Category: DIY Hands-On Materials (Page 1 of 2)

Tag! You’re it! YOU are the greatest resource

Recently a mom shared with me that the “New Learning Culture” ideas make her sad because her children don’t have access to a child-centered school, she doesn’t have the money to purchase Montessori materials, and she can’t just start a new school by herself.

I’m glad she shared her concerns so I can bring back some hope.

New Learning Culture is all about creating inspiring, child-friendly schools with many learning materials available. But most of all the New Learning Culture helps create a change in perspective for individuals and also educational institutions.

learning-companionIn the NLC paradigm we adults (you) become the greatest resource for children. Through learning to honor children’s genuine needs such as connection, play, inspiration, boundaries, and nature, we naturally get creative and try to fulfill these needs as best we can in any circumstances.

The greatest gift for children is the time we spend with them. Being able to transform even a short amount of time, such as bedtime, into quality time, strengthens children’s self-esteem. Being able to add an element of play and even learning, provides the heart-mind connection needed for children to thrive even in difficult circumstances.

When children go to a school they don’t like, support them at home with your unconditional acceptance of their perspective. Always remain your child’s ally and advocate in the adult world. If you remain someone they can count on, that is all that is needed to transform challenges into learning opportunities, which strengthen your child’s growth in the long run.

About the learning materials… Even though it’s very useful to have access to Montessori materials, children don’t necessarily need all the “fancy” materials, ….in all cultures they happily develop intelligence by playing with buttons, sticks, and shoeboxes. Hands-on learning materials can be reinvented and crafted with recycled and natural materials (see ideas on the NLC blog and many other online resources). Homeschooling parents may be able to find like-minded people to communally purchase and share Montessori materials.


Even though there may be no child-based school in your area…..When you allow yourself to learn, envision, and talk about alternatives, these are the first steps to creating child-friendly schools or help existing schools transition. Everything we add to the worldwide movement for more child-friendly education is a step in the right direction and it gives this movement strength.

The many European Rebeca Wild based schools provide us with a proven template. Each of these European schools started in one parent’s heart who affected another parent’s heart, who inspired a teacher. First people meet in living rooms, then in public spaces, and then they may rent an apartment or home to prepare their first shared learning environments. What’s possible in Europe is possible here in the US, in Mexico, and elsewhere.

Let’s keep going towards child-friendly education step by step, in each moment we enjoy with children.  Our change of perspective opens the door to a shift in education paradigms within our local communities.

Tag! You’re it! Don’t give up! Children and students need us now.

DIY Fraction Materials

One of the simplest ways to introduce fractions as a concept is by cutting an apple in equal pieces. The child sees the whole apple, 2 halves of the apple, 4 quarters of the apple, and immediately realizes fractions describe pieces of wholes.


The top number of a fraction, the numerator, tells us how many pieces we are talking about. The bottom part of a fraction, the denominator, tells us in how many pieces the apple is cut.

Yes…simple…and powerful! This simple activity will remain as a positive memory in the child’s mind, and add to the foundational thinking for understanding more advanced math concepts. Children need to see and experience math concepts to fully grasp them. Let’s give children the time and experiences they need to develop simple, grounded intelligence, which ultimately leads to brilliance.

DIY Montessori Spindle Box made of recycled materials

I have just returned from a 6 week NLC consultation stay at the school of the Huichol Center for Cultural Survival founded by Susana Valadez, in Huejuquilla del Alto, in the Sierra Madre, Mexico. I consulted the teacher staff of their preschool and after school program, and we became friends in the process.


Because the teachers have to work with very limited resources, we came up with lots of learning materials made of recycled and nature items.

To create a material similar to the Montessori Spindle Box, we took big bottle caps, numeral stickers, and beans:

bottle caps material

In addition to learning about matching numeral with bean amounts, children can also do simple addition. Just take two bottle caps full with beans that you would like to add to each other and pour them into a third cap that has no numeral sticker, then count the beans…

bottle cap addition

I shared with the teachers how to present materials with the Montessori Three-Period Lesson – and they loved it! So simple! So fun!

