DIY: Montessori Bead Bars

First, I just want to say that I am not a Montessori expert; I’ve barely read much on it. But being an eclectic homeschooler, I borrow a lot from wherever. After making my version of the Montessori Hundred Board, I realized that M still needed more manipulative work in truly understanding the numbers on the hundred board. A friend had previously mentioned Montessori Bead Bars, and they sounded perfect. Originally I was planning on using chenille stems and beads to make the bead bars, but since our toddler is very involved in what her big sisters are doing, I did not want to risk the bead bars being mouthed by the toddler, broken, etc, and I especially did not want it to be an activity that can only be done when the toddler is napping.

But it was important to me to keep the “bead bars” tactile; I wanted each individual “bead” to be felt. So Sharpie marker on craft sticks was not going to be enough. I have heard of gluing beans to craft sticks, but again, I knew that would be easily mouthed and destroyed by the toddler (and I really disliked the idea of gluing 100 beans or sequins, it seemed too tedious). If you are interested in making your own bead bars, I suggest checking out this blog, which has gathered a lot of ideas, and which, unfortunately, I did not find until after I made mine.

So, what did I settle on for our “bead bars”? I chose to use adhesive cardstock paper and craft sticks. Simple, quick, and effective, and it even survived the toddler’s mouth!

Now again, I have no idea of the Montessori-correct way of using bead bars. But here’s how we’ve been exploring them:

For C, the preschooler, I made paper templates for counting the teen numbers.

The LipperLoppy Life: DIY Montessori Bead Bars

The LipperLoppy Life: DIY Montessori Bead Bars”

For M, the kindergartner, I made number cards and explained how to match the amounts to the number cards (with her Hundred Board nearby for reference as well). I modeled the activity after the “Matching Amounts and Numerals” from this PDF document I found online.

For example, first I placed a 40 card and a 2 card near each other, and said, “40 and 2 make 42”.

The LipperLoppy Life: DIY Montessori Bead Bars

The LipperLoppy Life: DIY Montessori Bead Bars

Then, I placed the number 2 card on the 40 card (making 42), and repeated the above statement.

The LipperLoppyLife: DIY Montessori Bead Bars

The LipperLoppyLife: DIY Montessori Bead Bars

Seriously, I could almost see the light-bulb clicking! She spent the next 20 minutes playing with these manipulatives. Eventually she started placing the tens on her hundred board to help her count out the higher numbers. How ingenious!

The LipperLoppy Life: DIY Montessori Bead Bars

The LipperLoppy Life: DIY Montessori Bead Bars

And then she wanted to make numbers higher than 100, which caught me off-guard, as I had only prepared up to 100. I guess I will be making more tens this week! This activity also taught her how to skip count in tens very quickly. (She’s since picked up skip counting in twos as well, since we’ve checked out a library book about that.)


A Creative Morning

creative play

creative play

…Puppet theater play, homemade play-dough monster creations, 3-D puppet creations, and animal play…all perfectly accompanied with cookies and coffee.



All Things Bats

The second program this month from the local nature center was about Bats. I actually was rather unimpressed with this particular program, that had mostly to do with the leader (two leaders take turns each month, and this was our first time attending a program run by this particular leader). We actually learned more about bats on our drive to the nature center, when we listened to the audio that accompanied one of our library books. C was really excited on the drive, and kept exclaiming something “new” about bats as she listened. Auditory learner, perhaps? I think I will be checking out more audio books for her!

We still had a lot of fun learning about bats. We spent the whole day doing different batty activities, and by dinnertime, the girls had so much knowledge to share with Dada. Some of the batty facts that we learned included:

  • Bats live all around the world (except the poles).
  • A bat’s wing is composed of its arm and hand, with long fingers supporting the skin of the wing.
  • Bat’s toes are hook-shaped to easily hang upside down.
  • Bats are nocturnal.
  • Different types of bats eat different things; most species eat insects, but some eat fruit, fish, frogs, even blood.
  • Some bats use echolocation to navigate in the dark night. The bat makes a shout (that is too high for humans to hear) and listen to its echo to create a sound picture.
  • Bats sleep in a roost, which can be a building, cave, or tree.
  • Baby bats can’t fly. They stay in the roost huddled together or sometimes the Mama carries the baby when hunting.
  • Baby bats drink mama’s milk; to nurse, they cling to their Mama upside-down, while the Mama wraps her wings around the baby.
  • A Mama gives birth by hanging right-side-up by her thumbs, catching the baby with her tail, and then flipping back upside-down.
  • Bats are mammals, and they are the only flying mammals.

