Montessori Language Miniature Games
Here at Montessori by Mom, we love Montessori language miniature games! Montessori language miniatures are tiny replicas of real-life objects that can be used for hours of fun Montessori activities. These language games are particularly great for early speakers and readers because they’re visual and hands-on. They help early readers with beginning sounds, phonics, and expressive language, key focuses of Montessori language theory!
In this article, we’ll give you step-by-step instructions for some of our favorite Montessori language miniature games you can try at home.
What You Need to Play Montessori Language Miniature Games
For language miniature games, you will need some small everyday objects. Here’s an example of a Montessori language miniature set to get you started. You can also find materials (like buttons, pegs, rings, etc.) in thrift stores, craft shops, and even in a relative’s house — with permission, of course!
As the name suggests, Montessori parents and teachers use language miniatures to enrich kids’ language development at around ages 3-10. Montessori language miniature games are not just for entertainment. These activities engage the brain and unlock the cerebellum, the part of our brain that helps us with movement and language processing.
‘Montessori I Spy’ with Language Miniatures
One way to use language miniatures at home is by playing a version of “I Spy.” This sound game is popular because it uses repetitive language, and once you’ve played it a few times, it’s easy for kids to understand the rules.
Montessori sound games are introduced at around 3 years old. At this stage, children should be speaking their native language with a considerable level of accuracy and vocabulary. In Montessori, initial or beginning sounds are taught first, usually from common starting letters like a, b, m, or t. Children learn ending sounds next because they finish the word and are easier to identify than middle sounds. Since middle sounds are the trickiest to isolate in a word, children learn them last.
Before playing language miniatures games like “I Spy,” make sure that you and your child know the name of each object by introducing the names of the miniatures first. Make sure that you’re familiar with the phonetic alphabet —it can be tricky to get the hang of using the phonetic sound, not the letter name, without adding any extra sounds at the end. This Montessori phonetic alphabet video is a handy resource!
Identifying Beginning Sounds
Here’s how to start:
- Start by inviting your child to join you. Sit beside them and name the objects in front of you, isolating the beginning sounds, like “ah” in “apple” or “tuh” in “top hat.” Start by focusing on one beginning sound and have 2-3 objects with the same initial sound.
- Choose one of the objects, and say something like, “I have something in my hand that starts with ‘mmm,'” or “I spy with my little eye something beginning with ‘fff,’” while showing them the object.
- Once your child says the name of that object aloud, repeat what they said, emphasizing the isolated beginning sound. “Yes, this is a ‘ffffish.’ It starts with ‘fff.'”
- Once you’ve introduced the sounds, you and your child can practice identifying them. Prepare 3-5 objects with different beginning sounds. Repeat a similar “I Spy” phrase. This time, your child will have to pick the correct object out of a few options based on the object’s name and the sound you designate.
- Observe which objects your child finds easier or difficult to sound out.
- Once your child is ready to begin ending sounds, the presentation is similar to the initial sounds.
- Start by inviting them to join you. You can sit next to them and name all the objects in front of you, but this time you will isolate the ending sounds, like “tuh” in “bat” or “puh” at the end of “cup.”
- Select one of the objects and say something like, “I spy with my little eye something that ends with ‘puh,'” while showing them the chosen object.
- Once your child says the object’s name aloud, affirm what they said and repeat it, emphasizing the isolated ending sound.
- When they have the hang of identifying ending sounds, play the game without showing them the chosen object. Instead, they can identify the object based on the sound you use.
- You can then repeat this process with other small objects.
Again, start slowly, and observe which sounds they find easier and more difficult to identify. That way, the next time you present the activity, you can focus on the sounds that challenge your child.
Middle sounds are next! These are the trickiest because they are harder to isolate than beginning and ending sounds, but if you’ve observed that your child is ready, then go ahead.
- Again, invite your child to join you at a mat or table. You can sit beside them and name all the objects in front of you if they need a recap. Remember to isolate all of the sounds in the word and then say the full word aloud.
- Place between 3-5 objects in front of you and secretly select an object or choose an object and put it in your hand. Then, say something like, “I spy something that has ‘ah’ somewhere in the middle”.
- If your child doesn’t select the correct object or sound, don’t worry! Just repeat what they said, emphasizing the isolated sound in the object they chose, and repeat the initial phrase.
- Repeat with other objects and sounds.
As always, observe your child. It’s more than OK if you need to go back a step and focus on ending or beginning sounds for a while — it’s just more practice!
Other ‘I Spy’ Activities With Language Miniature Games
You can try many other “I Spy” inspired activities to keep language miniature games fun and interesting.
Language Miniature Hide & Seek
Hide some language miniatures in a bag or around the house and invite your little ones to find them. You can say, “I spy with my little eye something beginning with … or ending with …,” and watch the giggles ensue.
Adjectives or Verbs
If your little one is ready for a bigger challenge, you can play “I spy” with adjectives or verbs. Use the structure, “I spy with my little eye something …” that’s “purple,” “big,” “that jumps,” or “that flies,” for example.
Matching Language Miniature Games with Sandpaper Letters
Once your child has grasped initial sounds, you can introduce their symbols — that’s where sandpaper letters come in! You can use the objects they know and get them to match the beginning sounds of those objects with the symbols. Equally, you could focus on ending sounds or matching objects with the sounds they contain.
Play Around with Language Miniature Games
As always, have fun! Language miniature games shouldn’t be boring or a chore for either of you. So don’t feel pressured if your child isn’t that interested that day. Come back to it when you’re both ready.