20 simple ways to keep a small child entertained, inspired by Maria Montessori


The famous Italian pedagogue, Maria Montessori, used to suggest playing certain games and activities with children aged from two to five which could help their young minds to develop without the use of toys or any specially-designed objects. These kind of games involved using the kind of things many of us have immediately to hand: jars and their lids, clothes pegs and the like, as well as a few toys. Obviously, you have to be careful to make sure your child doesn’t harm themselves with any of the smaller objects involved — that’s why these games aren’t recommended for very young children.

Inspired by Montessori’s example, we found 20 different ways to keep a small child busy at home on a cold evening. Many of them are fantastic for helping your little boy or girl get to grips with the world around them.

  1. Take some bottles, jars or any other empty vessels you can find. Remove the lids, and help your child to pick out the right one for each vessel and screw it back on.
  2. Take a sponge and washing up liquid and carefully show your child how to clean dirty dishes. Then allow them to have a go (provided none of the objects in the sink are sharp or dangerous).
  3. Deliberately spread some rice or porridge oats on the table, then give your child a brush and show them how to sweep it up.
  4. Find some scraps of material such as wool, silk and cotton. Help your child to describe what they feel like: soft, prickly, smooth etc. Suggest to him or her that they put the pieces of material into different groups, and ask them why they put them in those particular ones.
  5. Put some small objects such as buttons or toy balls in a bowl of water. Help your child to fish them out with a spoon.
  6. Take a bag and place 8-10 things in it which your child is familiar with (toys, a pencil or crayon, a comb, ribbons etc). Get your child to remove each one from the bag with their eyes closed and identify it. You can make this game more complicated: place objects in the bag which all begin with a certain letter of the alphabet, and get your child to practice pronouncing that particular letter when they identify the object.
  7. Take two bowls, a sponge, and a watering can. Pour some water into one bowl and get your child to use the sponge to transfer it to the other.
  8. Take some marbles or coloured beads and a few boxes. Mix all the marbles/beads up in one box and get your child to organise them by putting them in the other boxes according to colour or size. You can increase the complexity of this game by introducing more criteria for sorting out the objects into different boxes.
  9. Do some origami. Let your child fold, crumple or tear some paper — this will help them develop the dexterity in their hand as well as stimulate their minds and imaginations.
  10. Put some beans in a bag. Hide a small toy somewhere within and prompt your child to search for it.
  11. Sprinkle some flour on a clean table. Let your child draw pictures in the flour with either their hands or a paint brush.
  12. For younger children: Take a box without a lid and attach clothes pegs around the edges. Show your child how to take the pegs off, then let them do the rest themselves. Be careful not to allow them to pinch their fingers.
  13. Give your child a magnet and various metallic and non-metallic objects. Allow them to work out which things stick to the magnet and which ones don’t.
  14. Present your child with a plastic cup or bowl of water and whisk. Drop a tiny amount of soap or washing up liquid in the water, and let them play at creating foam.
  15. Take a selection of pots and pans together with their lids, and let your child match the lid to the right pot. They can also have fun by putting the smaller ones inside the larger ones.
  16. Let your child gather up some of the objects from the dishwasher once they’ve been cleaned — of course, don’t let them near any sharp objects.
  17. Take a plastic bowl and fill it with water. Gather up a variety of small objects — acorns, screws, beads and balls, etc. Let your child drop them into the water and observe which ones float and which ones sink to the bottom. Ask them to identify which ones are heavy and which ones are light.
  18. Fetch some old magazines or newspapers. Let your child tear them into pieces or strips. This helps them to use their hands as well as make sense of how different movements lead to different results. When they have enough small pieces, help them to throw them all up in the air.
  19. Plasticine is always fun, but for a smaller child it can be interesting just to squeeze it in their hands rather than make anything out of it. You can also hide small objects inside a lump of plasticine and encourage your child to pull them out.
  20. A small child can have hours of fun playing with the buttons, zips and velcro on clothing. It’s a great idea to gather up a pile of older clothing items and let them have a rifle through.


Source: vk.com
Photo credit: favim

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