We first read (and listened to the accompanying audio cd) Bat Loves the Night. This was entertaining and highly educational. We also read Bats by Gail Gibbons (I am a fan of Gail Gibbons nature books!).

books bats

The girls were provided with some worksheets that they could do at their choosing. The worksheets included writing practice, a coloring page, connect-the-dots, a wordsearch puzzle, and a fold-a-bat craft. We looked at how the bone structure varies between a bat, bird and a human, and colored in the corresponding bones on this resource. We watched a few online videos (on and We even watched an echolocation music video (it was a wonderful way to practice saying that long word). We made bat masks.

130218 IMG_4317

The girls wanted to put on a bat puppet show for Dada that night. So I found a fingerplay song to use and we created puppets for the show. The girls used their big bat masks (above) to introduce the show, and then together we sang, “5 little bats went flying one night,…” with our Mama and baby bat puppets. (We did discuss how a Mama bat usually just has one baby, not five.) It was a little hard rehearsing the puppet show with the toddler climbing all over us (and stealing puppets) so we had to have a dress rehearsal when Dada was home to distract the toddler before the big show. It was fun!

The Bat Puppet Show

The Bat Puppet Show

Learning About Nocturnal Animals

A few weeks ago we attended a local nature storytime about owls and other nocturnal animals. They read Little Owl’s Night. As a special treat, they had a conservation educator bring in a hawk and a horned owl for a live presentation! Obviously, the hawk isn’t a nocturnal animal, but it was a great way to compare features between nocturnal and diurnal birds. Both birds were gorgeous, and it was so cool to be so close to them; a much more personal experience than the aviary or the zoo. At the end, we went outside to see the hawk fly.

Bubo the Horned Owl

Bubo the Horned Owl

flying hawk

flying hawk

We’ve studied Barn Owls last spring (reading books, dissecting owl pellets, and watching Barn Owl web cams) so the girls were already familiar with owls and nocturnal behavior. But we wanted to learn more about nocturnal animals. We got some great books from the library to read, including: Creatures of the Night, While the World is Sleeping, Where are the Night Animals?, and Whoo Goes There?.

books nocturnal animals

We made a T chart of nocturnal and diurnal animals (and one that is both, elephants!) and we made a collage of nocturnal animals. We put both of these projects in our new Animal Binder (so we can look back on things we’ve studied). We discussed advantages and adaptations for night-living (following this guide) and added the information to our Animal Binder as well.

above, Nocturnal Collage; below, Diurnal/Nocturnal T Chart

C colored some pictures of nocturnal animals while M worked on a word search puzzle that I made from an online puzzle generator. Online, we watched some BBC Nature clips, a video slideshow, and a puppet music video and played a few online games, finding hidden nocturnal animals and identifying animal sounds. One night before bedtime, we turned off the lights in the living room and played hide and seek in the dark, experiencing what it might be like to be an owl hunting a mouse and a mouse trying to hide. This was super fun, and no one made any major bumps.

As usual, there is always so much information available, so we still have plenty more to explore and learn about in the future. The girls were especially excited about owls again, so we have ordered some more owl pellets to dissect and have started watching the Barn Owl web cams again. I think we will always be checking in on those Barn Owls in Jan/Feb (when they lay eggs).  Hooray for web cams and YouTube videos!

