When I first started planning for tot school I intended to teach the alphabet, colors, shapes, etc. right away. There are a million activities on Pinterest showing toddlers memorizing these things. Our coop's montessori class has been really great, and I've learned a lot about the Montessori method through my friend. Montessorians focus on building language at this stage, and letter learning comes after they turn 3.
We love Schleich animals and Toobs for matching. You get more animals for less money with the Toobs, but the Schleich animals are more realistic and bigger.
Finding all of the images for matching can be a pain. Everett definitely has an easier time with clear images that have a white background vs ones that have a lot going on.
The Schleich animals can really add up, so in addition to the Toobs we also use our T.S. Shure magnets. They're realistic, and the backing is magnetic instead of little magnet pieces so I don't worry about him swallowing them.
A few days ago I found these animal cards in the Target Dollar Spot. There were 6 or 7 different packs, but only this specific set was ALL real animals. $1!!
Everett really loves the "My Big" books by Roger Priddy. We used our My Big Farm Book book for matching with our animal models and magnets when we were learning about farms.
My friend Zibby recently told me that her daughter loves this book that has realistic food pictures, and that they've been using it as a tool to let her pick out her own food. (Her daughter is the same age as Everett.) I love this idea! Not only is it great for building food language, but it's also an awesome tool for getting picky toddlers involved in their food choices. The options in the book are limited, so we're going to try it with these magnet sets (fruit, veggies, grains and legumes). Unfortunately there are no meat options, but we may make those ourselves.
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