Nature Basket: Matching Nomenclature Cards to Object

My son is fascinated with everything outdoors. He loves being outside; if there was a refrigerator with food outside, I don’t think he would come inside at all. Twigs, rocks, dirt clumps, puddles, leaves, flowers, rocks, did I mention rocks? He is already a pro collector. I thought that a nature basket would be a good first matching activity for him.

I started by collecting four nature objects from our yard. We don’t have a pine tree, but luckily a neighbor does and the pine cones were laying in the street. While I may have been able to find a more durable leaf elsewhere, I wanted one that I had access to so I could replace it when he rips it up (I was right- day one with basket- ripped up leaf).

To make the cards, I took pictures on a white background hoping that it would blend in when I printed them out (not exactly but doable).

I then pasted these onto a word document, writing the name on top in English and on bottom in French. I really loved Three Minute Montessori’s post on the importance of choosing the right font. Since I was feeling a little lazy last night, I decided that font wasn’t too important since my son would probably destroy the cards before the writing meant much to him, and went with the print Comic Sans.

Here is the file I printed out to create the cards:

After printing, I used glossy laminate sheets that I had left over from my teaching days to laminate the cards. It is not a great laminate, definitely won’t last more than a month is my guess, but I already had them and don’t plan on buying a laminator… yet (they really aren’t that expensive these days).

Not professional grade but good enough for us!

First morning lesson went much better than I expected! He sat and watched as I brought each individual item out and matched it to the item. I made the first introduction short and then had him put the basket away on his shelf. We had a second lesson in the afternoon and he did well with handing me the object from the basket when I took out a specific card. The cards did get a lot of wear on them already so the next time around I will have to work at making the laminate stick better. I think I need to use two sheets of laminate stuck together instead of one sheet of laminate stuck to a piece of overlapping paper.

Side note: I forgot how spiky pine cones are and was worried that he would hurt himself, but he is very careful in holding it and seems to know not to squeeze.

Cost: $0.50 (for basket)

Advanced Learning: Three-Part Cards (one additional card with the label detached), Four-Part Cards (adding a definition), rotating and adding more objects to the basket, have the child make their own cards

Unlikely Bilingual Children’s Books

Living in a monolingual loving society, you have to go out of your way to find foreign language children’s books. One solution to this problem is creating your own multilingual books- shown here in this post. I have been looking for more ways to add bilingual stories into our life and here are two ideas that my son and a former professor taught me this week:

Unlikely Bilingual Book #1: Cookbooks!

Sometimes we have to look outside of the norm, and this practice in creativity expands our opportunities. Luckily for me, two people helped nudge me towards creativity this week.

I can thank my son for this brilliant and simple idea. He stumbled upon a French cookbook in the closet last week, bringing it to me so I could read it to him. First thing I said out loud was, “This isn’t a kid’s book, you won’t like this book”. I regretted the words as I said them, took the book and reminded myself that he’s allowed to read all books. As soon as I started reading, I realized that he was loving it; another French book just got add to our reading list.

Many cookbooks are straight picture books. He was fascinated by the large closeups of different foods items. I started to point out the ingredients to him and realized this was a perfect children’s book. Since this book is Salads of Summer, most of the ingredients aren’t cooked, just mixed together. This makes it ideal for identification- going through the list of ingredients and finding them in the photos. You can talk about shape, colors and different textures. Which of these foods have you tasted before? Which of these foods would you like to try? For older children, you could read through the recipes, learning different cooking verbs. You can talk about the five tastes and the science of the tongue. Pick out a recipe, shop for ingredients and then prepare the recipe together. Since most nations use the Metric system, this is a good time to talk about this difference and practice math conversions.

I have to be honest, I get bored of children’s books after awhile. Overall they’re wonderful, but reading them over and over again becomes mundane. However food is difficult to tire of, so this is a convenient way of incorporating bilingual vocabulary in food and cooking into your child’s day.

If you don’t own any cookbooks in the target language, I find that as a non-native speaker of French, food vocabulary has always come easy and is a good candidate for interpreting, so grab an English cookbook with lots of pictures and enjoy a good bilingual read with your little one!

