Activity of the Day – Matching and the Three Period Lesson

We have been working recently on matching activities and Joshua has been demonstrating an interest and ability to match different items so I decided to offer this via the 3 period lesson.

Montessori educators employ unique materials and strategies to formally teach vocabulary and reading. In order to build vocabulary and support a child’s expressive and receptive language capabilities, we utilise a technique called the Three Period Lesson.

Matching activities and the three period lesson has many benefits for toddlers.

  • Improving vocabulary by introducing new objects.
  • Clarifying understanding and ability to demonstrate knowledge.
  • Developing recognition skills and improving the child’s understanding of symbolic representation of objects, a crucial prerequisite for learning to read.
  • Practicing visual discrimination and learning to connect objects to print is a necessary pre-reading skill.

I was aware of the Three Period Lesson but decided to seek some advice in introducing this from a good friend and trained Montessori teacher, Jessica who runs the lovely Montessori Child Shop. She advised me to introduce the names of the objects choosing two or three objects at a time (trying to choose a few that are visually dissimilar) and following this pattern:

  1. Place one object (at a time) in front of the child while clearly stating its name. Repeat this for each object. After presenting each object then move onto the next step.
  2. Place the objects together in front of the child and ask the child to identify the object that you name (eg. “Show me/Point to the strawberry).
    If the child correctly identifies each, mix up the items and repeat the step a few times. If the child consistently identifies the objects correctly you can move on to the next step.
  3. Place one object (at a time) in front of the child and ask the child to identify it by name (e.g. “What is this?” or “What is the name of this?”).

Other uses that these cards can have are as follows:

  • Matching the small pictures to the control card – we have been working on this recently.
  • Playing memory games and trying to match pairs.
  • Leading the child toward abstraction by identifying pictures as items rather than with real concrete items (we started our exercises in matching using real objects, many months ago).
  • Exposure to written words – while Joshua may not be ready for long words or writing, it is important to expose him to the written words as this helps with preparation for reading and writing in the coming years.

This is the three period lesson in action – we are confidently up to stage 2 and wavering between stages 2 and 3 depending on the complexity of the word.



20140312_152903 20140312_152907You will note with the three period lesson and specifically the matching component – with the model – concrete learning – and abstract (matching the cards) – that I ensure that Joshua is not placing the cards or items directly onto the control card. This is not desirable as covering the control card removes the control of error component (this allows the child to check their own work and correct any errors).

We have been working on matching vegetables, fruits, animals and other everyday objects and have expanded to musical instruments.

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In addition to the tree period lesson I also introduced shadow matching as part of the exercise and do this as step 4. If I have the shadow (as with the instruments) I have placed these below the control card so that the model can be matched by placing it on top of it. If I have just the control card then I still encourage Joshua to place it below the card so that he can see what he is matching to.

An expansion on this exercise will be to introduce the real instrument so that Joshua can match the real instrument to the “real” picture that is provided in this set. There are so many ways this can go, our family actually own a fair number of the real instruments so Joshua might be really interested to hear and see the real instrument being played!

For me personally, this exercise has been a learning curve too. I have watched Joshua’s skills develop over a number of months and have been observing him move from concrete to abstract. I had not realised the work involved to move from concrete to abstract, these are abilities we take for granted, having already mastered these skills. I am learning patience and to slow the process down – something that the 3 period lesson helps me to do as I have to make sure I cover all parts before moving onto introducing new objects. I introduce 3 items at a time and stop when Joshua either loses interest or is tired. I also introduce these activities in the afternoon after lunch as Joshua usually likes to spend the morning on physical or art activities.


Me Do It – Practical Life Toddler Activities

Joshua is 25 months old. For Montessorians the most important activities at this age are practical life exercises which can be easily set up in the home. Joshua has been so interested in cutting, chopping, lifting, carrying, moving, wiping, preparing, sweeping, brushing. You name it, he wants to do it, he wants to be involved. If I pick up the broom to sweep his little hands are grasping for the broom and pushing me out of the way, me do it Mama. If I start preparing dinner his little face is always nearby and I can see him pushing his step stool up to the bench next to me out of the corner of my eye.

