It’s not even halfway through the school year and already I feel tired. Have you ever felt that way? The constant research, activity preparation, hunting for good bargains on educational materials … just makes my brain hurt sometimes. When our Montessori By Mom toolkit arrived, I was so very thankful. This is the second toolkit I’ve received (courtesy of Montessori By Mom), and I must say I’m getting better at harnessing the stress-relieving powers of such a kit.
In case you don’t get to the end of this post, you can use this coupon code AFFELGO to save $10 off a new subscription (month-to-month, 6 month, or one-year subscriptions.) Also, until Jan 1, 2016, use coupon code SNOW15 to get 10% off store orders.
Tips on how to make your life easier when you get your toolkit
- Prepare several empty trays.
- Look through your Activity Guide and sort the materials into the trays. For me, this took about 15 minutes.
- Go online and view the videos on how to give a lesson or do the activity with your child. Again, this took me about 15 minutes.
- Make yourself a nice cup of coffee or tea and wait till your child notices the new activities.
What we did with our Journey to Japan toolkit
The Buddha Board is mesmerizing! It displays so invitingly on the shelf together with the Japan fact card, flag and silk fan. In fact, it’s so inviting that Z sometimes “paints” right there on the shelf.
The quality of the Japanese brush is excellent! I often spot cheaper ones at our local Asian stores, but this one is so much stronger and thicker. I learned a long time ago that the calligraphy brush needs to be held a special way. Both my boys have really paid attention to this and held it the correct way (hopefully I didn’t lead them astray).
(The Buddha Board is also a lesson in patience when one boy has to wait for the board to dry up before it can be used by the other boy. I love that!)
Another point about quality: I compared the included Japan flag to the Canada flag I bought from our local dollar store. It’s much bigger and the flag feels softer and more silk-like, compared to the crumpled Canada one whose thread is already coming apart. Sigh … I must start looking for a better quality Canada flag since we live here.
This is by far Z’s favourite activity, as you can see from the video. Complete with headband (“hachimaki”) which he made himself, he had a blast cutting out the sushi felt, assembling the different types of sushi (nigiri and maki), and then transferring the sushi using the chopstick with helper.
Note: Z already has his own set of chopsticks and chopstick helper before we got this kit, but it never worked very well. I’ve always thought he wasn’t ready for it, being only 3 years old. But the set which I got from MBM worked so much better and proved me wrong. You would think that I already know this having grown up using chopsticks … anyway, here are some tips that I’ve learned:
Tip #1: A square shaped tip makes it so much easier than the pointy tips on our own chopsticks. Using wooden or plastic chopsticks increases the friction — metal chopsticks make the food too slippery.
Tip #2: Use a chopstick helper that you can adjust the placement. Our yellow-man chopstick helper can only be placed at the top, so despite having child-sized chopsticks, you can see from the picture that they make the gap ridiculously big for a small child to handle. These chopstick helpers that came with our kit were perfect because I could slide them to the perfect gap-width for Z.
This can be messy, so be prepared with some extra towels and a mop. This was also a hit because the kids got to put paper in water (for real, mom?) MBM has thought of everything — they probably knew that someone lazy like me is not going to want to spend time tearing up paper, so they’ve provided little pieces of coloured tissue paper that are ready to be used out of the box.
The resulting paper creation isn’t as strong, but then MBM already knew this and mentioned it in the instruction video. It’s perfect for Z though because he wanted to dictate which colours go where. But when it easily tore apart, he asked me why and how we can make it stronger. I told him we need to use paper pulp … and that’s when it dawned on me what that bag of pulpy paper is for (see, MBM has thought of everything!) So I really don’t need to break out my blender (to pulp paper) unless we get bored over Christmas (or unless we want to make Christmas cocktails).
This activity came at the perfect timing for us, because at 3.5 years old, Z is suddenly wanting to fold a lot. I have been slacking and have not yet prepared a napkin folding activity for him, and actually folding paper is more difficult and is the next step after learning to fold napkins. But a child waits for no slow-poke mommy, and he wanted desperately to fold what he saw on the origami book (also included in the kit), so I drew lines for him where he should fold.
The origami book is perfect for preschoolers — it has simple pictures and the projects go from easiest to most difficult. Z can now fold paper pretty well for his age with all this origami practice. In fact, we’ve run out of the included paper and need to get more. I have to say that the paper included is specialty origami paper — I’m not an origami folder so I’ve never realized this before, but the paper is thinner unlike regular paper, thus making the folding much more manageable for a young child.
We’ve just started this and so it will take a while for pictures. It’s nice though to be able to have something to plant indoors in the winter, and I’m hoping these work out because we have started to use rosemary in our roast chicken dinners. Z is in charge of this so I’m glad they included several seeds.
We found several books from the library to read and dive deeper, but after looking through all of them, I felt that this book alone is good enough for our needs at this time. Take a look at the photos above — it’s got a map with highlights for different areas, some songs you could easily sing, a-day-in-the-life lifestyle contrasts between folks in the city vs. the village, and much more. This was a truly fun and resourceful book we kept going back to.
We did also borrow a short story book from the library that Z found relatable and funny during this time of colds and allergies.
Everything in the kit was high quality and engaging. I needed to furnish my own bowls here and there, but those are not deal-breakers. My only complain — is that plane tickets to Tokyo for a family of four were not included in the toolkit, because by the end of our unit Z kept asking when are we going to Japan.
Check out my review of the MBM Space Explorer toolkit, where we did 7 activities back then. The plan is to use them again in a few months when we revisit Astronomy.
Also, check this out — a child development expert (and MBM subscriber) talks about the pros and cons of MBM toolkits. I thought it was spot on.
Montessori By Mom coupon code
I would not be recommending this if I don’t think MBM is awesome, so here’s some info and love for you: You can buy single toolboxes from the Montessori By Mom Store, but the best value is the subscription where each toolbox starts at $49.95 per month with free shipping. If you’re a new subscriber, you can use this coupon code AFFELGO to save $10 off a new subscription. Also, until Jan 1, 2016, use coupon code SNOW15 to get 10% off store orders.