A few of our favorite things
18 Dec, 2015. 0 Comments. . Posted By: Kristen Smith

Two years ago I switched grades from first to kindergarten. I was excited to make the change since I had previously taught kindergarten for 5 years. As I thought about what I wanted my kindergarten classroom to look like, these are the things that truly resonated with me.

Open ended materials for your kindergarten classroom

-Children working peacefully with their friends

-Children playing imaginatively

-Children learning at a pace that is right for them

-Children happily engaged

-A warm, welcoming classroom that cultivates beauty and peace

-Thematic units that students are truly interested in

-Materials that engage students and have more than one purpose

– Children excelling academically

-A classroom that develops kind, independent, and creative children

-A classroom that encourages project-based activities

-A place where students are active learners, experimenters, and artists

In order to achieve many of these goals, I had to change the items and materials that I used previously. (While there is nothing wrong with those items, they were not what I was going for.) With Montessori experience and a desire to read and research “non-traditional” tools and materials, I began to develop a list of items that I wanted to have in my classroom.

I started off  buying specific Montessori language and math materials. These items were favorites in my classroom last year and developed young mathematicians, excellent readers, and fantastic problem solvers.

You can watch this video to see some of the Montessori math materials in action. (The classroom includes materials and students aged 3-6 years old.)

Here is a video on the language materials used.

Here is a blog post of some of the Montessori materials I purchased last year.

After I purchased those items, I began towards my next goal: well made, open ended toys.  Every afternoon we end our day with 30-45 minutes of exploratory play time. During this time my students create art projects, build castles, write stories, create beautiful, intricate patterns, and dive deeper into our themes.  (If you click on the link you can read more about our exploration center time!) They also are given an open space to use their imaginations and simply play.

Our current favorite items include:

(Contains affiliate links)

1. Our Light Table– My students still absolutely love using the light table. Every afternoon there is a different exploration going on at it. I will never regret buying it! I bought mine from Amazon. (HERE)

kindergarten students exploring the light table Open ended materials for your kindergarten classroom

Open ended materials for your kindergarten classroom

2. As my students are still loving studying endangered animals, our Montessori maps have been getting a lot of use! My students trace the continents and then color them in.

Open ended materials for your kindergarten classroom

3. My students have also been loving using “pokey pins” with our geometric cabinet. My students trace a shape and then use the large push pins to pop out their shapes.

Open ended materials for your kindergarten classroom Open ended materials for your kindergarten classroom

(My students wanted to see the tiny holes up close.)

4. Loose parts are also a favorite. My students enjoy working together to create different types of patterns.

Open ended materials for your kindergarten classroom

5. “Weather Gnomes” and our “Rocker Boards

(We use our weather gnomes to display the weather of the day next to our weather graph.)

My students have been loving acting out the “adventures of Lightning” throughout our exploration centers. (They are also writing about them!) Using our Tegu blocks, my students create different vehicles and houses for Lightning and his friends. They then act out stories using our different classroom materials.

Open ended materials for your kindergarten classroom Open ended materials for your kindergarten classroom

6. Ostheimer Toys

These and Grimm’s wooden blocks are probably my students’ favorite items that we have in our rotation at the moment. Both my boys and girls alike can not get enough of them! I also use them during our guided reading groups. (We label them, write sentences about them, describe them, and more!)

Open ended materials for your kindergarten classroom

On this day, my students said, “The girl is knitting scarves for all of her animal friends. She is a kind friend and helps everyone!”

7. Grimm’s Wooden Blocks

My students use the set pictured below every single day. Each day a new castle, building, town, or creation is constructed.

Open ended materials for your kindergarten classroom

(1001 Nights)

At the end of our exploration time, my students often photograph their work using our classroom iPads. They also use their pictures to remind them how to build things the next day.

I must say, using these types of materials has truly revolutionized my classroom. My students play peacefully, collaboratively, and imaginatively. They are not recreating movies or television shows and rather are creating amazing new worlds and stories. They are also developing their language and social skills. It has been an amazing transformation and I just had to share with you some of the fun we have been having.

{Many people often ask me what is ONE thing my students could not live without and I have to say it’s either the Ostheimer animals or the Grimm’s blocks. If you are looking to start your collection, I would recommend either of those or Magnetic Tiles! }

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