How to Sprout Little Gardeners

It’s that time of year again, right around the corner….GARDENING!!!!! For many gardeners, it’s hard to contain our excitement - now is the perfect time to start planning.


This is an ideal activity for your children.


First things first! Where are you going to put the garden? Allow your children to help select an area. You want a sunny location close to a water source. I have found it helpful to select a few spots and then give my child the option to choose.


Next, choose your garden layout. Will it be a tilled area in the ground? A raised bed? Or in containers? For those with limited space, a vertical garden is an excellent option, particularly suitable for those in apartments or condos. No matter where you live anyone can have a garden. Get creative!


Some cities have community gardens. Community gardens make gardening accessible to almost anyone and benefit the environment, as well as the health and wellbeing of the community members. Your Parks and Recreation Department may be able to supply information on your local options.


Now that you have chosen your location and type of garden, select the seeds you will plant. Some easy crops for first-time gardeners are squash, tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, onions, and beans. You may also want to include flowers to make herbal teas and plants to benefit pollinators.


Order seed catalogs from your local seed vendor (yes, you can still get seed catalogs) or visit their website. Invite your children to participate in selecting seeds for the garden. This activity is not only relaxing and allows for free exploration, but it’s a great science activity that includes discussing your climate and the effect it has on planting times. Gardening allows your child to reconnect with nature and teaches them where their food comes from.


After you have selected your seeds, you may start your seeds inside if you do not wish to wait for the last frost or wait until the danger of frost has passed and plant the seeds straight into your garden. My personal preference is to wait and plant my seeds into the garden. Some people use milk jugs as greenhouses to plant their seeds.


Create a watering schedule. This would be a great time to have children look up how to create a drip line watering system.

Make sure to label your garden. If your child enjoys arts and crafts, this is an opportunity for them to be creative with labels. You can use popsicle sticks, rocks, paint sticks, whatever you choose just make sure it can withstand the weather conditions.


Once your seeds start sprouting, this would be a great time for older children to research what is needed for each group of plants. For example, tomatoes need to have support so they won’t break. Allow your child to figure out what will be used for support. Tomato cages, stakes, cattle panels are all good options. Some plants will need to climb such as squash.


Once your garden starts growing, for the child who loves art, allow your child to make pieces of art to put into the garden. Ideas would include making a sign out of wood. Paint old watering cans. Make stepping stones. Allow your child’s imagination to flow.


There are many extension lessons that gardening offers and would be a perfect addition to learning at home.


Subscribe to ShillerLearning below for more ideas. We’d love to see your child's garden. Tag @shillermath @shillerlearning on social or share in the Facebook ShillerLearning Customers Group.


We look forward to gardening with you!

Want to See Inside Our Montessori-Based Kits?

Language Arts Kit A (PreK/K-G1)

Language Arts Kit B (G1-G4)

Jessica Zahner

Jessica Zahner has been working in education for 15 years - in both AMI and AMS Montessori schools. Assisting children with learning challenges, including students on the Autism Spectrum and other at risk students, is one of her specialties. As a homeschool mom she and her daughter are traversing the unique experience of home education of an only child. Jessica is fondly known for her passion for Practical Life and loves teaching parents why and how these skills are foundational for their children. The Zahners live on a working ranch and enjoy farming, gardening, and country life. When not caring for their livestock, enjoying practical homeschooling with her daughter, or working with Shiller Learning customers, you might find Jessica enjoying a perfectly brewed cup of tea from herbs grown in their abundant tea garden.


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Montessori Activities With Plastic Eggs

Why Plastic Easter Eggs Are Awesome for Multisensory Learning

One of the best-kept secrets in multisensory learning for kids is likely nearby. You probably have dozens sitting around at home. They’re beautiful, hold up well to little hands, and have dozens of uses. Perhaps they’re part of a pretty display in your home.  


I’m talking about Plastic Easter Eggs.  

