Homemade Wooden Imbucare Box

Do you remember those plastic toys that had five holes of different shapes? Perhaps a star, square, circle, triangle and rectangle? Have you seen a one year old get frustrated by the amount of holes and find it overwhelming? My child has one of these plastic toys, acquired as a hand-me-down or a gift, and absolutely hates it. This was before I new about Montessori materials for the toddler age (I always thought that 3 years old was the magic age). When I learned about object permanent boxes that only have one shape I thought that my son would appreciate and enjoy this activity. When I looked up buying them, I was surprised by the cost.

If you were to buy an Imbucare Box new these are the prices you are looking at:

When you think that you will be buying 2-4 different single shape boxes, the price adds up quickly! I am not very good at woodworking projects but knew that if I wanted something like this for my son, I would need to make it myself. After a failed attempt at making a box from birch wood bought from home depot (I said I wasn’t good at woodworking), I found an easier way. It is not the exact form of the Imbucare box, and I would improve this in the future, but for a first attempt it has worked rather well (and cheaply!).

At a local craft store that always provides coupons, I found these unfinished wooden boxes for 50% off. They already have a hinged lid and a small magnet that keeps the lid on. Using a circular drill bit, I cut a circle hole that fits the sphere and cone shape, so all I have to do is switch the pieces and it is a new toy. The shapes are the same brand as the box, as if I remember correctly was only $3 (plus 40% coupon of course). The shape bag comes with three each of squares, cones, spheres, and cylinder. I painted the cones blue with craft paint I had at my house.

The green tab you see in the above photo is because that tiny magnet works so well! I used a glue gun and a piece of ribbon to make a tab that my son could use to open the box; holding the bottom and pulling on the top is too much coordination for him at the moment. When I make a box for the square pieces, I would like to buy a square, instead of circular, box in order to cut out a whole for easy access as you see in the traditional boxes that are sold.

I was trying to make a wooden, and more permanent (pun intended), version of my previous homemade coin slot box. I would say my son currently prefers the plastic-took-me-two-minutes version; I am wondering if it is because he prefers the cards to the shapes, or doesn’t like the box itself. I’ll keep you updated!

Cost Savings: $3 for box at 50% off; $1.80 for shapes at 40% off = $4.80 versus $21-57 Multiply this by 3 boxes and watch your savings increase!

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

Homemade Toddler Slot Box

An Imbucare Object Permanence Box is meant to allow the child to practice seeing an object disappear and understand that it is still there, while at the same time working on muscle coordination. I won’t go as far to say that my homemade version is an Imbucare Object Permanence Box because mine is see-through and does not easily allow for retrieving the objects out of the box. I could work on improving my homemade version- mine is more focusing on coordination and muscle control over object permanence.

Purchasing an Imbucare Box from Neinhuis, one of the leading brands of Montessori materials, is not cheap on the pocket book.

Even buying this from Montessori Outlet is more than I am able to spend:

More than 50% off is still very expensive!

I had a restless child who needed a toy to concentrate on so I took an Indian food takeout container (those tall thick ones for liquids) and cut a rectangular hole in the top. I then got some old playing cards and taught my son how to place the card through the hole. He loved this activity! It engaged his brain and his body.

Careful cutting the hole not to create any sharp edges

I quickly learned that playing cards lose their shape in the hands of a toddler. After the cards became bent he would have a difficult time getting them through the slot. I tried to find a sturdier object so that he would not get frustrated. Finding a stash of old bank, grocery and university cards we were back in business! A much needed upgrade as credit cards don’t lose shape and they are thick enough that he can pick them up when they are flat on the floor.

The second issue with this activity is that I have to supervise him because he can’t open the lid by himself, these containers seal so well they are hard to peel open. So I have to stand close by to open and close the container as he goes through all the cards (watching a toddler slowly pick up and place cards in the slot is difficult to to intervene but he does well… just takes much longer than it would us!) Since he has a short attention span for activities these days, I don’t mind sitting with him but I wonder if I created a more Object Permanence-Like box if it will increase his attention span since he would have more independence.

While I wanted a quick and cheap activity on the go, there are ways that I plan on improving this DIY version to create a more permanent (pun intended) material to add to our collection.

Toddler Hack: $0, 5 minutes

Future Improvements: Add Object-Permanence element, use a non-plastic item

Money Saved*: $30-60

*Saved for college fund since I can’t DIY Diploma