Here are a few ideas for practical life exercises – we have been doing so many lately I thought I would share some snippets of our day. Please note that these practical exercises are classified under “care of the environment” exercises. There are other exercises that are considered to be practical life (e.g. care of self) but I am focusing on the “care of environment” area in this post.

Wiping and cleaning table. This is great water play.



Mopping the floor. Joshua is still working on his technique, he tends to drag the mop and broom around with one hand, sometimes two.

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Window washing. I did a post on it here. Joshua is getting much better at squeezing the spray bottle.

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Squeezing orange juice. This requires a lot of strength, Joshua is still working on this and needs help but he knows that if he wants a glass of juice (a treat in our house) he has to work for it. Cut, squeeze, pour and drink. I love watching Joshua do this exercise, the look of focus on his face is wonderful.

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Cutting and chopping. We have a variety of knives and a chopping board for Joshua to support this development. He also practices spreading condiments every morning on his toast. Here Joshua is using a yellow kid safe knife and a first knife.

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Washing dishes in a basin the old fashioned way. Part of our daily routine is to clean up the dishes.

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Grating cheese – Joshua’s contribution to our dinner. Real tasks in the home for the youngest family member.

20140306_184914This is real participation in the life of the family. To be needed in such a manner makes a child feel very big and important. To be able to do something for oneself brings great satisfaction and a feeling of accomplishment that no amount of fancy toys or gadgets can provide.  Throughout history (and even into today) adults give children pretend tools and toys to use.  But children emulate adults and want to do what adults are doing. So why provide pretend tools when they can do the work themselves with the correct modelling? Recognising this need, providing real child size tools and adjusting the world made for adults to help children participate in it effectively was one of Maria Montessori’s greatest contributions.

There are many physical, emotional and mental values in work. Through these activities the child learns to be independent. There can be no intelligent choice or responsibility at any age without independence in thought and action. He learns to concentrate, to control muscles, to focus, to analyse logical steps, and complete a cycle of activity.

… It is helpful to begin with one thing, perhaps putting the napkins on the table for a meal, and gradually add to the repertoire of tasks in which the child can participate, and little by little take over.

Susan Mayclin Stephenson, The Joyful Child, Montessori Global Wisdom for Birth to Three

There are so many more things such as sweeping, cooking, vacuuming, scrubbing, pouring, setting a table and polishing that are great activities to set up for your child to work on. We don’t do every one of these every day – that would be unrealistic. But when the opportunity presents itself we make sure Joshua is offered the chance to participate.

We try to do somethine every day, an achievable target. Each builds Joshua’s confidence and self belief and makes him stronger and more independent.

Activity of the Day – Softest Play Dough

I admit that lately I have been on the lookout for the best play dough recipes. As far as Joshua is concerned there is not enough play dough in the world to satisfy his need to press and kneading and squish.

I found this lovely no cook softest play dough ever recipe and decided to give it a go.

Soft dough recipe:

1 part hair conditioner
2 parts corn flour
(Colour if desired)

Mix together, that’s it! You might need to adjust the amount of hair conditioner required to suit the mix depending on what conditioner you are using.

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This is seriously soft, smells wonderful and keeps really well in a snap lock bag. We experimented with bits of glitter and cutting tools and rolling which was wonderful. The bonus is that after mixing this up and playing with it my hands felt super soft and smelled awesome!

This is a great activity for fine and gross motor skills as well as the feel and smell being a wonderful sensory experience.

Please note that this is not edible and therefore not for children that are still putting things in their mouths.

Work Spaces – Unit Block storage

Joshua has a shelf which holds his unit blocks which we previously talked about here and here. I have considered many options to try and store these and this has been the best option by far. The shelves are open, inviting and allow Joshua to access these when he pleases and when the blocks are put away they are orderly. The only problem with this set up is that Joshua needs to know how to put all the blocks back at the end of the day. I have been demonstrating where he should put them back but mostly so far the pack up stage has been long and laboured as he does not remember where everything needs to go. Inspired by this post I decided to try the building block environment tips. This also made me look at the way I had the blocks organised and I realised that the way I had them organised needed some changes.

