Learn through Play with Alia 12-18 months old

As of last week, Alia is 26 months. So clearly this post is hhmmmm… a year late :p #sorry But here we go, a recap of what we did a year ago. 

As a start, I thought I’d share some pictures from her first birthday. My parents came to visit for 2 weeks to join the celebration. We then traveled to Illinois to visit my mom’s host family, and Alia had another birthday celebration there #luckygirl. 

Many things happened after she turned 1. She took her first steps at 13.5 months old, began self-feeding and drinking from a regular adult cup (instead of dumping the entire content on her head :p), learned names of animals and their sounds, and asked us to sing the same song (5 Little Ducks in repeat till bedtime – I’ve avoided that song ever since :p) and read the same three books despite having a million children’s books at home. 

So in between nap time and meals, the following things happened (the age refers to when Alia started doing the activities; yours may be different #followthechild): 

Practical life skills (starting at 12 months old) 

When I was done with grad school and teaching, I had more time to read up on parenting methods. That’s when I discovered Montessori and decided to incorporate the philosophy and method in our household. One of the elements in the Montessori curriculum is practical life (more of it, click here and here) such as setting the table for meals, pouring own’s drink, and putting on your own clothes. All is done to instill independence in a child.

Click on the images to see the details: Image 1: getting her own outfit (I added a curtain rod to an old bookcase to make her dresser), 2: washing hands and brushing her teeth using a stool, 3: transferring items using a spoon, 4: wiping any spills, 5: another transfer activity using water beads on a lightbox, 6-7: putting on a jacket using the famous flip coat method.

Arts and Crafts (starting at 10 months old) 

This type of activity means process over result. It’s for skill development, widening her vocabulary, increasing her wealth of knowledge, and most importantly it’s for fun. Be prepared for some mess! I use a large tarp to contain the mess and if I anticipate a super messy activity, I do it before bath time. 

Click on the images to see in detail: 1: gluing; 2: stickers; 3-4: tissue paper and contact paper, 5-6: painting a small pumpkin using washable paint from Crayola; 7-8: painting using colored ice cubes, 9-10: edible paint using flour, water, and food coloring. 

Practice independent standing and walking (starting at 12 months) 

Every child walks and stands independently at their own time. As soon as she started showing interests in doing so, we tried to encourage her by doing the following activities: 1: a walk in the neighborhood using a walker, 2-3: “Can you find me?” peel off game. For this you can use any interesting objects as seen in the 3rd image. I also had a felt board and I cut up some felt cloths. As she took an object, I’d point out the name and its feature (e.g., It’s a red square.), and 4: “Bring me…” game. 

Sorting (starting at 15 months old) 

Experts say that children started to acquire the ability to discriminate objects and categorize them starting at the age of 15 months old. We started doing sorting activities then: blocks vs. balls, eating utensils, laundry, etc. Start with two very different groups of items like balls vs. blocks, and increase the complexity. 

Image 1: balls vs. blocks, 2: solid color rocks vs. translucent rocks, 3: oranges, bananas, and grapes pretend fruits from Learning Resource, 4: water beads vs. glass gems. 

Matching (starting at 17 months old) 

After she was able to sort items, we began doing matching. The link from howwemontessori explains why matching activities are important for young children (e.g., demonstrating ability to show understanding of real, model, and pictorial objects, strengthening their memory). The sequence of presenting matching activity is object-to-object using real items (e.g., matching socks, shoes), object-to-picture using model/real objects and their pictures, and then picture-to-picture matching, which is the most abstract activity for children. 

Image 1-3: object to picture matching (we use figurines from Toobs), 4: picture to picture matching. 



This is what happened when you try to present a concept and the child isn’t ready :p (Alia at 16 months old) 



#diytoys, sensory bins, free play, and many more… 

Recap of activities that we started when she was a baby 😀 

#diytoys –> Image 1-2: peek-a-boo family board using baby wipes lids, 3-4 hand-eye coordination toys using everyday items (e.g., a large plastic jug, straws), 5: sensory bottles (my latest sensory bottles for my nephew), 6: drop and roll ramp made out of toilet roll tubes. 

sensory bins –> image 1: paint the snow using water and food coloring (hey, there isn’t a shortage of snow in New England, so why not?), 2: theme-based sensory bin (this one is early fall sensory bin), 3-4: find the… sensory bin (incorporating some fine motor skill activities). 

free play –> a new form of free play that we encourage is drawing on a vertical surface. There are many benefits to doing so such as strengthening upper body muscles, practicing midline crossing (read more). We had two types of surface: a large paper and a chalkboard contact paper. We had washable crayons/chalks and stickers available for her. We taught Alia to keep her work INSIDE the paper (super important or you’ll be scrubbing walls :p). If you have an art easel, this works too 😀 

At 2 years old, Alia continues to do many of these activities; only more elaborated and more complex. It’s fun to watch kids growing up – remember, the days are long (some are super long…), but the years are short. Let them play for as long as they want, because they play to learn. 




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