Playing Games and Montessori Learning for the Young Homeschooled Child


Asalaam ‘Alaikum:


Today I am going to share some ideas about having your child play games while their siblings are busy with school work. Some of these games require assistance, and others do not. I am also going to discuss using the Montessori Method as I feel it is a wonderful way to teach your child to love learning at an early age.



All kids love games – mine included. You cannot imagine the amount of time you can occupy your child with games.



We always have a bag of balloons somewhere hidden in the house – they are a great boredom buster. If your child is “bored” – blow up a balloon. Have your child keep hitting the balloon into the air – don’t let it drop. Have your child walk across a room – tapping at the balloon until they get across the room. See if they can do that without dropping. One thing I love to do is to put a small washer into the balloon before blowing it up. Then, spin the washer around while it is in the balloon – it makes quite a bit of noise. Send your child to the other room and it will keep them quite busy – and noisy (but busy). There are many other balloon games you can have your child play – and I’m sure your child could come up with many more. If you want – take a look online for “balloon games” – perhaps you will find some interesting ones to add to your child’s play.



Whenever we start to play a card game, my youngest is always begging to play. The kiddos always seem to lose a card here or there at some point and then I have mismatched decks. Finally, I got wiser. Instead of throwing them out, I put each deck into its own baggie. I now have a shoebox full of mismatched card decks separated into their own baggies. Anytime my youngest wants to play with one – she simply takes a bag out and plays with the cards. Sometimes she just loves to lay out the cards in front of her. Other times she loves to make designs with them – almost as if she is building a road with cards. Usually this type of play – at least in the beginning – is undirected. In the end, though, she would often look at the cards and find that some matched each other. She would then make matches before she would put the cards in the baggie.


She also loves to do this with flashcards. We also had several flashcard sets that were missing a card or two so I donated them to her card box as well. She uses these in the same way as she uses the cards. I have also gone to the dollar store and found other flashcards that had shapes and colors on them as well. She either uses these in the same way or I might tell her “that card has purple on it” can you find all the purple lacing beads for me? They are quite versatile, masha’Allah.



My youngest absolutely loves matching. So, we also have some matching (memory) games that I purchased when my oldest was younger. She will take out the cards from the baggie and then try to find matches. It doesn’t require any special setup or anything. Other times I actually will ask her “can you find …” and she has to go to the pile and find the card I asked for. Even other times I will play with her “properly” – setting them out for her to find – actually playing the game as intended. Either way, though, the results are the same. She loves it!



Quite a while ago I found a nice bingo game at the resale shop. The game had pictures of different types of animals on it – some of which my older children didn’t even know. It was funny because they played with my youngest and when they would say an animal – she quickly found it – whether it was on her card or theirs. Over time, she also learned the names of all the animals – all with a friendly game of bingo.


You can find many places online that have bingo games for you to print off. Here’s just one place you can find them – DLTK Custom Bingo Cards. You can teach your child the names of shapes, the names of colors and many other things with these games. Making bingo games are rather easy – you don’t even need a computer – just a ruler (if you are a perfectionist) and stickers. Be as creative as you like!


As it should be obvious – you can have your child play bingo by themselves. However, if you are busy with one child doing school work – there’s no reason why another child can’t play a quick game of bingo with your youngest. It will be fun and it will help keep your younger child busy – and learning – and having fun – all at the same time.



File folder games are awesome – there’s no way around it – especially for younger children. My children love file folder games and when I visited Yemen one year I brought some – the kids in our family just begged and begged to play more. They kept calling me “teacher”. You can also teach so many different skills with file folder games.


Essentially, file folder games are made from a file folder. You have a certain skill you want them to learn – say color names. So, on the file folder you have pictures of balloons in every color (without words). Then, you have cards with balloons – this time colored with the name of the color written on them. Your child needs to match up the cards to the pictures on the file folder. It’s that simple – and yes, your kiddos can definitely do some of these on their own (with you nearby in case they need help).


You can make your own file folder games or you can find them online (for free or for purchase). I actually have some free file folder games on my website in Arabic – Yemenlinks. You can also find books that are filled with nothing but file folder games. Here are some file folder game books that are available – just to give you an idea about what’s out there. Do a search for “file folder games” and see what you come up with – you will be surprised to see what is available for free online. Also, there are many yahoo groups that are devoted to these types of learning materials as well.



