Kids are drawn to little things, there is something about them that captures their imagination which is why collecting miniatures to go with language work is such a great idea.
The phonics pouches were probably one one my son’s favourite piece of Montessori work and even now he like to get out the miniatures and use them for story telling. The question I often get asked though is where did you get all the miniatures?
Start off with your own home, look through drawers for nick-nacks, fridge magnets, key fobs, badges/pins, toys and random small things that collect in the bottom of drawers and boxes. Once you have exhausted your own home, time to tap friends and family for their nick-nacks. Many of these items are just collecting dust so people are happy to hand them over! Ask friends and family with older kids to see if they have outgrown anything that could be of use.
You will need to decide how to store them, I made felt pouches or you can use boxes, small containers, stationary drawers. You may decided to store everything in one box then just take out what you need when you need it. There is no right or wrong way, use whatever works for your situation.
An aunt sent me an envelope of great miniatures from her dolls house and then I found more at a closing down sale of a craft store, these are perfect for around the house items. Model making items can also be a good source of minis too.
To start with, you want to use 3 letter words such as pan, saw and pot but don’t restrict your collecting to 3 letter words. Your child will be needing more difficult words soon enough so you will need to collect double letter sounds and blends too.
I found some great erasers that worked well and they were kind to the pocket too. We live in Japan and have a huge Daiso store nearby, so check out your local ‘cheap’ store, dollar shop or whatever. The craft section had buttons and small items used for jewelry making, pendants and the such like. It’s a good idea to keep a list of hard to find letters handy in your purse for when you are out and about. These are the items you are more likely to have to pay for, or pay more for.
Animals! These are easy to find, Toobs have a great selection and you can pick up backs of play animals pretty much everywhere. The same goes for transportation items, mini cars and trucks etc. Also look out for road signs and other pocket sized toys. End of season sales can score you some great bargains.
You might find a bag of items that are the same but you only want one or two, splitting the bag with a friend or organizing a swap through your blog or a Facebook group is another great way to extend your collection (and to make some new friends too!). I combined a couple of swaps as culture swaps but asked for a few mini items to be included.
Christmas crackers have some brilliant mini items, I would swoop round and collect up anything that wasn’t wanted and squirrel them away. Anyone going away on holiday can be asked for a key fob or magnet, again this can work in both your culture boxes and your phonics miniatures.
Charity shops/op shops/thrift stores or yard sales can be a treasure trove, look for games with missing pieces or job lots of small items. If you get really stuck with some of the more difficult letters, Q, Z and X are usually the tricky ones then it’s OK to use pictures or photographs or even full sized items if you get really stuck.
Then there is also the option of making the items you can’t find. Use Fimo and sculpt yourself some miniatures! It was great fun collecting ours, it took quite some time and I still tend to look out for things even though we don’t really need them anymore.
It goes without saying that young kids shouldn’t be left unsupervised when working with miniature items and if you child is still mouthing things then just use bigger items that are not a choking hazard until they have gotten past the mouthing stage.
Jo Ebisujima a passionate, unorthodox, creative entrepreneur who helps busy mamas get themselves sorted so they can live a more fulfilling and creative life. She has been blogging about her Montessori journey since 2007 and is the best selling author of Montessori Inspired Activities for Pre-schoolers.
She now runs The Inspired Mama Revolution, a community of amazing mamas, getting themselves together and living life to their own rules. Find her over at www.jojoebi.com or join her facebook Moms That Rock facebook community.