Distracted Baking

Flat muffins. This is what happens when baking powder and baking soda are left out of a muffin recipe. I’m not that great of a baker, so I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that this happened to me. And of course, this wasn’t a baking moment with the children, though they were my main distraction. I would also like to place some of the blame on the recipe itself, a blogger’s recipe in which the dry and wet ingredients were all over the place, instead of in order of use. The muffins did still taste good to the girls; they barely lasted a day. And this morning I had to redeem myself and baked another batch of muffins (from a different recipe), with all three girls helping as well. Those turned out perfect, beautiful, and yummy.

flat muffins

flat muffins

Amur Leopard, Acids and Bases, and Art

Today started out like every other morning…when the kids wake up they climb out of bed and start playing in the playroom. Sometime after the toddler wakes, I struggle to get myself out of bed and make breakfast. I am so looking forward to when the toddler sleeps the night through, so I can actually wake up before the kids. But right now, as it has been for six years, I desperately try to cling to sleep each morning. We have, however, reached a new milestone in this household: as M is one month shy of turning six, she is staying in her bed all-night-long!  No more climbing into the family bed for her, hooray!

I was just starting to get everyone ready for running errands this morning (we have some birthday presents to buy and valentines to mail) when I got a text from a friend seeing if we would be interested in going to the zoo. Today was a relatively good air day, so I had planned to take advantage and get outside, and the zoo just seemed sooo much more fun than running errands. It was just what I (and the girls) needed. We have been sticking around home (except for classes and errands) way too much in the last few months. And it was so good to chat with a dear friend that I never get to see enough of.

At the zoo, we were blessed to see a training session for the Amur Leopard, so cool! We were warned that the leopard might not participate at all, because, being a cat and all, the leopard does only what it wants to do. My smart friend likened that to children; if only most parents realized this instead of trying to force children to do things! The leopard did do some training exercises, opening his mouth for dental checks, lifting paws for health checks, rolling on the floor (for fun), all for the yummy meatball treats (and not your normal meatball; these included all the body parts, intestines, bones, etc just as a leopard would eat in the wild). It was definitely the highlight of our short zoo trek. (Well, I think the toddler’s highlight was clucking at the chickens walking around the zoo grounds.)

Amur Tiger training

Amur Tiger training

Today we also did some quick science play, dropping colored vinegar in bowls of baking soda. I talked a lot about the double displacement reaction, but really, the girls were just focused on watching the bubbles and trying to mix the colors. Great, great fun! Some say it occupies their kids for hours, but my eldest lasted about 15 minutes, and C probably 30 minutes.

Vinegar-Baking Soda Fun

Vinegar-Baking Soda Fun

One of the reasons my eldest didn’t spend much time on the experiment is because she was excited to get back to a project she had started. She had been asking me if we could buy another sticker dolly book, but since I said we could not right now, she decided to make her own sticker book. We stapled a book together, and she started drawing in pictures (she even is making 3 characters, modeled after the sicker dolly books, though her characters are her and her sisters). Oh my goodness, I just realized that she put our dog in her book too. My heart! C started working on hers too, drawing a butterfly. When they are done drawing in pictures, they will then add stickers that M has already cut out in bowls for them. (Will I not have to buy any more of these books?)

Homemade Sticker Books

Homemade Sticker Books

It was a great day, topped off with fresh-from-the-oven Banana Honey Oatmeal Bread. Mmmmm!

Our Natural Learning Day…Yesterday


I tried my best to get this post written yesterday, as it is about yesterday, but…we all know blogging is not high on the priority list!

So, yesterday was full of natural learning exploration. The day had a lazy start; the toddler has had nights recently with an hour of nursing, tossing, kicking and hitting me, and nursing, so I’ve been waking up extra tired, and yesterday was no exception. I almost feel like she’s a newborn with my recent lack of sleep! We needed to go to the grocery store that day, so I asked the girls if they wanted to go in the morning or after speech class, and they chose to go after speech, because they wanted to keep playing that morning. Fine by me, as I got to stay in my pj’s longer and take my time.

We made waffles and spinach-fruit smoothies for breakfast. I love when we can start the day with a filling yummy breakfast! The girls spent most of the morning in free play, some of what I saw was: making a “collection” of animals (according to M, a collection is something that you look at and keep), cushion jumping in the living room,  and doll house play.

