Montessori-Inspired Antarctica Shelf for Preschoolers

Sunday, January 15, 2017

For me January is the best time to introduce kids to the animals of the arctic or of Antarctica.  They can pretty much relate to these animals due to the extreme weather we are experiencing during the months of winter, which makes its peak in January.  And since our 12 Months MORE of Montessori Series for January is to feature Winter Themed activities, I’m featuring simple ways you can do to introduce the continent of Antarctica to your preschoolers.   Now, I’ve done this almost every year with Mavi since he was 4 years old, and I’ve realized that somehow I might have gone overboard with the topic (used a lot of unnecessary materials).  So for Vito’s first exposure to Antarctica, I wanted it to be simple, quality over quantity. 
This is our current set-up.  As I mentioned in my Instagram post, there’s nothing fancy to this assembly.  All I have here are the Montessori penguin puzzle, an A4 sheet of the life cycle of a penguin, penguin nomenclature cards (parts), a book about penguin, a book on Antarctica, animal figures and a big Map.

The big map is a game changer.  It managed to capture Vito’s attention everyday, he always goes here, points to the penguins and talking about the animals in the image, and how “cold” is the” “big ice”.   Though he may not fully grasp the concept yet, providing a map will expose the child to the “shape” of the Antarctica and what it is made of. The boys and I love this map book!  It’s a book called Maps.  Ours is from the library, but I wouldn’t mind purchasing our own copy if we can’t have this anymore.  I highly recommend this to every family!

I only have two books for the animals of Antarctica.  These books provides real images of the animals and I find it helpful to have animal figures to go along with the books as well.  I love Schleich and Papo figures.  They’re so detailed, sturdy and something that can last long.  They’re quite pricey though, so a great alternative is Safari Toobs.  We have the Arctic and the Penguin collections and they are well loved!  They’re smaller compared to the Schleich, which makes them a good material for sorting activity, as manipulatives and for small world play.

Because penguins are the most popular inhabitants of Antarctica, I included some of the materials for our Penguin Unit as well.  I only displayed here the puzzle, 3 part cards of parts of a penguin and it’s life cycle. Vito works on the puzzle every morning.  Since I made these materials accessible, he can freely take anything that he wants to work on and must return it back.  I’m happy to say that for most part, he puts back the materials without prompting.  The life cycle is printed on an A4 paper and he would take it to me sometimes so I can discuss it to him.  I also have a 3 part card of the life cycle, which I kept in an envelope because I haven’t introduced it yet.  We will use this for sequencing.
He loves to observe his work!
I also have a Montessori penguin puzzle.  This is inexpensive, and I’m sure your kids will love this.  Vito would work on this every morning.  Now, this is not necessary but highly recommend if you have access to a Montessori shop.  If none, there’s always a DIY or a poor man’s version which is something I used to do when we were still in Eastern Europe.  To create a poor man’s version, just print a clear colored picture of a penguin and cut it’s body parts into pieces.  It automatically becomes a puzzle!
I also have photos of other animals, people, infrastructure and transportation in Antarctica.  They are in the basket where I put the small books thus, you can’t see it in the picture.  The photos are mainly for exploration and animal matching.  My Schleich figures are not included in the shelf because of limited space, so I just put them in a basket insert where all of my figures are kept.   Vito has access to these as well and he can freely take them out if he needs them.
This is Mavi’s fact cards which I included because I want Mavi to take part in this as well, as a review. 
Finally, because we can’t visit Antarctica, I prepared Vito a small world sensory play for him to explore.  It’s basically made up of waterbeads (for the blue waters) and chunks of ice.  I placed the Safari Toob penguins here and there.  Vito played with this for hours!  I would hear him making stories, pretending the penguins are talking to each other and most of the time jumping from the ice.  The best part is when he said “Antarctica is really really cold Mommy”, referring to the icy cold water due to the melted ice.
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This post is part of the 12 Months More of Montessori which is hosted by Natural Beach Living and The Natural Homeschool.
Amazing blogs participating in the 12 Months More of Montessori that you should visit:
Indoor Snowball Fight | Grace and Green Pastures
Winter Books for Preschoolers | Christian Montessori Network
Winter Yoga for Kids | Sugar, Spice & Glitter
Hands on arctic themed activities| Welcome to Mommyhood


  1. What a lovely set of ideas! I love them all!

  2. This is fabulous inspiration for Sunshine's Antarctica Unit next week! Thank you! I love the map activity.

  3. I love this unit study! I agree - simple is better. Quality over quantity - I really like that!