Why Plastic Easter Eggs Are Awesome for Multisensory Learning


Surprised? I’m not kidding. Plastic Easter eggs are an incredible tool for children. Not only can they help teach dozens of concepts, but they can teach children about creative thinking too. When we present children with an object in a totally different way than they’re used to seeing it, minds open.  


As children move from concrete to abstract thinking, they begin to see the world in a new way. This is a critical skill for growing the brain and raising lifelong learners. We can help facilitate this process with activities like these. It sounds simple - a plastic egg - and it is simple to us. To a child, especially a young child, it can be surprising. These are also perfect for keeping a younger toddler occupied while working with an older child.


Your child may even laugh or seem puzzled when presented with these activities. This is normal and ok. Remember that children are still learning to see “shades of grey” so to speak. They’re still learning that objects can have multiple uses. Not only are you getting a versatile (and inexpensive) teaching tool, you’re expanding your student’s mind!

The Top Educational Activities to Create with Plastic Eggs


Gather up your Easter egg stash and together a few of these fun activities:


  • Use old egg cartons to sort eggs by color


  • One color onto each row or each crate


  • Color the inside of an egg carton, match the eggs to the proper color


  • Separate eggs and match the proper color


  • Place into a sensory bin


  • Use several different sizes of eggs


  • Sort by color


  • Sort by size


  • Practice nesting the sizes


  • Make a color wheel


  • Match to similarly colored paint strips


  • Put magnets inside for magnet fun


  • Fill each egg with something different, the child may guess what’s inside


  • Match pom poms or beads by color
  • Create egg shakers for music


  • Make two of each pitch to match the sounds


  • Make patterns


  • Motor skills work


  • Opening/ closing the egg


  • Using tweezers to pick up a half


  • Using tongs to pick up a full egg


  • Filling and emptying an egg


  • Filling an egg with pom poms with a spoon, scoop, or tweezers


  • Let a toddler who loves opening & closing things have at them!


  • Poke holes on each end to string onto a string


  • Fill with water


  • Number each egg


  • Put eggs in number order


  • Sort eggs by even/ odd


  • Skip count with eggs


  • Use in place of number cards for math


  • Match fractions with decimals


  • Write a monetary value on the outside


  • The student fills the egg with the proper coins to make that value,


  • Or write the value of a coin on the outside and allow the student to sort coins into the proper egg,


  • Match the number of dots to the proper number


  • Put a letter on each egg and use for spelling (use one egg color for vowels and another for consonants)


  • Create compound words- one portion on each half


  • Write common word endings on one side with possible beginning letter combinations on the other


  • Fill with snacks


  • Decorate with washi tape


  • Balance the egg on a spoon while walking around


  • Build with egg halves


  • Save for next year, fill and bring to a children’s hospital, retirement home, or similar location


  • Make homemade putty to fill the inside


  • Learn how to do this in our Sensory Activity Pack


  • Write a state or country on one half and the capitol on the other half, separate eggs & children find the proper match.

Have another favorite use for plastic Easter eggs? Let us know about it so we can add it to our list.  

We love to share creative ways to reuse common materials for education here on the blog so stay tuned for more.

Don't forget to Pin and Save!

See Inside Our Montessori-Based Kits

Math Kit I - PreK to 3rd Grade

Language Arts A - PreK to 1st Grade

Amanda Osenga

Amanda is a former Montessori teacher, now homeschooling her dear son - an only child. Her family resides in an Airstream parked in Washington State and loves Washington's outdoor opportunities. When not homeschooling, Amanda blogs, loves reading, and creates hand-lettering pieces.

20+ Pages of Montessori Sensorial Sensory Activities for Kids

Montessori Sensorial - Sensory Activity

Sensory-based learning and multisensory education have become buzzwords in the last few years. As rates of ADHD, Asperger’s, Autism, and other learning disabilities rise, so does awareness of sensory stimulation in education. It’s worth noting, however, that a multisensory education is excellent for all children! Teaching to all the senses, especially with young children, is nothing new.