Cost: $0 (use cookbooks already on hand, or rent from the library)

Advanced Learning: Shopping for ingredients, imagine what kitchen items you would need for the recipe, calculate recipe in the Metric system (or into the Imperial system)

Unlikely Bilingual Book #2: English picture book + Target Language Audio books

Reaching out to a former French professor gave me the inspiration for the next unlikely candidate for bilingual children’s books: classic tales. As a non-native speaker of French, I can become self-conscious of my language ability and what I am passing on to my son.
My professor reminded me that a variety of language speakers is important for every learner- even those that have a native speaker educating them.

I sometimes play YouTube or Netflix cartoons in French for my son but he doesn’t like watching TV in general and won’t pay attention. While this makes me happy, I do worry about how to incorporate native language speakers into his daily life. I have also read some research on how children can’t process TV and radio programming without having it broken down by someone in real life- overall electronic audio doesn’t help language development in English or in the target language unless it is thoughtfully presented.

Stories that are ubiquitous to many cultures are classic folk and fairy tales. These stories are readily available on YouTube in French and so I decided to get some books from the library and try combining the book with the YouTube audio. It was very easy to follow along between the picture book and the audio.

Overall, I did find that my son got distracted by the sound of the audio coming from a device he couldn’t touch and paying attention to the book at the same time. I made a point of pointing out the pictures and asking him questions throughout the reading. This was a promising activity and I plan on incorporating this into our daily activities.
I do think that this activity will work better as he gets older.

Cost: $0

Advanced Learning: Ask (in the target language) follow up questions after the story is over, talk about differences between the audio and the picture book.

Toddler Pouring Kit

When you walk through any baby aisle all you see are plastic cups, plastic spoons, plastic bowls and plates. Children are destructive we are told- don’t trust them with anything breakable. This all seems logical and all the non-destructible and non-spill items made sense to me. It does seem counter intuitive to give a 15 month old a glass pitcher. I handed my toddler a glass cup with trepidation. I held my breath as he looked at the new prize sitting on his table. I knew he was going to pick it up and throw it across the room. After it shattered into many pieces my golden retriever and my son would injure their feet on the shards of glass. As this went through my mind in excruciating detail, my son was unfazed. I am grateful that thoughts can’t be heard, for low and behold, he didn’t bang it, he didn’t break it; in fact, he held the glass in his hands with care. He picked it up with both hands and then set it back down on his table- then he repeated- pick it up, set it down, pick it up, set it down. Several of these practices and he took a sip.

Day one of giving him a glass cup and I made sure to stand right next to him. I did limit his time with the glass, as soon as he had taken a few sips, I praised his efforts and told him we would put the glass away until he was thirsty again. I made sure to not fill it too high in order to minimize spilling (for we did dribble some during drinking).

tiny hexagonal glass and glass pitcher sitting on a cloth napkin
$0.99 for glass $1.99 for the pitcher

Today made me think that the glass pitcher was not a mistake. He wasn’t ready for the pitcher today, but after giving him the next week to work on using his cup, I look forward to introducing him (with supervision) to pouring with the pitcher.

I found the hexagonal glass (better for gripping) and the pitcher at a local thrift store. I love buying from thrift stores for it keeps used items out of landfills. In addition, this particular thrift store runs the local homeless shelter- supporting the community and the environment through my consumerism. Who doesn’t like an excuse to feel good about shopping?

Costing a mere $3 for the the two items, here is a sample of what you would be paying if you were to buy this product new on amazon:

montessori pouring kit on amazon $15.95 + 10.95 shipping
Glassware is abundant at thrift stores- I highly recommend checking there first

Glassware is a very common item at thrift stores and a great place to save some money, especially on shipping! For a child size sponge, simply cut one a regular sponges in half.

Future Improvements: I still need to find some trays- one downside of thrifting, it does require some patience to find what you are looking for (or is learning patience a positive??)

Money Savings: $20-40