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Sunday, 3 May 2015

Botany Montessori-Inspired Activities

This month we have been celebrating the arrival of spring with lots of flowers.  Both boys love flowers and their interest in them led me to create the activities below.  For more details about each activity, please click on the sub-headings.  (We still have a few more planned so I will be adding to this page):

This activity was all about exploring the texture, patterns and size of seeds as well as understanding how a seed develops into a plant.

The seed planting exercise was so popular that we decided to conduct an experiment based on The Parable of the Sower.  We planted seeds on rocky ground, among weeds, on a path and in good soil to observe how the environment in which a seed is planted effects the plant's growth.

This is a classic Montessori exercise, but one which we haven't tried before.  This was an activity that both my toddler and pre-schooler were able to do.

The sensory tub was an opportunity to explore the different textures, smells and colours of the garden.  This tub was enjoyed by my toddler, Dooey.

Alongside learning about spring, we have been reading the creation story and decided to plant our very own Garden of Eden with our resident (for now!) Adam and Eve.  It is a garden that my sons water and take care of.  

Learning to identify the names given to parts of a plant.

My way of sneaking in a bit of maths!

The Parable of the Sower - Observing Plant Growth in Different Environments

The seed exploration and planting activity which I carried out with my son last week was so popular that he has been asking every day if we could do some more planting.  We had plenty of seeds left and a spare seed tray so we had another planting session, but this time we planted the seeds into different environments to see how the environment would effect the growth of the plant.

We based our activity on The Parable of the Sower (Mark 4:3-9) where Jesus tells the story of a sower planting seeds in a field.  Some seed falls on the path (which the birds eat up), some on rocky ground (which causes the plant to shoot up only to wither later as the soil is too shallow to let the root grow deeply), some among thorns (which eventually choke the plant) and some on good soil where it thrives.  (In our scene I had to use weeds instead of thorns, but the principle is the same).

The parable itself is a story Jesus told to demonstrate the fruitfulness of God's Word in people's lives. The seed that falls on the path to be eaten by the birds signifies the "evil one" who snatches away the truth that is sown into the listener's heart, the seed that falls on rocky ground refers to the person who receives it, but does not let it take root and is overcome by persecution and trouble, the seed that falls among thorns signifies the person who hears the the word but is choked by the worries of this life and the seed that falls on good soil is the person who receives the word and is fruitful.

Wugs has been observing our Parable of the Sower scene for a couple of weeks now and we have plants shooting up in good soil, one in the weeds, some in the rocks and none on the path.  It has been outside for almost the whole time so the birds could have eaten the seed or the wind may have blown them away or to other parts of the tray.  It will be interesting to see if that tall shoot that has grown among the rocks will wither away as it becomes bigger and whether the shoot among the weeds will eventually be overcome by them (as the parable describes).

Whether our little activity will demonstrate these agricultural principles perfectly is unlikely, but it was a fun way to let Wugs participate in the parable by being the "sower" who has planted the seed, watered it, observed it and will hopefully see some "fruit".

What we used:
Seed Tray
Potting Mix
Weeds (from the garden)
Stones (from the garden)
Stones to create a path (store bought - something more level and without gaps would have worked better like a stone slab)
Craft sticks

Please click here for more Botany-related activities:

Garden Sensory Tub

The other week I put together a Garden Sensory Tub for my toddler who loves exploring different textures and who is particularly fascinated with the things he finds in the garden at the moment. Sadly, I am usually taking those things away from him (conscious that some plants are poisonous and my toddler has a tendency to put everything in his mouth!).

One afternoon, I went out in the garden and gathered various things that I thought would be of interest to him or that he has shown interest in: flowers, leaves, a feather, pine cones and bird seed.  I gave him some containers and scoops as well in case he wanted to transfer the items in and out of the tub.

The sensory tub turned out to be a great way to let Dooey safely explore the things he finds in the garden - with me standing just feet away from him, ready to intervene if necessary - and to ensure he washed his hands afterwards.

What we used:
Leaves, flowers, bird seed, feather, pine cones
Scoops and containers

Please note if you are following this activity, be aware that some plants are poisonous.

Please click here for more Botany-related activities:

Exploring and Planting Seeds

Today's activity was about helping Wugs appreciate how a plant is grown from a seed and the basic requirements that plants need in order to survive.

We picked out a variety of seeds: bean seeds, sunflower seeds, pansy seeds and sweet pea seeds and emptied each packet into a bowl so Wugs could examine them (with the help of Teddy!) before sorting them into their correct compartment in the tray.