The "Animal Collection"

The “Animal Collection”

I will spare you a picture of what my couch looked like when the cushions were removed! Time to vacuum!

I will spare you a picture of what my couch looked like when the cushions were removed! Time to vacuum!

M initiated reading practice. She picked out one of her reading books (I will write a post about these reading books another time) and read some of the book with me. She is getting so excited about her reading ability! C requested that we finish the last country in their culture sticker book (Nigeria) so we did that next.

We ate a yummy lunch of sandwiches, veggies, and fruit, and then had quiet time (toddler nap time). M and C chose to watch a Jeff Corwin animal show. The girls wanted an episode on Western Africa (since we just talked about Nigeria), but instead we found an episode on Nepal. I was only able to watch the end of the show (as I had been nursing the toddler to sleep) so I only caught a bit about elephant midwives (birth and babies is a popular topic in this household, both for the girls and me).

Then we brought a little springtime inside with flower paper roll painting. M discovered that you need to press down on the petal flaps to get a good print. M also decided to add stems and leaves with her fingers, and eventually we got out a few brushes to paint the centers of the flowers. C quickly turned the activity into a tactile one and just spread the paint all over with her hands. How great that must have felt!

Flower Paper Roll Painting

Flower Paper Roll Painting

Then we cleaned up quickly and went to speech. We have both a new graduate student clinician (we get a new one every semester) and a new faculty supervisor, who is the school’s expert on Apraxia. She is trained in Prompt Therapy (only SLP in Utah with Prompt training) and I’m just so excited to finally have her in charge of M’s therapy (previously she had been consulting our supervisor). The classes just started this week, and they are still just collecting language samples and figuring out what they want to target.

After speech we all went to the grocery store, scoring the only 3-child-cart. I had a huge list to get through, so I bribed the kids with a cookie from the bakery. But it was a successful trip (seriously, its the little things, right?)

When we got home, the girls had more free play, including: looking at a Native American book (M noticed that they carried baskets on their heads); art; more reading practice for M (she found CVC words in a chapter book that she could read); looking at more books; and of course, dance time in the living room.

A winter storm was beginning, so I cooked up leftover chili from the freezer and cheddar biscuits for dinner. Dad left work too late and got stuck in the storm (his front-wheel drive work truck can not make it up into our neighborhood on the bench of the mountain in snowy weather). He parked his truck pretty far away (about 20 minute walk in the snow), so we drove out to pick him up. He did not want us to get him, worrying about a car sliding into us, but it was a short drive and it meant we would all be home sooner to eat our yummy dinner.
After dinner we played board games, card games, and puzzles before bedtime. I was able to keep up with laundry and dishes, and we all went to bed with every room in the home clean (well except the office which is a disaster right now with moving boxes). The girls have been very helpful lately with keeping things picked up…I think we are finally running a smooth household routine!

Around the World with Sticker Dolls

My girls love the Sticker Dolly Dressing books from Usborne. You can get them at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or through your local Usborne consultant. We’ve done Princesses, Fairies, Ballerinas, Dancers, Bridesmaids and Weddings (to name a few). It has been simply for fun (and great for entertaining the older sisters when baby sis was born), but I’ve also cringed at how materialistic some of them seem to be (there’s one just for Shopping, for example). I really wished the Weddings included same-sex couples and different cultural weddings (instead of just an American view). The Ballerinas book does feature different ballets, which is educational (and since the girls love reading Ella Bella Ballerina books, they are already familiar with some ballets). There are historical fashion books too, which we haven’t tried yet (because the girls gravitate so much to the princess/fairy themed ones), but I’m looking forward to doing this as well (perhaps when we start making historical timelines next year).

I decided to introduce the Around the World book to the girls. It features different world cultures, with a world map to keep track. I honestly wasn’t sure how the girls would react, but the costumes are so beautiful and the girls enjoy learning about geography and cultures, that they are loving it!