Sensory Activities for Kids With the Montessori Method


The Montessori Method has focused on sensory lessons since its creation. Known as “sensorial works”, the senses are engaged in even young kids. Dr. Montessori identified how much more effective learning becomes when sight, sound, taste, hearing, and touch are all involved. She began building her educational philosophy with children that would today be identified as learning disabled. Early on she discovered that as the senses we brought to life in all kids, the easier it became for them to learn. Kids also were more willing and excited to learn when their senses were involved.

Infants all the way through teens (heck even adults) can embrace concepts and develop a love of learning when all their senses get to take part! While it’s easy to find resources for preschoolers, finding sensory activities for kids, especially for older children has not been easy. Sensorial works are a key part of Montessori toddler and preschool programs. They remain incorporated throughout the older years too. Finding at-home resources has proven to be difficult for ShillerLearning families.


Sensorial Lessons for Children of All Ages & Abilities


We are happy to bring you our activity pack to help solve this missing part of Montessori homeschooling. Today we’re proudly introducing our Sensory Activity Pack! At over 20 pages long and designed for all ages, we’re thrilled to bring multisensory learning to your family in an easy and accessible way.

Here’s what you’ll love about this pack:


  • Wide age range- We’ve worked hard to select Montessori-inspired sensorial activities for all ages. The minimum age on the activity is simply that- a starting point. We’ve provided ways to expand the works for all ages, even teens! If a starting age is in the single digits and you’ve got a double-digit kid- still give it a chance. We think you’ll be pleasantly surprised!


  • Involves kids heightened senses- Did you know children hear more sounds than adults? How about the fact that their eyes perceive different colors and brightness than ours? Their sense of touch is also much more acute than an adult’s is. And did you know their taste buds are being developed in a way that actually causes them to taste differently than we do. When your children state something is too spicy, too loud, too itchy, too bright, etc. it’s because it really is!! Their little bodies are developing and learning how to interact with the world around them. Everything is heightened. This is even more true for children with special needs. As we grow we lose touch with what that’s like for children. In this pack, we’ve made sure to involve all their senses in a gentle and delicate way. All the works can be adapted for the level your children are at.


  • Excellent for Special Needs, Learning Disabilities, and Typical Development- A multisensory education isn’t for one type of learner. If your child has learning disabilities or special needs, they can benefit from this pack! If your child doesn’t, they can benefit too! You know your child best, some works may push them to the limit of what they can tolerate. Particularly with works involving touch and taste. If you know your child struggles with a particular area, start slow. It’s ok if you don’t get through all the steps of a work at once. Perhaps you simply get through one bullet a day. Or perhaps you simply introduce the work and explain it a few days in a row before diving in. We offer this as a guide to help you curate your own journey. Take it at the pace that’s best for your child and family.
  • Expands Sensory Awareness for Parents- As we grow older, we become less in tune with our senses. It is our hope that by engaging in these activities with your children you’ll get back in touch with your senses too! These are all activities that can be enjoyed by adults. When combined with our listening pack, especially the sitting in silence activity from that pack, adults can grow their sensory awareness. Mindfulness is a practice we can all benefit from- and that the Montessori method encourages. Not only are you setting an example by engaging in these activities, but you’re also developing your brain too!


  • Includes a bonus song!- Everyone who downloads this pack will get a bonus of a downloadable song from ShillerLearning. Incorporating music into learning is a great way to help make it come alive!


  • Easy & Inexpensive- The materials needed for this pack should be mostly things you already have at home. You’ll need to purchase a handful of materials, should be under $15 for everything! Plus it’s all open and go. As long as you have your materials ready, there is no extra prep-work required. We even have the quinoa kit ready for you with the perfect amount of quinoa available. The activity pack itself is only $9.95, an amazing deal- similar packs sell for $20+!


It’s Not On Sale Forever, Grab It While You Can!