Once the seeds had been sorted, I set up another tray to help him plant the seeds into some clear cups. I chose clear cups so that we could observe the root system beneath the plant once it started to grow.

The bean seed required a different treatment as it would show the process of germination.  For this, I asked Wugs to spray a piece of kitchen towel and then tuck the bean seed in between the towel and the side of the cup.  (Sadly the only process that the bean seed showed was the process of moulding! It didn't work.  I'll update this post once I find one that does!)

The other seeds were planted into soil, labelled and watered and each day we have been observing their growth, checking the dampness of the soil and have been astounded at how quickly the sunflowers (in particular) have shot up!  This weekend we will be planting them in the garden!

What we used:
Seeds (bean, pansy, sweet pea, sunflower)
Sorting Tray
Magnifying Glass
Plastic Cups
Potting Soil
Digging Tools
Kitchen Paper Towel
Squirty Bottle of Water

Please click here for more Botany-related activities:


The arrival of spring is usually announced in this country with the blooming of daffodils everywhere and I have really missed it.  For us, the added surprise has been discovering the different types of plants that have appeared in our garden.  (We have been living abroad for four years and moved into our current house last November, so we haven't yet seen the garden through all the seasons).  The boys have been learning to spot the daffodils and crocuses on our various walks around the neighbourhood.  Today I gave them an opportunity to pick them and arrange them.

I gave Wugs a basket and some scissors and let him cut the flowers he wished to arrange.  He needed some instruction on cutting the stem as far away from the flower as he could (otherwise the flowers wouldn't fit into the vase).  This would have been an easier activity if I had given him smaller scissors!!

When he had finished he laid out the daffodils on the table and we compared the length of the stems of the daffodils he had cut using a ruler to help him understand that the stem length and the vase size were important.  I set up a tray with a jug of water, a cloth for spills and a vase and he began arranging the flowers, keeping aside the ones that had shorter stems and didn't fit into the vase.  I offered him some white carnations that I had in the kitchen to add to his display.

I wasn't quite sure what to do with the flowers that had shorter stems as I didn't have a small vase, so I made one using the bottom of a water bottle and decided to let Dooey in on the action when he woke up.  I envisaged water everywhere and my toddler with a mouthful of daffodil petals, but he took to the activity very well.

What we used:
Jug of Water


Please click here for more Botany-related activities:

Garden Counting Mat

As we have been doing lots of activities on flowers and gardens this month, I thought I'd compliment our theme with a little Maths by creating this garden counting mat.  (When I say I created it, I really mean, I designed it and then passed the bits of felt to my very capable mother who cleverly sewed them together!)  Wugs isn't that keen on counting and doesn't see the point, but I offer it as an invitation for him to play with it as he chooses.

What we used:
Brown, green felt
Flower counters
A dice with 12 numbers on it

Please click here for more Botany-related activities:

The Anatomy of a Plant

My three year old has been fascinated with plants this month and especially enjoys running his finger over the different parts of the sunflower plant he grew.  This afternoon, I thought I'd introduce him to the names of the different parts of the plant using this handy picture and puzzle from The Natural Homeschool.  Wugs doesn't enjoy abstract learning, so he identified the names of the different parts of the plant, by running his finger over the same part of his sunflower plant (or at least the ones he could touch) and saying the name aloud before matching the word to his picture.

Saturday, 2 May 2015

The blog

Welcome to my blog!  My name is Nicola and I'm a stay-at-home mum to two little boys: "Wugs" (3.5) and "Dooey" (2).  We are a multi-cultural family.  My husband is Malaysian and I am British. We have recently moved to the UK from Singapore where we lived for four years and where my children were born.

The inspiration for the activities on this blog primarily come from the interests and needs of my eldest son, Wugs. When Wugs was younger we noticed he was repulsed by certain textures (jelly, paint - anything that stuck to his hand and made it "dirty").  I searched for ideas on how to help him explore his world confidently. I came across websites promoting sensory play and adapted them to Wugs' interests at the time.  The activities have since evolved to include different playful learning experiences with a recent focus on the Montessori style of learning, using hands-on activities to demonstrate spiritual truths and to include the interests of his younger brother, Dooey.

I hope you enjoy reading and feel inspired!

(Very Important: Almost all the activities on this blog have required adult supervision, especially where I have used items that could potentially be a choking hazard or poisonous to a child.  Please take the necessary precautions if you are following any of these activities).