What do you think when you hear “fruit-of-the-month club”? For me, I associate it with corporate gifting. You don’t hear much about it these days, but if you’ve been online over the past several months, you’ve likely read or heard about a new trend in gifting/shopping: subscription boxes. They’re an amped up version of that good ol’ fruit-of-the-month club that has been around for years. These new boxes, however, aren’t restricted to just fruit… or food for that matter. They come in every theme you could possibly imagine from boxes of craft supplies to nail polish to geek gear to stuff just for men. If there’s a theme you can think of, there’s a box available for it. I predict subscription boxes will be a hot-ticket item for Christmas because they are more personalized than a gift card and offer a gift that keeps on giving. There’s one thing I’ve noticed over and over. The boxes individually are basically one-and-done meaning they are random products that you use once. Sometimes you’ll get all the ingredients to make a new recipe or create a craft but generally it’s a box of merchandise no different than if the gift-giver had shopped for it personally.
The latest box I discovered is something completely different. It has a function, a purpose. Montessori By Mom is more than just a box of stuff. It’s a toolbox filled with items for teaching in a fun and unique way. When my girls were little, we would purchase what we felt were educational toys as well as shopped at the teacher’s store to get additional teaching tools. Unfortunately, for the typical parent like myself, a teaching tool was only as good as I could make it. There weren’t instructions on how to really utilize it. Each Montessori By Mom package contains not just a variety of materials but the recipient is also provided with access to videos, reference materials and information online to learn how to maximize usage of the items in their toolbox.
The focus age of each box is 3-5 years old but we used the box with our 10 and 11 year old daughters and found it of great educational value. With toddlers, the experience revolves around simple lessons such as matching, fine motor skills and basic concepts. With the older kids it helps put things they have already learned into perspective in a different way. As an example, we received the Space Explorer Toolbox.
Inside the box, we found a variety of items such as craft supplies, model planets, a flashlight, small telescope and even a meteorite! (We watch the show Meteorite Men so that was a pretty cool surprise to find in the box.)
Now I want you to stop for minute and think about when a young child looks at a picture of the Earth. They’re going to see a circle. When they draw the sun on a picture, they draw… a circle. The toolbox included one of each wooden circle, large sphere, small sphere, square and cube. By allowing children to see, feel and experience the differences, it provides a basis for discussing the idea of the planets being circles versus spheres. One of the difficulties of discussing scale with respect to the planets and the moon is the nature of the sizes themselves.
The Space Explorer Toolbox included some really cool (cute) model planets that can be lined up on a tape measure to show their scaled distance apart. Young children might not completely grasp the idea of the distance from the Earth to the sun but this will help give them a visual ability to begin to learn. Our 10-year-old used them to see if she could remember the names and order of the planets. The kit also contained models of the Earth and the moon. The online toolkit includes details on discussing more about the moon including the various phases. As I previously mentioned, the teaching tactics for young children are included in the online manuals and videos but those can be expanded or adjusted for children with learning disabilities as well as for older children.
We have a few apps on our iPhone and iPad that show the planets and the constellations. The girls have always been really interested in identifying them. When we went to Family Space Camp this past summer, their interest in it grew. But aside from talking about the constellations and discussing the order of the planets, we haven’t really discussed them in detail. The Montessori By Mom Space Explorer Toolbox provided us with scale models, distance details and more that gave us a fun way to dive deeper into space. With respect to small children, the constellation portion of the toolbox includes notecards, colored construction paper, a white crayon, a star-shaped hole punch, a large needle and string. Using these tools, children can thread the needle and lace the constellations through the holes. They can also play “connect the dots” with the crayon and the black paper or recreate the constellations with the hole punch. Once again, the potential for this type of kit goes far beyond the one-and-done of many other subscription boxes. Imagine this showing up on your doorstep each month!
The only complaint I have about this program is that it didn’t come with a storage bag of any sort. Since this toolbox can be used more than once, it would be great if it came with a larger bag to store it all in. Even if the items are just dumped all together, that’s fine. Just something.
I’ve seen a lot of subscription boxes as well as a lot of teaching and home school materials and I think this is a great intersection of the two concepts. While Montessori By Mom is marketed toward a younger crowd, I think it has so much more potential for families of children with special needs, older children as well as homeschool families. If someone is looking for a great gift idea as the holidays roll around, this is worth considering. Not sure if a particular kit is a good fit for your family? No worries! The team at Montessori By Mom gives recipients advanced notice of the theme so they can opt-out of that particular box. They want their customers to be happy. With kits like these, I don’t see that as a problem.
What ways did you (or do you) help engage your children in learning?