I love the Montessori method. While I do not use it in my homeschooling with my older children, I definitely appreciate it – especially while teaching a younger child. I have added a lot of concepts from Montessori teaching to my teaching at home. There are several useful books that teaching more about different teaching skills in the Montessori method – and I have already mentioned some of them. If you are more interested, feel free to do a search online for “Montessori” or “Montessori Method.” You can also find many books on this topic at your local library.


As far as keeping a younger child busy while you are homeschooling your other children – the Montessori method is extremely useful. I highly recommend it. While I can’t list everything that I have done with my kiddos, I will add a list of a few of them – to give you a feel for how I keep my child busy – learning – and happy. I recommend that you research it more – either by finding a book or finding ideas or materials online.


Now, the following ideas are not all Montessori. I kind of took what they gave me and went from there – however, I can say that they are fun and educational. If you purchase or borrow a book about Montessori – it will be clear what exact activities they use.


Water play:

All children (at least as far as I know) love to play with water. When you want your child to explore with water – simply fill a Rubbermaid box with water – it doesn’t need to be filled all the way. You could use a water table as well – but they are much more expensive. I have even found online directions for making your own water table using a Rubbermaid box and pvc pipe. I highly suggest you do these activities outdoors, if possible.


  • Provide your child with all kinds of water toys and things to use in the water.
  • You can provide your child with cups so they can fill them – dump them – and fill them again.
  • You can provide your child with boats so they can blow them across the water – or push them.
  • You can provide your child with a scoop – to allow them to scoop up the water into a cup – dump it and then try again.
  • You can provide your child with different items – and allow them to discover “what floats” and “what doesn’t float.”
  • You can provide your child with little toy plates and cups and allow them to wash dishes – “just like mommy”


If you don’t want – or can’t use a Rubbermaid box – you could also allow your child to do some of these things in the kitchen sink (with you teaching nearby). You could also allow your child to do these in the bathtub. The important thing is to allow your child to explore water.


Sand Play:

We used to have a sandbox in the backyard, but the kiddos kept pouring sand everywhere except in the box. When dh fixed up the backyard, the sand box was sent packing. If you don’t have the room or you have a picky dh like me – there is a solution. Rubbermaid boxes. I keep mine in the garage – and I definitely do not recommend filling it all the way to the top with sand unless you are a championship weight lifter. They do sell Rubbermaid boxes with lids – so you could fill it with sand and leave it outdoors with the lid on.


  • Provide your child with shovels, spades, spoons – any items they can use to move the sand around.
  • If your child loves to play with cars – allow them to make roads and mountains to drive their cars around on.
  • Allow your child to make a small sand castle.
  • You can also “bury” treasure in the sandbox and allow your child to discover what you have hidden for them. This will keep them busy for a while, masha’Allah.

There are many more things your child can do during sand play – I am even more certain that there are probably entire books written about the topic. If you worry about sand getting all over – place a tablecloth or a plastic sheet under the sandbox. Or, simply sweep up the sand after your child plays – if possible.


Clothes Pegs:

I don’t know how many people out there still use them, but clothes pegs are an excellent way of keeping a child busy. It takes a lot of dexterity (I might add) to be able to use them.


  • I have seen someone online who made their own mini clothes line out of wooden dowels and string. Then, the child can clip small doll clothes to the line.
  • You could provide your child with cards showing different t-shirts, for example. Each picture has a different colored shirt. You could clip – on string – a pattern of shirts (blue shirt, red shirt, yellow shirt . . . and so on). Then, on a string next to it – have your child follow the same pattern – clipping the same shirts on their string. If you don’t like making cards – simply cut small pieces of matching fabric and use these instead.
  • I have simply provided my child with a box or a basket and allowed her to clip the clothes pegs all around it. It kept her attention for quite a while and she seemed to enjoy it.
  • You can also provide learning materials to use with clothes pegs. Make a wheel out of a paper plate that has different colored circles on it. Then, put the same colors on each of the clothes pegs. Have your child match the color on the clothes pegs to the colors on the plate by clipping the peg on top of them. The possibilities are endless and so is the fun!
  • There are actually games and other activities (like the above comment) that you can find online – either for purchase or for free. You might want to search to see what you can find.

