Today I’m sharing a fun and simple set of fine motor skill activities. You can do it with toddlers, preschoolers, or elementary aged kids. All you really need are dried beans from your pantry.
Montessori-Inspired Toddler Activity
My kids all attended a Montessori preschool. One of the earliest activities they learned there was spooning beans.
It doesn’t sound like much, but toddlers find it to be an interesting challenge.
Give them a small amount of beans, two small bowls, a spoon, and a rimmed plate or tray. Show the toddler how to move the beans from one bowl to the other with the spoon.
Beans are small, so be sure to supervise carefully to keep them out of curious mouths, noses, and ears.
If you want a truly Montessori experience, you’ll need to do further research. If you are looking for simple fine motor play, then this is all you need.
Alphabet Practice for Preschoolers
For preschoolers ready to work on their ABCs, you can let them form letters with beans.
You’ll want to keep the beans from rolling away. I used face-up re-stickable clear contact paper. Shelf paper also works. Tape it down to the table.
If they need a guide for the letters you can write on the contact paper with a ball point pen. Once they are finished, you can squirt school glue over the beans. Let it dry 24 hours, then peel it off the contact paper. The letter ‘A’ in the photo above was done this way – see how it’s shinier than the other letters?
Creative Designs for Elementary-Aged Kids
My girls got really interested in designing with beans. Isabella wanted to make a monkey. I helped her trace an oval on a piece of paper. She added on the rest herself. (Similar to the animals we drew last spring)
Then we taped face-up clear contact paper on top of her paper, and she started placing beans.
We had to refill her bean bowls a few times. I didn’t want to give the girls too many beans at once for fear they’d spill. In the end, it made zero mess. I don’t think I swept up a single bean. Isabella wanted every last one for her monkey.
Sophie wrote her name in beans, and then made an abstract design.
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I couldn’t leave you without a book recommendation to go with all these beans. I’ve discovered the story Bean Thirteen (affiliate) by Matthew McElligott. It has a math theme centered around the concept of division. I think once your child is thinking about beans you might as well leapfrog that into additional learning experiences.
Simple play can still have not-so-simple lessons.