punching Montessori Work Materials:
- A tray or flat basket to hold everything
- A paper puncher (I included two in case my children wanted to do this at the same time.)
- A small dish, bowl, or box to hold the punched pieces
- A few strips of construction paper. Over the years, I’ve found that shorter strips are easier for my children to use for punching work.
To introduce the paper-punching lesson:
Disclaimer: I’m not Montessori-certified or anything like that. I just love the Montessori method, have read a lot about Montessori, and have incorporated Montessori mindset into my household ever since my first baby was born. (Montessori Toddler Room Tour, How Toddler-Accessible is Your Home?, Designing Your Home With Montessori in Mind) This is how I do things, but you may choose to do them differently.
- Hold the tray in two hands, and carry it to your work table.
- Ask your toddler, “May I show you a lesson?”
- If your toddler is interested, have him sit beside or across from you.
- Say, “Okay, my turn first. Then it will be your turn.”
- Choose a paper punch, and a strip of paper slowly. Silently double-check that you only got one strip of paper. You can grab two at first on purpose, and carefully replace one in the tray.
- Find the slit where the paper goes, and slide the paper into it.
- Depending on what type of punch you have, demonstrate the force and method necessary to punch all the way through the paper. For this type of large button punch, I put one palm on the button, my other hand on top of that hand, and pushed down with apparently mighty force.
- Remove the paper strip from the punch, and lift the punch to find the punched-out shape.
- Place the punched shape into the little bowl, dish, or box. (PS Save these for a gluing work later.)
- Invite your toddler to try, saying, “Now it’s your turn.”
- Let your toddler give it a go, without interference or “help” from you. If he seems to get stuck, stay silent for a while and let him work it out. If he asks for help, you can help him a little with the bit he’s stuck with or offer to demonstrate an entire turn again.
- Watch him learn. Watch him practice. Be amazed that your child is his own best teacher. And if you take a picture, for goodness sake, do not say “Look at Mommy!” Never interrupt a busy child, if you can avoid it.