Setting up a Montessori activity table can be a great way to celebrate the seasons!
Our nature table is a pivotal part of our homeschool. Creating the invitation to learn and play doesn’t take long, and the fruitfulness provides long-term benefits. We typically change our theme 2-3 times each month, rotating resources and activities for each display. Our Montessori tables are based upon weekly nature themes following our nature curricula (Exploring Nature With Children and Florida Nature Guide).
Today, I’m going to explain the how and why behind our nature table setups. I’ll walk you through an example of our Bee Week table, explaining and linking the resources we used, as well as, the reasons behind them.
If you are inspired to create your own Montessori activity table at home or in the classroom, it certainly doesn’t need to be nature-based. Any theme can lend itself to a beautiful and inviting display for children to engage and learn.
The Benefits of a Montessori Activity Table
Children don’t always know what they want to learn about. Of course, there are rooted passions and interests that spark their imagination and curiosity. However, there are also topics that they might love if they are just given the opportunity.
These tables are an invitation for just that…exploration. Simply dedicating a space for children to explore is exciting for them and quite motivating. In creating a space that they have full access to, they are encouraged to handle the materials and engage on their own. This promotes a love of learning as children can take an active role in their activities and go at their own pace.
Once I set up our table, I basically ‘ignore’ it. I allow my children to discover it and interact on their own time. Of course, I will assist them if it is required…but most of the time, they are drawn to learn more. This, in turn, helps them to gain independence and self-responsibility for their education.
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The Montessori Activity Table Set-Up
Regardless of the theme, I am sure to abide by the following guidelines I created. Each table contains:
- something to read
- something to do
- something to make
Following this outline, you can combine multiple subjects and skills under the umbrella of your theme. Always found on our table are: books, posters, activity pages, handcraft, and sorting/matching activities.
Sometimes, I can tie in math, a science experiment, copy work for handwriting practice, art…the sky’s the limit. So I’ll leave you with our Bee Table below, so you can see an example of how these activities and resources come together.
When it comes to books, we can never have enough (actually we have too many). In any case, I like to include picture books that we use for read-aloud and that my children can read independently. These books are a mixture of fiction and nonfiction to include factual information and spur the imagination. Sometimes, you’ll find a stack of books that fit our theme. Other times, I’ll include just 1 or 2 books so as not to overwhelm.
We use our display board to feature informational posters, poetry for memorization, activity pages to be completed, and artwork.
We always include Montessori cards in this snazzy Montessori 3-part wooden tray (made by my sweet and talented friend Crystal from Bless This Homeschool). My children love sorting them and I find it great practice for learning the terms and vocabulary for each image.
Typically, the Montessori card sets we purchase (or create in the Chickie & Roo shop) also provide a master poster of all labeled images. Pictured here are A Collection of Bees from Twig & Moth. We often display this on our board above our cards as an aid.
By nature of studying an animal, you’ll typically wrap in the life cycle of said animal. We used our Bee Life cycle freebie placemat & cards (from The Silvan Reverie) along with our Safari Ltd. life cycle models to match and learn about the process. This is a quick and easy activity to mix-up and allow children to place in the correct order again and again.
This type of activity is always present, albeit in many different forms. For example, I set up our Bee Puzzle (from Mirus Toys) for our Bee Table. This amazingly handcrafted wooden puzzle features hexagonal double-sided pieces. One side has 3 different shades of natural yellows, and the backside of each piece contains images. These images include the stages of the life cycle of a bee, or the types of bees (drone, worker, queen). In each nesting spot on the base of the puzzle, lies facts or terms about each stage or each bee.
Children can read the facts and find the corresponding hexagonal puzzle piece to place in the matching area. This is such a great tactile learning activity that engages my children while they are also learning.
Our Bee Table features a handcraft we completed last year when we studied bees, our wooden model. I chose to display this so we can discuss the anatomy of a bee and for my children to paint.
I also provided them with the materials to create an upcycled craft. We saved those awful styrofoam packing peanuts, from a recent order we received, to craft our own little bees. With a little paint, some white fabric for wings, and pipe cleaners for legs, we were able to recreate several species of bees.
Themed Activity Tables
Depending on the theme, our table’s activities will be different, but they are always engaging. I typically include a real-life nature specimen along with a wooden magnifier for my children to observe closely. Sometimes, I am able to find or create math activities or games that fit the theme. Regardless of what the specific activities are, my children are able to learn, explore, make, and get hands-on at their own pace!