Make sure to download your 20+ page sensory activities for kids pack! You don’t want to miss out on these awesome Montessori Sensorial activities! We’re going to begin charging for these packs soon. Right now we want to get them into as many hands as possible for this low price.


Combine this activity pack with the right language art and math kits for your child’s level, plus our Around the World in 80 Activities Geography Pack and Grace & Courtesy Pack and you’ve got yourself an entire Montessori curriculum. It’s much more cost-effective than anything else on the market. Plus there are no other open & go Montessori materials on the market right now!


Grab your pack today and make sure to grab all your complementary resources. We can’t wait to hear how it helps benefit your student!


Like this?  

Check out these materials from ShillerLearning:

Quinoa Set



Wooden Blocks

Individual Manipulatives

See Inside Our Montessori-Based Kits

Math Kit I - PreK to 3rd Grade

Language Arts A - PreK to 1st Grade

Amanda Osenga

Amanda is a former Montessori teacher, now homeschooling her dear son - an only child. When not homeschooling, she also blogs, works as a virtual assistant, and loves creating hand-lettering pieces.

How The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time Inspired a Generation of Musicians

How "The Legend of Zelda - Ocarina of Time" Inspired a Generation of Musicians

The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time was once ranked by IGN as the #3 Nintendo game of all time. The only ones to beat it were Super Metroid and Super Mario Brothers.


The main character in the game, Link, used this magical Ocarina to travel through time. His quest to defeat the evil Gandoff and restore peace to Hyrule captured the hearts of gamers. But what no one expected was what would happen to the main star of the game: the ocarina!


Before the Ocarina of Time, few people had heard of this truly magical instrument. It’s over 12,000 years old and has been used by Chinese and Mesoamerican cultures for centuries. Today there are millions of ocarina players. An entire generation of kids first learned to play music with this instrument.

We partnered with STL Ocarina after seeing and hearing it for ourselves. We knew our homeschoolers would love seeing their children become budding musicians.


STL Ocarina doesn't know how many of their customers learned about our favorite instrument from the Legend of Zelda" - as almost all of our customers learn about the Ocarina from playing the video game growing up or hearing the instrument on the game soundtrack and enjoying the sound.


The video game is multi-generational and most younger players learn from their parents. The story and Ocarina are passed down in families so often that I rarely meet someone who has not heard of Zelda and therefore has in a way, heard of the Ocarina.


But the founders of STL Ocarina knew they were passionate about teaching music. Players of all ages could easily learn with the right tools & guidance.


They started STL Ocarina in 2005 to provide musicians with high quality, affordable, and long lasting instruments. They are constantly seeking to enrich and strengthen educational programs.


Why did they choose the Ocarina?

- Firstly, they use the Ocarina because it is simple to play, easy to learn, and opens up a new world of musical knowledge to every student.


- Secondly, the Ocarina is present across many cultures and time periods. It made a dramatic appearance for over 30 years in the video game “The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time.”


- And third, the Ocarina is accessible to everyone. It is small in size, effortless to hold, and can be played by students of all ages and abilities. It can be tailored to fit any need, whether it be at home playing a simple melody or in an ensemble performing an entire concert!

Types of Ocarinas


There are two basic types of Ocarinas: 6 hole and 12 holes. 6 hole is played with the thumbs and second and third fingers of each hand, while 12 hole uses every finger. The 6 hole Ocarina is fully chromatic and has a range of a tenth, while the 12 hole is also fully chromatic and has the range of an octave and a fifth. 6 hole is great to start on, as it’s usually smaller and a little easier to hold for younger hands, while the 12 hole plays a wider range of repertoire and can be used to teach many genres of music – even classical pieces by Bach and Schumann! They can also be made of ceramic or plastic and come in many colors, shapes, and sizes - you’ll see both kinds in STL’s products here!


They offer educational materials specifically for homeschooling families and have a strong passion for using Ocarinas to teach the basics of music and to build a foundation upon which a lifelong musical journey can begin. The Ocarina is quick and easy to learn, and this helps young students retain their musical curiosity and to not become discouraged.


