If you’re looking for that one go to item that has multiple uses and endless possibilities for homeschooling, or classroom use -look no further! I will attempt to show you various ways a Montessorian like myself would use ice cube trays. Ice Cube trays are easy to store, inexpensive and have multiple uses from fine motor, literacy, math to science. Compartments within the tray are contained, allow for order and organization. They’re also relatively easy to find at either thrift stores or at your local Dollar store!
Below is a combined list of items I’ve put together (including 3 DIY Montessori Activities-Movable Alphabet, teen board extension and Multiplication Board), along with a comprehensive list of other learning activities you can implement. The activities are hands-on. I provide a brief description for the activities I put together. Most activities took less than 5 minutes to put together and incorporate items you have in your home! For easy viewing, the following activities are categorized as:
- Fine Motor
- Combined Skills
- Organization Hacks for Kids
- Invitation to Play
Let’s get started!
1) Whole Hand Development using a turkey baster
This is one of my all time favorite Montessori Practical Life Activities. Children enjoy the action of squeezing and releasing, so when you combine this with water, this work is very engaging for our lil ones. Little do they know that when they are using a turkey baster to transfer water from a vessel to the left to the right, -they’re preparing their eyes for reading while working the whole hand muscles in direct preparation for scissor cutting. This activity is generally used with 2 bowls. Incorporating the use of an ice cube tray is a variation to Montessori’s original activity of using a turkey baster and 2 bowls. Variations are important because once a child has had numerous experiences with the first activity, incorporating other variations promotes and extends the interest and not to mention practice. Repetition in all Montessori activities is always a plus!
2) Spooning Pompoms
Another Practical Life activity in Montessori classrooms are activities involving spooning contents from one container to another. The act of scooping and turning the wrist to gather and release items prepares the wrist for cutting and writing. Now an ice cube tray for most of our lil ones is something they have little experience with. Step into their shoes…children are drawn to shape and colors. To interest the child you want to make sure that the contents that are used are interesting either by color or by auditory stimulus created when they scoop and release the item into the tray. Other items you could potentially use: marbles, gems, dried beans, mini-erasers, and small rocks.
3. Put and Take
This activity is referred to as a ‘Put and Take.’ In this example the ice cube tray is used as a display to hold magnetic shapes. Items from the left are placed in the container to the right. A rectangular insert was made using a razor blade. My students enjoyed hearing the ping of the magnets as they hit the bottom of the recycled peanut container. I particular like how using the tray as a placeholder for the contents indirectly prepares the child for subtraction. Other items you could use: coins, magnetic letters, magnetic numbers, slips of cardboard, mini erasers, thin foam shapes.
Another important Practical Life Activity include the use of tongs. Again, you’re probably thinking how bizarre this may sound and look, but the reality is, the act of holding tongs and squeezing and releasing develops the whole hand. This movement is the same movement children use for scissor cutting! So when a 2.5 year old is using tongs, they’re preparing their hands and eyes for future academic work while strengthening their independence, coordination, concentration and order! You can find tongs at Dollar Tree, Bed Bath and Beyond, Hobby Lobby and Thrift Stores. Other items you could use for transferring: wet sponges, rocks, spiky plastic pompoms and duplos
The following activities combine various skills. If your child has had experience with the activities above, they’re ready to combine skills!
5. Fine Motor, Sensory and Matching
6. Fine Motor and Color Mixing
7. Fine Motor and Color Matching
8. Fine Motor and Patterning
9) Letter Matching
10) Initial Sounds and Object Matching
Maria Montessori noted children’s intense interest for small objects. She combined this interest in language development by introducing letters and sounds with objects. The activity above is a variation. The ice cube tray is used as an organized place holder for each object. Children love putting things in places. This is a wonderful for children that enjoy order and even for those that lack order.
11) DIY Movable Alphabet
One of Maria Montessori’s (in my opinion) most phenomenal work is the movable alphabet. The original work is a wooden box with 25 compartments with vowels in blue and consonants in red. The letters are wooden and made to form the shape of each letter in an effort for the child to receive direct impression of each letter and their individual shape. The act of reading and writing are 2 very different skills. So, with that in mind, the movable alphabet is wonderful as it isolates the skill, meaning ‘sounding out’ each letter to form a word is the primary focus versus sounding out and recording the letters to form words on paper. This act of ‘sounding out’ and searching for each letter is appeals to the senses of most learners as it combines tactile, visual, auditory and kinesthetic learning. Most movable alphabets retail for $30-70 dollars. My version for those budget minded individuals is free! Here’s the PDF: Movable Alphabet
12) Sorting using mini erasers
Discerning differences or other wise known as visual discrimination is a foundational skill children need numerous experiences in. Above, I took erasers I found at Target, scotched tape a sample to the tray and within minutes, I had an advance sorting activity. My 6.5 year old nephew said this was challenging. To decrease the challenge, turn the tray vertically and the tray becomes a sort for sorting 2 items, versus sorting 12 items.
14) Number Order and Quantity Association
My nephew couldn’t get enough of this activity! Children enjoy playdoh and pressing items into it. I used golf tees and my Charlie loved this activity! This activity took under 3 minutes to prep and offers a fresh idea on counting and associating quantity with numbers!
18) Advance Addition
19) Montessori Multiplication Board
Another fabulous work made by Maria Montessori is the Multiplication Board. I made this for under $5.00!
For a written lesson see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xJWmed45frE
20) Homemade Water Colors Painting:
21) Crayons for Toddlers:
22) Organization Hacks:
23) Invitation to Play:
This was made from Nicole Venters. She’s a homeschool mom and vlogger. She used Ikea ice cube trays and blocks to make this super easy hands-on tic tac toe! For more ideas, visit her on Instagram @halfmom_halfamazing
With all these ideas, I hope you’re feeling inspired by many of the Montessori inspired activities as well as the other fabulous activities mentioned!
Please stay tuned for more! You can find me on Facebook and on Instagram. If there are any activities that interest you, please use the following link to pin to your Pinterest Board! Thank you for stopping by!