Usborne Sticker Dolly Dressing Around the World

Usborne Sticker Dolly Dressing Around the World

So far, we’ve met Norwegian Reindeer Herders, Spanish flamenco dancers, a Japanese bride and groom, and Austrians dressed for a folk festival. After working on a page together (there are instructions on the sticker sheet for placing the costumes in order, as well as clothing names), we usually try to find a YouTube video as well (we’ve viewed reindeer being round up in Norway, though the herders were wearing modern clothing, flamenco dancing, and Austrians dancing a traditional dance). The book would be a great base for a cultural study, but I’m happy to just do these little tidbits for now. The girls have been asking daily to do more. Usually, they go through the sticker books in a day or two, but I’ve been intentionally making us do this one slowly.

Biographical History: Helen Keller

I love to introduce biographies to my children, especially since I’m still confused about what history curriculum, if any, would ever be a good fit for our family. We own a few great biographical books, including Amelia to Zora: Twenty-Six Women Who Changed the World.

So this past week I chose to delve into Helen Keller. We first borrowed Annie and Helen from the library. The girls were so intrigued! They loved closing their eyes and feeling my attempt at spelling words into their hands. This reminded me of another book that we own, The Black Book of Colors. We received it as a gift a few years ago, but the girls were too young to appreciate it. Now, they poured over the book, feeling all of the pictures, as if for the first time. (This book is in black, with raised pictures and braille, to give seeing people an experience of using touch to experience the world around them….very cool!)

A few days later, we were at the library again, picking up a few books, when M spotted another Helen picture book on the “staff recommends” shelf. So we checked that one (Helen’s Big World: The Life of Helen Keller) out too. It is another great biographical picture book, and I loved how it discussed Helen’s accomplishments and contributions in her adult life as well.

Today, the girls watched a cartoon movie about Helen Keller on YouTube (FYI, Brain Pop has a video too, if you have a subscription) and did some coloring pages and worksheets from here. We talked a lot about how to communicate when blind/deaf, especially before learning language, wrote our names in braille, and talked about how to discover our world using just our sense of smell or touch. We remembered that last spring we had spent some time exploring our sense of smell and identifying foods in a blindfold smell test. M insisted that we play a similar game today, identifying objects by touch while blindfolded. The first thing C told Dada when he came home tonight was that she watched a movie about Helen Keller.

collage of Helen Keller Books

Today in Pictures

7:30 am: Morning TV

8:30 am: Breakfast of Spinach fruit smoothie, eggs and toast.


9:30 am: Gymnastics (I was too busy chasing the toddler to remember to take a photo.)
10:30 am: Fabric store hell. At least M could read the name of the store, and we did survive the long search for fabric and long wait to cut said fabric.


12:30 pm: Bleeding Baby. 😦 It’s amazing how much blood comes from a bit lip! And how scary it is for a parent to see.


1:00 pm: More math play.




*On the drive to speech, we were listening to an Aladdin song. I explained that Aladdin and Jasmine fall in love (the girls haven’t seen this movie yet). M mentions, again, how she married Jasmine and Aladdin. C tells M, “Mama says that Aladdin and Jasmine got inside love!”

2:00 pm: Speech class for M.


3:30 pm: Neighborhood walk to find bird nests.



*M says, “Mama, there are two different kinds of pine cones!” And C says, “There are so many different trees in our neighborhood!”

4:30 pm: I’m crying on the couch and M is crying in her bedroom. Immediately when we got to our driveway after our pleasant walk, M got angry and wouldn’t come inside. We have family safety rules about front yard play, and now was not an option. And frankly, I was hurt that she would treat me this way after our nice nest-finding walk that she has been begging me to do this week. Her outburst only happened because she was tired. But boy, parenting can be so tough! I’m glad that I at least kept my cool, but I feel so drained at the moment, and I still have two more days before Dada is back home.


(I actually am feeling much better now, and I’m sure a delish comfort-food dinner will help in my restoration as well. And maybe a shower too!)

  • "Living is learning and when kids are living fully and energetically and happily they are learning a lot, even if we don't always know what it is. " - John Holt
  • LipperLoppy? what???

    “LipperLoppy” is a word that my daughters invented. It is usually used as a silly adjective or noun. It's a frequent family joke and a good representation of our family's crazy joyful life.
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