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Several years ago when my kids were 3 and 4 years old, we took a trip to Colorado. While there, we visited some spectacular caves with really cool formations at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park.
My kids don’t recall the caves we toured anymore, but I was still excited at the idea of doing a Montessori-inspired caves unit with them to get them reacquainted with some cool facts about caves.
Almost all of the materials we used in this unit were part of the Caves and Caverns Toolbox from Montessori by Mom. This toolbox was provided to me at no charge in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed below are my own.
Books about caves
As with any unit study we do, I always select several different books on the topic to read with my kids.
We started the unit by reading the book Tim’s Cave Adventure, which was included in the Caves and Caverns toolkit. This is a very simple book that introduces various types of caves as well as basic cave formations, cave vocabulary, and cave safety.
I supplemented our reading with other books about caves.
First we read Caves and Caverns by Gail Gibbons.
We also read Caves: Mysteries Beneath Our Feet by David L. Harrison.
Growing our own crystals
For us, one of the most exciting activities in the Caves and Caverns toolbox was the crystal growing activity. The toolbox includes materials and directions for growing five different kinds of crystals. Some of the crystals can be grown overnight, while others take days or weeks to completely form. Purchase of the toolbox included access to online video resources with helpful details about growing the crystals.
Our favorite crystal – and also the easiest to grow – was the dolomite crystal. We put the included dolomite rock into a container, covered it almost to the top with vinegar, and then waited. Within a few days we had these beautiful white crystals forming.
The next easiest crystals to grow were the sodium borate crystals. To form these crystals, we made a solution from sodium borate and hot water. Then we left a pipe cleaner suspended in the water overnight. By morning, the pipe cleaner was covered with beautiful crystals.
Another crystal is currently growing on a string suspended between two cups filled with a solution made of water and sodium chloride. We look forward to watching it grow more over time.
Sadly, the other crystals we tried to grow did not work out as well. Although we did our best to follow the directions, neither the magnesium sulfate crystals nor the aluminum sulfate crystals grew successfully for us. That was a bummer, but fortunately we had enough success with the other types of crystals to make up for it.
Cave felt scene
The Caves and Caverns toolbox included materials to make a cute cave scene from felt. My son showed a particular interest in creating scenes with the felt. As he moved pieces around and played with the scene, it provided a good opportunity to practice our cave vocabulary, such as stalactites, which are cave formations that hang from the ceiling, stalagmites, which are cave formations that grow from the ground, and columns, which are cave formations that reach from the ground to the ceiling.
The toolkit from Montessori by Mom included some Montessori math materials, including a counting mat and some bear-shaped counters. The online resources provided by Montessori by Mom include a video showing different ways to use the math materials in the kit.
Most of the suggested activities were too simple for my kids, who are in kindergarten and first grade. But I did like the suggestion of having kids think algebraically by having them solve for the missing addend rather than having them solve for the sum.
I set up the problem below for my daughter, where she had to determine that the missing number in the equation was 2.
She solved the problem with little difficulty, turned the question mark card over to reveal the answer, and then added the counting bears.
One of the last activities we did was to create our own cave paintings, and I did not expect how awesome this activity was going to be when we began. But as my kids began to color, it became obvious that they were using their drawings as a way to make sense of, consolidate, and demonstrate all the new knowledge they had gained about caves. I loved observing how they were integrating their new knowledge about caves with knowledge from their prior life experiences.
We used large sheets of brown paper and a set of oil pastels from the Montessori by Mom toolbox in order to create our cave paintings. XGirl started by drawing a buffalo, like those seen inside ancient caves.
But then her drawing really took on a life of its own, as she decided to add in herself as a park ranger giving a tour of the cave to the rest of our family. She also added in some cave formations (a stalactite and a column), a bone, a first aid kit, and other items that we had seen or heard about in our reading about caves. She enthusiastically described every detail in her picture to me, and I was so impressed by the learning she was showing through her drawing.
Montessori by Mom review
Most of the materials we used in this unit were part of the Caves and Caverns toolbox from Montessori by Mom.
Montessori by Mom helps parents provide a quality Montessori education to their children. Montessori by Mom accomplishes this by creating Montessori-inspired kits based on a variety of themes for kids ages 3 to 5. Each Montessori by Mom toolbox comes with themed curriculum and materials for several different activities, online video instruction for the activities including basic Montessori principles, and ideas for extension activities using other materials from home.
I found the materials in the kit to be very high quality, and I appreciate the strong Montessori focus. The toolkit included materials for a diverse set of activities that we enjoyed over several days. The online videos were very helpful for understanding how to best approach some of the activities in the box. The online video resources will be invaluable for helping many parents get the most out of the toolboxes.
Compared to other subscription boxes I have purchased, the cost of a Montessori by Mom toolbox is significantly higher. However, the Montessori by Mom toolbox included more activities and higher quality materials compared to other monthly subscription boxes I have used.
Finally, I would have appreciated a list of other recommended books for the unit to supplement the book that came with the Caves toolbox.