They believe that every child should have the opportunity to study music. We agree that the Ocarina makes this possible! We look forward to providing Ocarinas for any and all music programs. And STL will be here to ease the beginning and also ensure the continuation of music classes in every home!

See Inside Our Montessori-Based Kits

Math Kit I - PreK to 3rd Grade

Language Arts A - PreK to 1st Grade

Amanda Osenga

Amanda is a former Montessori teacher who is now homeschooling her only child, a seven-year-old boy. Her family resides in an Airstream that is parked in Washington. She loves Washington's outdoor opportunities. When she’s not schooling, she also blogs at, works as a Virtual Assistant and loves reading and creating hand-lettering pieces.

The Treehouse Daily >


Why a Montessori Mat is One of the Best Cheap Homeschool Materials Around

Why a Montessori Mat is One of the Best Cheap Homeschool Materials Around?

The work mat is one of the first materials introduced in a Montessori education. Baskets of pretty rugs are often found throughout a Montessori school, and photos on Instagram show homeschool works carefully placed on top of them. Of all the materials used in at home or in the classroom, none would be complete without the Work Mat. Going beyond simply a piece of fabric, the work mat is a unique and defining aspect of learning in a homeschool environment.

What Is the Work Mat?

A Work Mat is typically a simple rug or piece of fabric. For table works, you may find trays, plates, or dishes used in place of fabric. There are enough mats for each student in the class, or homeschool room. Each student may have their own special rug or there may be community mats used by everyone. You’ll find elegant hand woven mats, simple felt mats and everything in between. Mats should be stored in an area that is easy to access, generally they’re rolled and placed in a basket or stacked nicely on a low shelf.

Why Kids Love Having A Rug in Montessori at Home?


The mat or rug exists to provide the student with a defined workspace. Students also learn gross motor skills by carefully rolling and unrolling their rug and placing the rug into its proper storage space. In organizing their work on the mat, a student begins to learn about an ordered environment. This is especially important when you are doing Montessori at home and don’t have a fixed space to do lessons. By utilizing a Work Mat, the student has a defined top, middle, bottom as well as left and right in their workspace. This helps with works involving sorting and organizing. The top to bottom, left to right reading and writing skills are also reinforced by using a mat.


When multiple students are working together in a classroom, the use of a rug helps avoid conflict among students trying to find a spot to work.


Use of a rug also helps provide a clear walking path without concern of stepping on top of classmates and helps to teach personal space. The Work Mat is a critical aspect of maintaining the organized Grace & Courtesy aspect Montessori classes are known for.

When and How to Use The Rug?


A student will choose a Work Mat, or tray, for every work. The student selects a mat, unrolls it in their desired workspace and places one work at a time on it. After completing a work, it should be returned to the proper spot on the shelf before a new work is selected. When a student is given a lesson on a new work, they’re also taught how to position the work within the mat. For many sensorial and art works, a simple cloth which can easily be wiped off may be preferable so the student can independently clean up any messes.

How Is the Mat Introduced?


Introduction of the Work Mat is one of the first lessons presented to a Montessori student. The teacher, or parent, will place the rug out and give a Three-Period lesson on the mat.


Read this blog post here if you don’t know what the three period lesson is.


ShillerLearning: Larry Shows How to Use Montessori's Three Period Lesson

Students are taught that this cloth is to be used by one student for one work at a time. Plenty of time is given to let the child practice rolling up the mat and returning it to the proper space when complete. Sometimes several lessons will be given over a few days covering the proper use and care of the mat.


My Very Own Space!


Students often love the use of the mat and desire to have the same kind of space in other areas in their life.  


Parents have incorporated a mat concept into their homeschool materials to help siblings with a defined space for play, eating and relaxing.


