Artfully Montessori: The First Days of School Are Filled With The Arts!

LET'S START THE NEW SCHOOL YEAR WITH AN APPRECIATION OF THE ARTS! Here are a few simple, yet elegant Montessori activities that emphasize the aesthetics of living an artful life.

Below is a photo of a 4 yr old creating an autumn wreath which turned out to be a very popular (and peaceful) first-days-of school activity!



All photos in this post are by Carolyn at Magical Movement Company

I found lots of wreath frames at the dollar store or local craft store and then collected an assortment of artificial flowers & leaves that have the colors of Autumn. The children often spend a good while CREATING A DECORATIVE WREATH and they look lovely hanging all around the classroom. 

It's nice to set this lovely work up so that children can take the wreaths apart at the end of the morning and have the materials ready for re-creating the next day. 

You can also use fresh greenery (like ivy) and garden flowers (like Lavender). I have even set up this activity with pieces of colorful paper, pipe cleaners, ribbons, little miniatures of birds, sea shells...the list goes on and on! Craft shops and second hand stores are great resources for items that can be used to create beautiful wreaths. 

During the first days of the new school year, the children are excited, fearful, boisterous, quiet, and oftentimes just trying to figure it all out! It's important to provide simple activities that the children can succeed at while developing their skills both socially and academically. I always look for activities that are inviting, fun, and settling/calming. (Like for example ANYTHING with flowers!) 


BEADWORK
 

The biggest hit is usually the CHEERIOS NECKLACE MAKING WORK. I love this activity because it is fairly easy for even the youngest children, and when they are done...they get to eat their necklace! Sometimes, children get hungry throughout the morning or afternoon when they are adjusting to the school schedule and the Cheerios necklace is a little extra snack that just about every child enjoys! Plus, it's something familiar.

I set this activity up as a work that can be done by 2 (or 3) children at a time and there is a little sign on the tray that says: "wash hands first". There are easy-to-thread beading strings that you can get at Lakeshore Learning Store or you can create your own. Here's the link to purchase these: Lakeshore Lacing Strings.



To add a challenge for the older children, I always have them count the number of Cheerios that they have strung on their necklace. Then, we go over to the MONTESSORI GOLDEN BEAD SHELF and find the beads that correspond to the number of Cheerios on the necklace. The girl in the photo above had 66 Cheerios on her necklace, so she collected 6 ten bars and 6 unit beads.



The boy in this photo had 234 Cheerios on his necklace! He was a very active 4 1/2 yr old and he spent nearly the whole morning working on his necklace, counting, and then fetching the correct quantity of hundred squares, ten bars, and unit beads from the Golden Bead shelf. And, he was very proud of himself, too! 

Of course, the fun part is eating your necklace for a special little snack during the busy first days of school. This is often a comfort for the children, as well as a delightful small motor activity. 





GLUING WORK

One of the classic Montessori Art Activities is gluing little colored squares or rectangles onto art paper to CREATE A "MOSAIC". This is a beautiful way to make use of the left-over scraps of paper that seem to accumulate in the Preschool classroom. Generally, it is something that the teacher can cut with a paper cutter in a few minutes and have it all ready for the children. That way, the child only has to be able to pick out the little squares and glue them to the art paper in any pattern or design s/he desires. (no scissors needed) 




If you set up this activity with glue sticks, then you will need to give a little lesson on how to use a glue stick, but there will be less mess than setting it up with liquid glue and brushes. 


To add to the allure of this mosaic activity, I often add special paper like silver or gold card stock. This can attract the more sophisticated older children because it is out of the ordinary.


PAINTING WORK

When it comes to painting in the first days/weeks of school, I like to provide spill-proof containers whenever possible. At the easel, I usually put BINGO DOT MARKERS on the paint tray rather than paints...just so there is an easel experience but with very little to clean up. Eventually, there will be a lesson for painting with paints at the easel that will involve setting up the paint pots, the brushes, the paper, and then putting the artwork to dry and cleaning the easel. But for the first days, I think markers or bingo dot markers work well for creating a successful experience for the newest children to the environment with a less involved process.

As a shelf work, I have found that a SQUEEZE BOTTLE PAINTING ACTIVITY works pretty well for the children in the first days in the classroom. I recommend that the teacher fill the squeeze bottles about 1/4 full with paint and that a variety of colors are provided. That way, children are less likely to squirt too much paint out and they get involved more with creating than with squeezing since there is a beautiful array of colors to use. If you set up this activity with butterfly shaped paper, then the children can actually fold the paper in the middle and squeeze paint colors out on one side, fold, press, and then create a "blot painting." Older children really enjoy showing the younger ones how to do this magic art! 







