My nephews are my everything. It seems they’ve become accustomed to their Auntie and her bag filled with activities. We’re about an hour from one another. I don’t see them nearly as often as I’d like and so when I do and if they’re wiling, it’s an honor to play a role in their development in my own special way and watch them learn.

Today we meet at my nephew’s favorite restaurant Black Bear Diner. Charlie is our lil bear. He’s 4 years old and on the left. Liam age 6, is on the right.

As soon as they sat down they asked what was in my big white bag. I gave the boys the options of shapes, building words, or math. Each we’re excited despite their hunger pains and exhaustion from a long car ride.

Charlie is in the process of learning his sounds. He’s 4 and works with a speech pathologist. I suspect that in addition he has sensory integration challenges just as many other children his age. He gets easily overwhelmed by sounds and crowded places. He loves tight hugs and small tight places. In fact at the overly crowded and loud restaurant he said, “The music playing is sad.” My mom and I were completely stunned that he had an awareness to this. It’s for this reason that the iPad helps Charlie and is generally used as a strategy to help prevent the “Aunger” effect (hunger + anger).

Our experiment was to see how long the boys could last without the use of the iPad. I believe there’s a time and place for everything. My sister (like most parents) uses electronics as the first go to activity. I wanted to show her how we can support the boys development with activities that are just as engaging and developmentally appropriate while supporting their individual needs.

The first activity given to Charlie was easy for him and it was perfect in the sense that it had him asking for more. He felt success and suggested that I store the shapes under the gold tray. I couldn’t help but chuckle. He knows his auntie enjoys creating and making activities from children. His feedback was priceless! This is important to note because often times parents want to push their children to do more and challenge them. Montessori activities are about finding that careful balance of ease while providing a slight challenge. The secret is to keep them wanting more and build intrinsic motivation.

Liam selected sequencing numerals 1-30. This activity took him a good 10 minutes. He took his time and scanned for each popsicle stick in order rather than matching in a mixed array. He took his time and scanned for each popsicle stick in order rather than match the sticks in mixed array. His methodical process indicated how the work was slightly easy for him too, but just enough to keep him concentrated and interested in the task at hand. Liam is a big fan of Mindcraft, so to see him show interested in tasks other than his iPad was priceless!

While the boys were busy, we had an unexpected surprise. The young boy appeared to be slightly younger than Liam stood and watched for a good couple of minutes! The amusing part was when his mom said, “Come back, and play on my cellphone.”

The sight above you is nothing new in Montessori classrooms. In mixed age group classrooms, younger children are often seen observing the work of older peers. This was no different. He was captivated!

Score:    Auntie’s Activities-3              iPad-0

After the first set of activities were completed,  I asked Liam and Charlie if they wanted to continue. Each enthusiastically responded with, “Yes,” so onward we went!

In the previous post, I shared how to put together two Montessori inspired teen board activities. Charlie doesn’t attend a Montessori school. In fact, the beauty of Montessori activities are the design. Activities are put together keeping the following elements in mind: order, beauty, organization and control of error. The work/activity (if put together well) are self-directed and includes a control of error (a self-correcting mechanism allowing the child to self-correct). This concept if you think about is phenomenal. The child (the learner) guides their own learning while monitors their own success! Isn’t that genius? The work caters to supporting children to work at their own pace and learn to self-correct or use deduction skills to complete tasks. If you think about it, deduction skills are often used in standardized tests where multiple choice are often used. Children completing hands-on tasks such as these are learning how to think by process of elimination. Now isn’t that double brilliance?

The teen board I put together used two ice cube trays.  One tray had numerals 1-10 and the second tray, 10-20. Charlie observed his brother complete both sets. It was important for me to provide him with experiences and successes similar to his big brother where learning happens flawlessly for him. I gave him the first tray and  said, “Count and match.” Charlie knew exactly what to do and counted as I would expect a child to count while matching the quantity to numeral. Charlie is a reluctant learner so to see him happy and independent was icing on the cake. His mom had the biggest smile on her face and this made me even happier. Reluctant learners need a wide variety of activities and experiences to build their self esteem. Nothing is more priceless than to give my nephew opportunities to stand out and feel successes that are his own.

Liam is currently in first grade. He’s currently learning about digraphs (words with ch, sh, wh, ph, th), so I brought him the activities I had made a few weeks back. His favorite was the lotto. I asked him why and he said, “I like the small objects!”

I mentioned earlier Charlie’s reluctance to learning. He is quick to turn down anything that remotely looks difficult in his eyes. I wanted to give him an activity that appeared to be ‘reading’ but was more or less a visual discrimination activity, but lended itself to vocabulary development. I wanted him to have ‘Big boy’ work like his brother.

While I had an entire bag full of magnetic animals and cards with printed labels corresponding to each animal, Charlie’s success took precedence. I limited the amount of cards and well I think the photo speaks volumes. He’s proud!

Now, not everyone has the time and energy to put these activities together. So perhaps it’s time to take it back old school. Remember Mad Libs, a tupperware bin of Legos, itch a sketch, coloring books, word searches or Playdoh? If your child rarely has the opportunity to use these activities and when the iPad is used sparingly, the outcome may just surprise you!  If you are homeschooling and have a repertoire of activities there’s no harm in revisiting them!

Thank you for visiting!