As I had invested in the shelving already – and this is a home set up so I am not prepared to change this again – I had to review my current storage and be a little inventive how I would store these.

I was unable to find red opaque contact so I purchased some Red Poster Board from our local Officeworks (for those in Australia, for those overseas it is the local office supplies shop). I traced the shapes of each block with a pencil and cut these out and stuck it down with double sided tape onto the shelf.


The bottom shelf needed the most thought. This stores the largest blocks in the set which include:
Back wall from left to right:

  • Gothic arch and door
  • Cross road

Shelf from left to right:

  • Side road (bottom left on shelf)
  • Switch
  • Circle curve
  • 1/2 circle curve
  • Ramp
  • Double triangle



Ideally my shelving would be a little deeper than what I have however given this is our home set up I feel pretty happy with the results. Deeper shelving would be nicer but would be more costly and would require more space which we don’t have where we are so I felt that the shelves we have are a good compromise to getting a lovely work space. Joshua is good at matching shapes and shadows so this is a fun exercise to clean up the work area while practicing this.

If I had to rethink my shelves or were looking at new shelves I would love to get deeper shelves like this (if overseas) or this (in Australia, look at storage unit F24 on page 90-91 on the page counter).

Activity of the Day – Zoo

After our recent visit to the zoo I threw together this quick matching activity to coincide with the visit but also because this is one of Joshua’s favourite books – Dear Zoo.


20140218_12015420140218_12021120140218_120254 (1)This was a great opportunity to for matching and naming zoo animals we had seen and a chance to read through a favourite story. It is great to see the correlation and strengthening of knowledge after real life experiences.

Activity of the Day – Banana Bread

I had a few queries on the banana bread I was making with Joshua today that I thought I would do a post on it. I am by no means a cooking expert but this one is so easy to make and toddler baking friendly.


Best ever banana bread recipe:

100g butter – soft
100g brown sugar
1 egg 450g bananas, mashed (ripe ones are better)
3 tbsp natural yoghurt
1 tsp vanilla essence
225g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon of salt
100g raisins
40g chopped pecans or walnuts (optional, i didn’t put these in as I am not a fan of nuts in bread)


  1. Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F). Grease and line a 22 x 11 x 7cm tin (A small loaf tin basically).
  2. Have your toddler mash up the banana in a separate bowl while you measure out the other ingredients.
  3. Beat the butter and sugar together until creamy then add egg and continue to beat until smooth.
  4. Add mashed bananas, yoghurt and vanilla essence. 
  5. Sift together the flour, bicarbonate soda, cinnamon and salt and beat this gradually into the banana mixture.
  6. Finally stir in the raisins and chopped nuts if using. Let your toddler use their wooden spoon to mix this in themselves. (At this point you will probably need to pull out and fend off little fingers if you haven’t had to already as the batter is delicious).
  7. Bake for about an hour until stick inserted in the centre comes out clean. (I checked at 45 minutes and this was enough to cook it and have it super moist so would recommend checking to see what it is like at this time and decide if you want to cook it longer. My oven at that temperature seems to cook things a bit quicker.) Let it cool in the pan and is lovely served warm.



Activity of the Day – Sunday Art Time

We try to keep weekends relatively free but inevitably time gets taken up with catching up with friends and family and other things that need doing. Still, I like for Joshua’s Daddy to see a little of what Joshua is doing and for them to have a chance to try things together. Today was a relaxing day for us after a hectic week. I did a quick set up from a few items I had from around the art area and stood back to watch.

Drawing with crayons.

20140228_120200Making dots and marks.

20140302_103144 20140302_103532 20140302_103944Hole punching and colouring in.

PhotoGrid_1393751612512Coin impressions/rubbings.

20140302_105243 20140302_105355 20140302_105457 20140302_105544I really enjoyed using crayons to do coin rubbings, I remember doing this when I was young. Art can come from all sorts of places, this might work even better with pencils/charcoal with tracing paper but we made do with what we had around the house.