Just think of it like placemats at the dinner table. Children love to have their own space they can decorate and control! Consider providing your children with a rug for school and a rug for their own use at other times. Our homeschool parents often use the mat included in our kits outside of regular lessons.


Looking for more tips on how to make your home and school more peaceful, relaxed and organized?  

Check out these posts:


How the Montessori 3-Period Lesson Changed Our Homeschool


Teaching Kids to Read With the Montessori Method


How This Free Grace & Courtesy Printable Pack Turns Chores Into Games

See Inside Our Montessori-Based Kits

Math Kit I - PreK to 3rd Grade

Language Arts A - PreK to 1st Grade

Amanda Osenga

Amanda is a former Montessori teacher who is now homeschooling her only child, a seven-year-old boy. Her family resides in an Airstream that is parked in Washington. She loves Washington's outdoor opportunities. When she’s not schooling, she also blogs at, works as a Virtual Assistant and loves reading and creating hand-lettering pieces.

The Treehouse Daily >


The MultiSensory Approach

The MultiSensory Approach


Your child completes a lesson correctly - say it was a visual / writing lesson that requires looking at a picture and doing a simple calculation. And then the child successfully completed several drill questions on the same material. Does that mean your child has mastery and a full foundational understanding of the topic covered?


The problem is that this lesson and drill only reached 30% of the child's brain. The other 70%? Not getting this concept.


The 30% that was reached was the visual part of the brain: the neurons from the retina. What about other neurons? Consider for example, if the student was given the opportunity to approach the problem in another lesson with his or her hands ("tactile"). The neurons in the fingertips that sense pressure and temperature reach a completely different part of the brain. Imagine that a second lesson imparts the same concept to the student from a tactile perspective. Now 50% of the brain is in use - and connections between the visual and tactile parts of the brain are made, creating a foundation or web of knowledge that lasts much longer and better supports future learning.


Imagine four lessons on the same concept - one each for Visual, Tactile, Kinesthetic, and Auditory neurons. Now the child's brain is being engaged 100% - to its fullest potential - and connections are rampant. Only then will a child truly have mastery.


A building constructed on only 30% of its foundation won't get very tall until it topples over. That's why the USA 3rd graders score well on international tests but 15 year olds don't: Because they're being taught to use only 30% of their brain.


The four main senses:


1. Visual. Neurons from the retina.


2. Tactile. Neurons from the fingers and skin.


3. Kinesthetic. Neurons from muscles. The thighs, abs, and shoulders are the largest muscle groups. By using these muscles (throwing a ball or otherwise physically moving the body) a completely different part of the brain is involved - one that is nearly always missing from math and language arts curricula.


4. Auditory. Neurons from the ears. Different materials make different sounds. And songs cause the brain to be involved in unique ways.


Without a complete multi-sensorial experience children lose the richness that comes from absorbing the same material from all the senses: Visual, Auditory, Tactile, and Kinesthetic. Only then will a student form a rock solid web and foundation of knowledge and ability.


Whether your child is gifted, ASD or normal, is a current or former Montessori student, or not, is a pre-K student or in junior high, make sure that the math and language arts programs for your child includes a multi-sensorial approach like the one used by ShillerMath.


See Inside Our Montessori-Based Kits

Math Kit I - PreK to 3rd Grade

Language Arts A - PreK to 1st Grade

Larry Shiller

Larry Shiller is President of ShillerLearning, whose mission is to help kids learn - and enjoy - math. Shiller has degrees from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Harvard Business School and is the author of Software Excellence (Prentice-Hall).

A father of three, Shiller is active in non-profits and his hobbies include working with local startups, music (Shiller is an accomplished violinist who - when not helping children learn math and language arts - performs in the NYC tri-state area), tennis (Shiller's team made it to the USTA national finals in his skill bracket), Quoridor (Shiller is a former USA Champion), backgammon (Shiller is the Voice of Backgammon, doing commentary on backgammon tournaments worldwide), table tennis, and flying (Shiller holds a private pilot's license).