Stay tuned for more…we made Montessori materials with laundry clips, Froebel materials with plastic bottle rings, the Golden Beads with golden beans, and much more…

Best wishes,
Carmen Gamper

My child doesn’t like to read…

If a child doesn’t like to read, sometimes it can be useful to remember how this child started reading. Were they self-motivated, starting to read because of curiosity and interest? Could the child suddenly read, almost overnight? Or, did somebody sit down with the child, and teach them how to read step by step?

If children start reading fueled by their own interest, it is relatively easy to reawaken the joy of reading now. If, however, a child has learned to read in laborious work mode, perhaps even reading to the child now is arduous and exhausting. It is more difficult to raise self-initiative, and bring joy to reading, where there is a  history of difficulty. In these cases, it is sometimes better not to pressure the child, who might need time for healing.

In fact, the natural and joyful way to learn reading is not connected to pressure but develops from self- initiative, often at age of three, four and five years. If the child’s natural rhythm is respected, one can expect another “reading boost,”  at the age of ten and eleven years, when abstract thinking at a higher level is being developed.

Kindling, inspiring, and evoking a genuine need and love for reading is the most effective and sustainable way to get children to read. Many children learn to read because they want to understand TV programs.

A joint trip to the library can be very helpful; let your child pick out a book to check out at the desk. Take time to listen to the child reading. One could also record or film the child while reading, they might have fun watching themselves.

Also consider that writing sometimes proceeds reading and leads to reading. Perhaps write a shopping list together, or a birthday card to a friend or relative. You could label the objects of daily life, offer written instructions for crafting, or cooking recipes. And think about everyday situations with children, where you could write a little message, instead of saying or showing it.

Sometimes children like to write letters to mother, friends or vacation acquaintances. Together, parents and children could write a letter to a magazine, start a diary, or a photo album with descriptions. As a mother or father, how about writing stories, or a letter for the child … “Here is something, I’ve written especially for you.”

Here is another fun idea: Gather tiny objects all starting with ‘r’ (or any other letter), for instance rabbit, rug, rose, etc.:

As with almost everything, I vote for inspiring a child, but not pushing too much. The magic of self-motivation is what creates the joy of reading. If reading is connected with too much resistance and negative emotions, then even forcing a child will not help much to improve reading skills. Sometimes children find the joy of reading again in adulthood, after the school years, when they can choose how much and how long they would like to read.

Last but not least, it might be a good idea to simply ask the child why they don’t like to read. Maybe they have eye problems. Maybe they think they should be an instant expert, and need to hear that it is a process.  Maybe they need someone to sit with them and read with them, helping to sound out words, etc. Or they would just rather be doing something else right now. Try to find out what is going on in their mind. Try to make reading be a whole lot of fun. Anyone for Dr. Suess?

I am writing this with the hope that children receive a stronger voice in their learning processes, and that we as adults put more emphasis on the joy of learning.
Carmen Gamper

Multiplication with children

Learning basic math becomes easy when we understand why it might be useful in real life!

Multiplication is really an expanded form of addition. We need it when we want to add several things of the same value. This can be communicated to children in informal ways:

It is needed in daily life, for example when cooking, e.g. we need 3 times 2 eggs to make 3 omelettes. We can count 1,2,3,4,5,6 or add 2+2+2, or multiply 3 times 2.

Or, when shopping e.g. 4 pieces of chocolate each cost $2. Instead of adding $2+$2+$2+$2 we can multiply 4 times $2.

When multiplication is associated with real-life situations, it becomes part of the child’s life experience, then the various kinds of doing multiplication on paper become useful and interesting.

Maria Montessori’s colored beads, the “multiplication bead bars” are the most useful learning / teaching material for the times tables.

The bars from 1 to 10 each have specific colors, which remain associated with the value of the bar.

At a glance, we can tell 5 times 3 is different from 3 times 5, even though the product is equal.

For example, we can lay out the 4 times table, and add the equation and product on small paper squares. This is not the best method to learn the times tables by heart, however, it is a great way of experiencing and comprehending the times tables, and learning how to use them in real life situations.

The Table of Pythagoras or decanomial boards: This material is made in the same colors as the beads, and at a glance we can see the geometric forms created by the times tables:
The multiplication of two equal numbers results in a square.
The multiplication of two different numbers results in a rectangle.

The complete Table of Pythagoras / decanomial board looks like this:

You can cut the complete Table of Pythagoras or a specific times table out of cardboard. decanomial cut-out

Enjoy and get creative!
Carmen Gamper

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