Pouring fun:

Kids love to pour things – even their own milk – although they may not always be good at it. There is a way to get your child to practice – and have fun . There are a few different materials you can use for teaching pouring skills:


  • water
  • rice
  • lentils or other small beans


I purchased a small plastic tea set for my youngest recently in the hope that she would enjoy this activity – she did, masha’Allah. I also have a lunch tray – similar to those they use in school cafeterias. I was fortunate to find a few in a local resale shop and have found them indispensable. I put her tea set on the tray and allow her to fill her tea pot with water. Then, she simply sits down and pours tea for everyone. She absolutely loves this and will pour “tea” time and time again without exhaustion.

As a beginner, your child could start out with rice or lentils and then move up to water – to get them used to pouring. And – expect spills – it is all part of the learning experience. The nice thing is that most of the spills are contained on the tray.


Picking Things Up:

It may sound strange to think that this is something educational – or fun – but trust me, it is! You could use any number of things for this activity – but here are a few of our favorites:

  • colored pompoms
  • marbles
  • 1 gram cubes
  • unifix cubes
  • snap cubes
  • rice
  • water
  • lentils or other small beans


What types of tools do you need? You can use any of the following – and I am sure there are more:

  • eye dropper
  • spoons (various sizes)
  • tweezers
  • tongs (various sizes)
  • bowls


Essentially, you child will learn to pick up and sort or place in another container – different types of materials. It takes a lot of dexterity to do this and believe it or not, it actually improves their ability to feed themselves. So, for example, we have done the following:

  • Put water (with food coloring – not necessary, but fun) in a cup. Then, have your child transfer it to another cup simply using an eye dropper.
  • Sort pompoms into different small bowls – you could have your child use a spoon or a small pair of tongs. Have them move the pompoms from one bowl to other bowls according to their color.
  • My youngest loves to put the marbles into a larger bowl. She then scoops up a marble with a spoon and moves it to another smaller bowl. If your marbles are colored, you could also get your child to sort them by color.
  • We now have colored rice – I will provide the “recipe” later or you can find it online. She likes to scoop up the rice with a spoon from one bowl to another. This is one of her favorite activities.


You will find these type of activities discussed in any Montessori book you may find. I am sure that there are other things you can do with this – but this is how far I have gotten at this point. Trust me, I am sure you could find more ideas online and in other Montessori books.


Another Kind of Sand Box:

You can also place sand in a cafeteria tray – a metal baking pan or any other similar container. Just pour a layer of sand evenly in the bottom. Your child can then “draw” in the sand. When their picture is complete – just simply shake the pan gently until the layer is even and have your child draw again. When you want to teach them the alphabet – or their numbers – simply allow them to write them in the pan in a similar manner. When you change the manner in which children learn things – they seem to really enjoy it more.


Insha’Allah these ideas will help you entertain and educate your younger child. There are a few more ideas to come (insha’Allah).


Asalaam ‘Alaikum,
Sumayyah Umm SAA

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4 Responses

  1. Erin says:

    jazaki Allah Khairan!
    I will begin to homeschool full-time (moms are always homeschooling) this year and I will definately come back to your site for support advice and ideas.

  2. Erem says:

    Asalaamualakum dear sis, I absloutly love your site as it is full of many beneficial sources May Almighty grant you the strength to continue in your efforts. I would really like your advice as I inshAllah will be homeschooling my 2 children aged 4and half and 3. I have been looking at various approaches to homeschooling but there is so much various material I am just so confused could you plz help, how do I start with lesson plans for this age group, also just wanted to add my children have never been to school in the west and have only been to a private day care centre in Iran so I would have to start from the alaphabet and basic counting. Jazakum Ullah Khairun

  3. Sana says:

    Assalamu ALiakum

    I have learned so much!! I have a 2 1/2yr old and a 1 yr old and i just want to keep them busy!! And for them to be able to have fun as well and not be attached to me. Alhumduilllah these are some amazing tips and advices. I pray taht Allahs swt gives you so much in this life and the hearafter. Shukran

    Waliakum Assalam

  4. ali murtaza says:

    i have 2 1/2 yrs brother i want to put him busy nice like it

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