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Montessori Thanksgiving activities for young children

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Montessori Thanksgiving activities for young children engage a child’s senses, allow for independent exploration, use real objects that are meaningful, relevant and encourage creativity. In Montessori environments, practical life, sensorial and creative art activities are easy to modify to create variety and to incorporate different themes all year long. The weeks leading up to Thanksgiving are often filled with much discussion about gratitude, Native Americans, harvest feasts, and autumn in the natural world. With a little effort these ideas can be incorporated into many traditional Montessori materials to create a fun and new activity.

A Thanksgiving Montessori Mystery Bag

Every Montessori activity, or “work” as it is called in a Montessori environment is designed to have a purpose in which a child will explore and discover through a hands-on manipulation of real objects. The Montessori work called The Mystery Bag develops a child’s tactile or stereognostic discrimination of forms and also enriches her vocabulary.

The Mystery Bag is a favorite work in a Montessori environment because the real objects in the mystery bag are changed often in order to offer challenge and keep interest high. The real objects in the mystery bag need to be meaningful and relevant to the child. In the fall, the objects should reflect the changes in a child’s natural world as well as the traditions and celebrations that occur. Autumn objects such as a small gourd, an ear Indian corn, a small pumpkin, an oak leaf and a fallen acorn along with Native American objects such as a child’s moccasin, a feather, a small hand drum, and an authentic arrowhead create a meaningful and interesting mystery bag for a child.

A Sensory Tub for Thanksgiving

One of the key elements in a Montessori environment is a child’s exposure to sensorial experiences, those things which engage the senses in a way that allows a child to explore and discover the world. Why does a child love to take off her shoes and squish her toes in a sandy beach or a playground sandbox? It’s all a wonderful sensory experience.

In November, fill a tub with items that represent objects associated with Thanksgiving to create a variety of sensory experiences for a child. Choose a clear plastic storage box with a lid in a size appropriate for your child and space. Fill the box ½ way with your sensory items and be sure to have a supply of plastic or metal measuring cups, spoons, scoops, tongs and funnels available for exploration. Young children should always be supervised when using sensory tubs as some items may pose a choking hazard.

  • Sandy tub: ground corn meal
  • Smooth tub: dried corn kernels
  • Soft tub: assorted feathers
  • Rough tub: dried leaves
  • Cool tub: frozen corn kernels
  • Slick tub: Native American seed beads

Thanksgiving Activities for Fine-Motor Development

Many Montessori practical life activities help to build a child’s fine motor skills. A variety of liquid and dry pouring, transferring and spooning, and scooping and tweezing activities will be available in an early childhood Montessori environment. Children between the ages of three and six repeatedly return to these activities throughout the three years in a Montessori class, so just like the Mystery Bag, these activities are changed often to keep interest high and create a connection with what is happening in a child’s natural world. For Thanksgiving, practical life activities can be varied many ways.

  • Liquid Pouring: create water in fall colors of orange, yellow or brown with food coloring
  • Dry Pouring: fill a child sized pitcher with Native American seed beads
  • Transferring: use fingers to transfer single pieces of popped popcorn
  • Spooning: practice spooning uncooked cranberries using a regular teaspoon
  • Scooping: offer dry flour with a child sized scoop and dry measuring cups
  • Tweezing: present small tweezers to remove each kernel from an Indian corn cob

Creative Art Activities for Thanksgiving

The primary goal of art in a Montessori environment is to allow a child to build self-confidence and explore through self-expression through various forms of art techniques and mediums. Montessori art activities offer a wide range of tools, paper choices, mediums in order to engage the senses and encourage a child to create original art that is based upon exploring a technique rather than imitating a finished product. The Montessori philosophy adheres to the idea that all creative art work is a process that will result in a finished product that is a surprise! To celebrate Thanksgiving, offer art activities that are meaningful and relevant.

  • Offer an assortment of child-safe feathers to use instead of a paint brush
  • Provide dried corn husks to paint on instead of paper
  • Demonstrate print making by applying paint to Indian corn and then rolling on paper
  • Present simple weaving using natural materials such as prairie grasses or corn husks
  • Create scented play dough by adding ground cinnamon, nutmeg or pumpkin spice
  • Supply pumpkin and sunflower seeds with glue to create an original seed mosaic

Thanksgiving is the ideal time to begin varying traditional Montessori activities in a classroom. Changing objects, colors and materials keeps a child interested and her senses engaged which encourages the Montessori foundation of a child’s freedom to choose and repeat activities in order to develop a variety of skills. Interesting sensory activities, like The Mystery Bag and sensory tubs encourage a child to explore using her senses, an important key to a child’s development between the ages of three and six years old. Fine motor development through the use of practical life activities provide the basis for strong hand muscles, coordination and concentration needed for future academic skills. Montessori art activities are not traditional craft projects. By offering a child a variety of art mediums and techniques a child is given the opportunity to explore and create without limits.

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