Montessori Inspired Toddler Discovery: Bees


I started planning this bee discovery when Eli had such an interest in the bug work from his “In the Garden” discovery.  His favorite rhyme of late has also been “Here is the Beehive,” so I thought, “Cool!  Let’s discover bees!”  But the more research I did and the new addition of bees on the endangered species list, I started to feel like we owe it to our children and the planet to take the time to learn and care about Earth’s creatures who need our help the most.  And boy, do I know and care a lot about bees now!  It could be the pregnancy hormones brewing, but I feel quite empathetic and emotional regarding these hard workers and so thankful for their part in our larger ecosystem, and I was quite excited to share my new love of bees with my favorite little hard worker.

Here’s a look at Eli’s bee discovery at 26 months old:

Parts of a bee.  Using the beautiful 3-part cards from The Montessori Company and the large Safari Ltd. honeybee model, I presented the parts of the bee to Eli in a two-period lesson format.  We examined each card and then found the part on the three-dimensional model.  The model in conjunction with the cards made a huge difference because Eli could touch and manipulate the body parts as we discovered them.  Then, he enjoyed playing games such as “pick a card and find the part of the bee on the figure” and “find the body part the bee uses to see, fly, walk, sting, etc.”  He also enjoyed counting parts of the bee such as counting the bee’s six legs or two eyes.  We would then count our own corresponding body part to compare: “you have two eyes and the bee has two eyes; the same amount of eyes!”

Bee life cycle. Eli worked with the bean plant life cycle last month, so he knew exactly what to do when he found this on his bee shelf.  I presented the names of each cycle point in a two-period lesson, and he enjoyed matching them to their picture in order to place in their chronological order. “Bigger and bigger and bigger,” he says as he places them down.

Bee one-to-one correspondence and counting. Eli has been counting anything and everything (which oftentimes sounds like “one, two, three, eight, nine”).  Because he enjoyed the “Gold Rush” correspondence work so much, I created a bee themed one, so he could count bees to his heart’s delight.  I maxed out the cards at five bees because that is currently all the challenge he needs and it allows him to say his favorite bee rhyme as he works.

Bee gluing. I want to start by saying I had zero expectation of Eli gluing together anything that resembled a bee, but I did want to give him an opportunity to glue varying shapes.  In this case, circles (yellow bee body), semicircles (gray wings), and stripes (black stripes of a bee).  To create these shapes, I used my 3 inch circle die cut.  The yellow circles were simple enough–one slice of the die cut.  The gray semicircles were just gray die cut circles cut in half , and the black stripes were black die cut circles cut into strips. I keep Eli’s glue in a never-been-used nail polish bottle, and he also uses an art work mat.  Eli has been a huge fan of this work.  He mostly likes to glue as many stripes as he can onto the yellow circle, and I love his focus with this work.

Hexagon/hexagonal prism shape exploration and invitation to build a honeycomb.  I presented the hexagon to Eli by asking him to first feel all of its sides and then counting (with touch) the sides together. Then we examined the honeycomb illustrations in Honey in a Hive (see below), and I asked if he could point to a hexagon. “Here, here, here, right here,” he said, gleefully pointing to as many as he could.  I then pulled the basket of hexagons, and I invited him to create a honeycomb.  It was a can’t-just-sit-in-my-chair kind of work.

Honey tasting. After reading Honey in a Hive (see below) and talking about where honey comes from, we added honey to our morning toast using this perfect-for-small-hands honey pot and dipper, a great practical life work.  We also examined characteristics of honey: sticky, sweet, golden, thick, etc.  Needless to say, Eli enjoying eating his entire piece of toast, and we concluded by thanking the bees for our delicious breakfast treat: “thank you bees honey.”

Honey Bee Tree game. A fun, pincer-grip refinement game to practice all those necessary social skills to playing cooperatively with others such as waiting your turn.  Eli is a huge fan of this game.  He gets excited when the bees fall, and he enjoys placing the leaves and bees back in to start a new game.

Books. We couldn’t have a discovery without a few reading materials.

Are you a Bee? by Judy Allen and Tudor Humphries. A nice introduction to the characteristics of bees and how they compare to humans.

Honey in a Hive by Anne Rockwell. Lovely details and illustrations about all the work that goes into making honey.  Definitely a book that will grow with Eli.

The Honeybee Man by Lela Nargi and Krysten Brooker. A narrative following a beekeeper in Brooklyn as he cares for the honeybees and patiently waits for the gift of their honey.

We now have plans in the work to create a bee garden, a flower garden with plants native to our area, to do our little part in saving the bees.  For more information about what you can do to help save the bees, check out The Honeybee Conservancy.

Looking for some more bee discovery inspiration?  Well, you know when you show up to meet a best friend wearing matching outfits?  When you have a “Montessori best friend” who lives across the country, you coincidentally plan the same toddler discovery theme for your boys who are just two months apart.  Ha!  Check out Bridget from Montessori in Motion’s bee discovery here!  Can’t wait to include her ideas this month as well!


  1. Question: how and where do you store the materials that are not currently on your sons workshelf? I love these bee materials! It’s so important for kids to learn about bees

    • Lindsay

      Thank you! 😊 So, in the room he uses as a main work space, we are lucky enough to have a walk-in closet, which we have filled with shelves. Any material not in rotation is in there. I organize anything small into Ziploc bags and place in baskets. Larger works are simply placed on the shelves, and anything he has clearly outgrown goes into large storage bins and placed on the highest shelf (above clothing rod) to be stored until baby #2 is ready gor it. I hope this helps! I’ll have to write a post with pics one day!

  2. megan

    I will jump on the link train here, and ask where you got your son’s crafting mat. I have looked on Amazon, but none of the reviews are that great. Thanks for any info! I’ve been on your blog eight times in the past three days 😊😊

    • Lindsay

      Thanks for all the visits! 😊 Gosh, I had the same issue with craft mats on Amazon. A lot of them also don’t roll. I ended up getting ours from Michael’s. The box is long gone, so I don’t have a brand. This is probably less than helpful!

  3. Lindsay

    So glad I found your site! I am not Montessori trained, but I work in an emergent-based child-led child care centre where we advocate for high quality experiences without many plastic “toys.” I am already collecting wooden toys and objects to use as my future child grows. I cannot wait until he or she is old enough, and we can start doing emergent-based activities together. Thank you for the inspiration.

  4. Andrea

    Did you make the life cycle card yourself or is it available for download some where? Also, where did you get your neutral work rug? Really enjoy your posts and all the really useful tips and links.

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