How to Montessori at Home: Art

toddler and Early Childhood students

For young children, open ended art provides unlimited possibilities for creativity and concentration. Rather than provide detailed instructions or coloring books, offer different mediums like watercolors, crayons, colored paper, scissors and glue. Providing small amounts of several different materials will make clean-up more manageable for children. More materials can be added if a child runs out, but too many of the materials at once can be overwhelming for not only creating, but for cleaning up as well.

Here is example of an art shelf designed for up to 9 children, so an art space at home will not require as many of each item. Small pieces of construction paper, liquid glue and paint brushes for collage, watercolors, scissors, colored pencils, and oil pastels are all separated and organized so a child can retrieve their own materials as needed and return them to their designated space. 

Provide a large bowl or bucket of clean water and an empty one for a child to dispose of dirty water. The Toddler and Early Childhood classrooms all have these so a Montessori child will be accustomed to using these if there is not full access to a sink. 

Kindergarten and Elementary students

For more structured art projects for older children, these are some artists that can be used to inspire new creations. In Extension Art, we begin class by observing copies of famous artworks by a single artist and discuss what we notice. Then materials are offered and the children can create their own piece how they please. Providing a print of examples or viewing them on a tablet allows children to view them as they work. Some children like to recreate pieces while others interpret the artist’s work in their own way and merely use it for inspiration. Each way is an appropriate creative outlet while still enriching their art history knowledge.

Project Ideas

Hannah Hoch

Hannah Hoch was a German artist who popularized photo-collages. For this project, provide a large piece of paper, some magazine pages, scissors and glue (liquid glue and a paintbrush will refine their motor skills further, but glue sticks will work). Keep a recycling bin near by for scraps. Whole magazines will likely overwhelm children, so providing a handful of pages is appropriate. 

Art Montessori at Home Hannah Hoch

Ancient Architecture

Discuss buildings like the Parthenon, the Pont de Gurd aqueduct, and the Colosseum and highlight the differences and similarities. Then use cardboard boxes, toilet paper rolls, or any other reusable recyclables to create a structure. Duct tape is most effective for this, so cutting some pieces and setting them out ahead of time will be easier for some. To extend this project, paint the structure.

2020 Art Montessori at Home_architecture

Jackson Pollock

Splatter painting, which might require more supervision, is messy and is best completed outside. For easier clean up, mix some washable paint with a little bit of dish soap. If you notice it’s not splattering much, you can add water to the paint.

Jackson Pollock Painting

Some other artists our Extension students have already studied:

  • Pablo Picasso – Blue Period: mixed media collages with everything blue, colored paper collages to mimic Cubism
  • Ida and Georgia O’Keefe: use rulers or colored paper for Ida’s Lighthouses, watercolors for Georgia’s flowers
  • Wassily Kandinsky: colored paper shapes or using objects as stencils like cups for circles, boxes for squares
  • Claude Monet: watercolor water lilies
  • Georges Seurat: Q-tips bundled up with rubber bands, separate bundles for each color

Early Childhood – Geometric Solids

Early Childhood - Geometric Solids
The sensorial curriculum area is unique to Montessori education, encouraging children to engage all five senses in their learning, forming concrete ideas from the abstract in their environments. The Geometric Solids are a key part of the sensorial curriculum area, allowing children to understand 3D shapes by making them tangible objects.
The Geometric Solids comprises of ten solid wooden shapes that are colored in a bright blue. The shapes include a:
  • triangular prism
  • rectangular prism
  • cube
  • cylinder
  • cone
  • triangular pyramid
  • square pyramid
  • sphere
  • ellipsoid
  • ovoid
 The Geometric Solids are one of many Montessori materials that challenge and shape a child’s stereognostic sense, which is their ability to perceive and understand both the form and nature of objects through touch.
By working with these materials, children become aware of how shapes form the basis for everyday objects. This knowledge provides the foundation for future work in geometry, which falls into the Mathematics curriculum for older Montessori students.
Children begin work with the Geometric Solids around three and a half years old and it is often their first introduction to stereognostic materials.
The clear visual differences between the shapes acts as the control of error, helping the children to correct their own work.
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Early Childhood Trinomial Cube

Early Childhood Trinomial Cube

What are the Binomial and Trinomial Cubes?

The binomial cube, when first introduced to the child, is presented as a challenging, three-dimensional puzzle. The cube is made up of a number of colored blocks, which fit together in a specific way. Assembling it uses a child’s fine-motor skills and requires the ability to discriminate between the blocks based on multiple characteristics. Unlike Montessori’s iconic pink tower, for example, the binomial cube does not isolate only one quality. Some blocks have one color, others have two. Some blocks are cubes, while others are rectangular prisms. While the pink tower blocks vary only in size, the binomial cube’s blocks vary in color, size, and shape! This makes the binomial cube a more complex sensorial material, and it requires organized thinking to master. The binomial cube’s big brother, the trinomial cube, is a child’s more complex next step.