Even though the activities I am suggesting here are less messy than other more involved painting projects, the children will still need to have art smocks and cleaning buckets easily available in the art section of the classroom. How to use these is generally shown (and re-shown!) at a group circle on one of the first days of school. You can read more about scrubbing the art mat or table at my post here: Salad Spinner Art in Montessori.


CUTTING WORK



I have often started the school year with a simple cutting activity that I call "CUTTING A FRINGE." The teacher (or older children) will prepare wide strips of card stock or construction paper by drawing short lines on the edges of the paper so that a child can cut the line with just one stroke. For the child, this is a bit easier than cutting all the way across the paper and I have seen children spontaneously (on their own) cut out little fringes on paper when they are first learning to cut with scissors. So, I think this is a satisfying experience for the less-skilled cutters in the group!


FLOWER ARRANGING WORK



Since school starts during the late summer, there are flowers galore! I try to buy some lovely bouquets at the Farmers Market or if I'm really lucky, there are lots of flowers growing in the Children's Garden in the Montessori Outdoor Classroom. For this FLOWER ARRANGING ACTIVITY, I designate a whole table so that there can be a large bowl of water for dunking the flower stems when cutting them to fit the vases. So, this ends up being a "stationary" work. I tell the children, "This is a stationary work. That means it stays here on this table."


Arranging flowers is a very satisfying activity for children and the bouquets beautify the environment for those first days of getting to know how the classroom works. Part of arranging is to cut the ends of the stems, and this type of cutting with scissors  is a little easier than cutting paper...so once again, there is an engaging work that is not TOO challenging.  



TABLE SETTING WORK

The art of SETTING A TABLE is going to be one of the first things that children learn in the Montessori classroom, because they have a snack table that is available for most of the work period. 

I like to offer quite a process for eating snack at the snack table, and I am sure that every classroom sets this up uniquely. Most classrooms do have a little table that is designated  for 2, 3 or 4 children to have snack together. And, there is a nearby shelf with snack plates, napkins, cups, and a pitcher of water. I love to offer the children colorful (and seasonal) table cloths and then some flowers (real or artificial) and a vase so that they can set up a proper table! 




If you add little name cards to the snack experience, then the children have a language arts activity to go along with the dining experience. (finding/reading their names) There is also the process of the placement of the name cards, like you might experience at a formal dinner!  You can provide little acrylic business card holders (from Office Supply stores) for the child's name card at the table. This just adds a lot of wonderful process to the art of setting up the table for dining together!




Don't forget the FINE ART PRINTS that you will have hanging on the walls at the children's eye level! These will sharpen the aesthetic sense and perhaps give them inspiration in their own art creations. I like to hang some fun pieces that the children can relate to, like the following.


FAMOUS ART WORK 


       "Orange Face" by Henri Matisse                                   "Three Musicians" by Pablo Picasso




                                                                                                                             
                              
                 "Cat" by Paul Klee













                                              "Campbell's Soup Can" by Andy Warhol

Ah...Art! Such a fun part of life in the Montessori Early Childhood Environment! 

Thanks for visiting my blog. I hope you can use some of these artful ideas with your own group!




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6 comments :

  1. You have some lovely ideas here! I love the mosaic and butterfly craft!

    I also had to smile when you wrote that the cheerios would be familiar for the kids - I don't think my son has ever had them haha. We live in the Netherlands and cereal etc is not as common to eat here :)

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    1. Lovely comment, Yuliya and I do really love that your child is not so familiar with cheerios! I have to remember that the world wide web is truly world-wide! I wonder if something like mini-pretzels would work as well?!

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  2. Just beautiful, creative, and well done, as always Carolyn!

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    1. Thank you for such an encouraging comment. Your site is a wonderful exploration and the work you are doing is amazingly well-documented with fantastic photos. So glad to hear from you and as you probably know, I'm a big fan of setting up bird habitats for the children's outdoor classroom. So, thanks for all your do for these amazing creatures.

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  3. I LOVE this post so much! The Cheerio necklaces are genius and so easy, yet super fun! I also love the paint in the squeeze tube idea. I'm going to need to do these activities with Little Bee! :)

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    1. Wow, I am excited to read your comment! I love that Cheerios work as much as the children do...because it is so simple, fun, and you can add math, too!

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