A lot has changed since Eli was 20 months old. Mainly, the way in which he engages in play. Imaginative play is now the name of the game, and he spends a good portion of his time occupied in such play, and it’s been so fun to watch and, at times, participate. Because we are not introducing Eli to fantasy or fantastical elements until he enters the second plane of development (around 6 years old), his imaginative play has all been reality based: reliving or reimagining experiences he has had. Every time we go to the zoo, which is quite frequently lately, Eli will spend at least 30 minutes watching the zookeepers give the elephants baths, so I wasn’t surprised one of his first imaginative games was pretending to be an elephant and asking me to give him a “bath.” He also loves to reenact memorable moments such as when he got his balloon stuck in our ceiling fan. He narrates the events as Brian and I act out our parts, especially loving the part when my husband yells for me to come help with the balloon excavation: “Mama!” Eli yells with glee as I run into the room and act shocked to find the now-imaginary balloon stuck in the ceiling fan. And of course, “caring for baby” play and dollhouse play are some of his most focused independent work times he has of late. Besides imaginative play, he continues to be hungry for words, especially in regards to colors, animals, and everyday objects. Practical life activities are still a favorite, but such work is completed as needed such as helping prepare dinner or cleaning up a spill. So, at 22 months old, here are Eli’s favorite works in rotation:
Arctic animals: language/matching. Eli remains an animal lover, and I thought it would be somewhat seasonally appropriate to introduce arctic animals (moose, reindeer, snowy owl, arctic wolf, walrus, narwhal, orca, seal, polar bear, and puffin) even if it is currently 70 degrees Fahrenheit in Texas as I write this. Some of these animals were introduced during our Maine adventure, but it’s nice to bring them out and see Eli has remembered them well. After a look at our globe to point out the arctic and a handful of two-period lessons to learn the new-to-Eli animals, I added matching cards, which I made by using digital images of the figurines, printing, cutting, and laminating. I also created an arctic scene for an imaginative play invitation that he joyfully found after a nap.
Kitchen matching cards from The Montessori Company. Aren’t these cards beautiful? I only have good things to say about all the card sets at The Montessori Company! The cards are a perfect language tool by isolating the object to be named, and Eli enjoys matching the pictures. He can now manage a good amount of cards to match at one time, and I love watching him do it. We also used the cards to go on a “scavenger hunt,” matching the card to the corresponding object in our kitchen.
Nest and Stack Cylinders from Guidecraft. So much for Eli to explore with this material: color, color grading, size grading, nesting, and stacking. When he chooses this work, I’m always curious to see what he’ll choose to explore.
Palette of Pegs from HABA. I originally introduced this to Eli with just the pegs quite a few months ago. This month, I added the rings and let him go to town. He loves to name the colors as he pulls them out of the basket and places them on the peg board. I also love the open-endedness of this material. He’s free to explore and imagine.
Lacing set. I wanted to give Eli a bit more of a threading challenge, so I decided beads in various sizes and shapes would do the trick. I pulled two of each larger sized beads from this set, and I love Eli’s sense of order to thread the pairs together. I love observing how his brain is organizing the world around him.
Twist and Sort from Leader Joy USA. Somewhat of a three-dimensional puzzle, this Twist and Sort requires some patience from Eli at this point. When he is well-rested and well-fed, he enjoys it. Ha!
Beginner Wooden Pattern Blocks from Melissa and Doug. We inherited this set, and I’m so glad I decided to pull it out earlier than I originally had thought. I rotate different puzzle boards regularly, and at this point, I always pull out the correct shapes to complete the puzzle, adding a one-to-one correspondence and a self-correcting element to the original set. Eli has been a huge fan.
Cottage puzzle from Hape-Beleduc. This is one of the few puzzles that has really captured Eli’s attention. He works with it daily, and he rarely gets frustrated. He also loves to name the colors as he works with each piece.
Stereognostic/Mystery bag: ball, dog, sock. A classic Montessori work that I’ve adapted for a young toddler. I chose three objects that were tactilely different. I began by introducing Eli to the three objects in the bag: naming each and inviting him to hold and feel each object. He then placed the three objects back into the bag and asked if he could find the sock with just his hand, isolating his use of touch. He placed his hand into the bag, and without looking, he pulled out the sock. He was quite pleased with himself! He then returned the sock to the bag, and I asked if he could find the dog. In went his hand and out came the dog! We played for quite awhile, and he returns to this work daily. I’ve started to put three different objects into the bag to keep it interesting, always introducing the objects before we play.
Dollhouse and family figurines. I love this simple dollhouse from Ikea. Add the hand-me-down dollhouse furniture and the family figurines we already owned, and we had an inexpensive imaginary play invitation. I so enjoy watching Eli interact with his house and family! He chooses to play with this several times a day and always for long stretches.
And there you have it, Eli’s favorite work at 22 months! What work is your toddler loving these days?