Like other sensorial materials, the binomial and trinomial cubes are self correcting: when properly assembled, the blocks form a cube that fits perfectly inside of its wooden box! Even if the cube is built outside of its box, visual cues alert the child to any errors they might have made.

Children return to the cubes time after time, manipulating them with a focused sense of purpose. After a child has mastered building the binomial or trinomial cube inside of the box, he may then try building it outside of the box, or building each layer separately in order to observe similarities in patterns. Over time, the child’s familiarity with the cube’s physical aspects will lead to an internalized understanding of the abstract concepts the cube represents.

Early Childhood – Geometric Cabinet

Early Childhood-Geometric Cabinet

The Geometry Cabinet is part of the Sensorial area of a Montessori classroom. It is used to further develop the child’s visual and tactile senses in the discrimination of shape and form.

There are several purposes to this work.The first is to expose the child to a variety of geometric shapes and to help him discern the differences between them. He will begin to notice the finer differences of the shapes as he compares similar figures. As the child works with this material, we find that he begins to see the world around him differently. He will start to see the geometric shapes that surround him in his everyday life! Often as the child works with the shapes, the teacher is giving him the names for each in the form of a fun language game we call the Three-Period Lesson. The names of the shapes are important because once he knows their names, he can identify them as they are spontaneously observed and he will be able to communicate about them.

Another purpose of this material is the absorption of the geometric figures. As this material is presented, the child is shown to remove and trace around each shape with his fingers. For the young child, this kind of movement is irresistible! As he repeatedly traces the shapes, he develops a muscle memory of each one. He comes to know the shape by not just sight, but by touch. In the Montessori classroom, you can find children removing and replacing six or more shapes in one sitting while wearing a blindfold.

The last purpose is that of an indirect preparation for handwriting. Each shape inset has a knob that the child engages a three finger grip to grasp. This grasp is the same used to hold a pencil. Through his repeated removal and replacement of the shape, his fingers are being prepared for the correct pencil grip. As his fingers trace the contours of the shapes, he is not only controlling the muscles of the hand, but developing a firmness of touch. This will again help him as begins to learn to write. We find that this type of indirect preparation lends to much success as the child begins working with a pencil.

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Toddler – Practical Life

Toddler - Setting the Table
The exercises in the Practical Life area reflect Montessori’s concept of “an education for life” as the child develops practical skills necessary to gain mastery over his actions and he learns to use the common objects of daily life. By engaging in real activities and using real objects with purposeful ends, the child develops real abilities, which give him independence and control of his life. It also helps the child adapt to his environment, as he must follow the social norms and culturally specific methods that govern its care. This gives the child a sense of belonging and order.
By engaging in these activities, the child learns to focus his attention for the entirety of an activity and upon completion, has a deep sense of fulfillment. Therefore, the aim of these activities is not only practical but also developmental. Through these activities, the child to develops concentration, independence, co-ordination of movement, inner discipline and independence. This inevitably prepares for the physical, intellectual, cultural, and social life of the individual.
In the first children’s houses, she observed that the children, when given an option, usually preferred real activities over imaginary ones. They liked making a real contribution to the care of their environment.
Though the child may be conscious of helping, she will be unconscious of the personal growth that comes about through doing an orderly and meaningful task.
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Early Childhood: Word Building with the Moveable Alphabet

Early Childhood Language

Our Montessori classroom is rich with language, from the casual conversations children enjoy between friends and teachers to the formal lessons in decoding, reading, and writing.

Our language materials are quite simple; early materials introduce children to phonetic sounds while later materials build upon those sounds to put together simple words.

The Moveable Alphabet is an early example of word-building, supporting the child as he or she begins the arduous tasks of deconstructing ideas into the individual letters that comprise their names. Children begin with accessible, three-letter phonetic words, sounding out each comprising part, identifying the letter in the box of moveable letters, and placing it in its appropriate place on the mat or table.

By beginning with just three letter words, children are able to see patterns in their own world-building: consonants often precede vowels and vowels are usually followed by a second consonant. Building words with the moveable alphabet pieces allows children to focus on the word rather than the formation of the letter shape with a pencil, so a child’s understanding of word construction isn’t limited by his or her fine motor control. As throughout our materials, even these alphabets focus on only the skill the child is learning, isolating that concept so that it can be fully mastered.

Early Childhood Language
Early Childhood Language
Early Childhood Language
Early Childhood Language

Early Childhood – Mirror Polishing

Early Childhood Polishing
Concentration is a skill that needs practice to improve and develop. Montessori classrooms provide an environment that offers the time and opportunity to practice deep concentration. The uninterrupted work period enables the children to focus on a task for as long as they wish without an adult-imposed schedule. The adult in the environment is cautious not to interrupt and break the children’s concentration. As the ability to concentrate improves, the children also develop better self-control and self-regulation.