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In Montessori, bead stringing, lacing work, and sewing are much more than just a creative hobby.They're are considered pre-writing activities, meant to develop and strengthen fine motor skills in order to prepare the hand for writing.And beyond that, they're a great way to:
  • Practice using both hands working together, a necessary skill for many self-care tasks - self-dressing, putting on shoes/tying laces, cutting/chopping/food prep, eating, etc
  • Develop concentration
  • Introduce the practical skill of sewing
  • Refine the grasp - the strings or laces used in these activities are typically thin, requiring the use of the pincer grasp to hold them.

Activities For Children Under 16 Months

The first of these activities in the sequence - bead stringing - is not introduced until at least 16-18 months.Before then, children need to practice with activities that help to develop their hand-eye coordination. Materials like:

  • Ring Stackers
  • Shape Sorters
  • Puzzles
  • Coin Box

The purpose of the activities listed below is REFINEMENT of hand-eye coordination, which indicates the child has already developed some hand-eye coordination so don't rush along the work before bead stringing!If your child is struggling with bead stringing, go back to easier and more simple fine motor work.

Step 1 - Bed Stringing

When To Introduce This Activity

Bead stringing is introduced around 16-18 months, although many children don't show an interest until they are close to two years old because they are likely lacking the fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination and concentration required to do it successfully.

How to Start

Begin by offering just a few (3-5) large beads and gradually add more as their interest level increases.

Bead Stringing stays on the shelf all year in the toddler classroom, with the quantity and size of beads changing, i.e. beads get smaller and quantity increases.

Step 2 - Lacing

When To Introduce This Activity

After your child has mastered bead stringing, the age will vary.

How to Start

Just like bead stringing, choose a material with fewer large holes and a larger "needle". Something like this Mouse & Cheese is a good choice to begin.

Once your child can successfully move the needle through the holes, pulling the needle and thread through the hole on the opposite side, you can move on to simple lacing cards - where the child laces around the perimeter only.

You can purchase lacing cards or make them pretty easily with cardboard or laminated paper, a hole punch, and a lace.Cut out whatever shape you want, punch holes around the perimeter, and tie a lace to it. You could also print out photos to make them themed. For example, punch holes around the edge of a flower or car.
The last step in this progression requires the child to following a pattern and lace/sew throughout the frame, like the sewing cards pictured here: https://themontessoriroom.com/products/animal-lacing-game

This would be appropriate for a child who has shown an interest in lacing and has had some practice.

Step 3 - Sewing

When To Introduce This ActivityThis is introduced in the Toddler Classroom around 18 months, although most children can't successfully work on it independently until they are closer to 2.5-3 years old.How to StartAdd a piece of burlap into an embroidery hoop, along with some yard or embroidery thread and a large rounded tip needle. As a toddler activity, the child is simply invited to sew freely.In the Casa Classroom (3-6 years), sewing often makes more sense because the child can do more of the steps on their own and connect it to real life, i.e. our clothes are sewn, we sew up holes in our clothes, etc. You may want to wait on this activity until closer to 3-4 years of age.A sewing extension in Casa is Button Sewing, where are button is hand sewn to a piece of fabric, making the purpose of the activity even clearer to the child.

What if your child isn't interested?

As with any work or activity, follow the child. If your child isn't interested, you could try to pique their interest by using materials they like - i.e. purple thread if they like the colour purple or a truck lacing card if they like trucks.It's also worth questioning if they are physically prepared for the activity or if it's too overwhelming. Are they too many beads? Are the beads too small? Does the lacing card have too many holes or too long of a string for them to manage?If this may be the case, think about how you can simplify it.If either of these changes don't work and they're still not showing any interest in an age-appropriate skills, put it away and try again in another month or two.Children change so much when they're young. In a few months, many of their interests and physical capabilities will change. Something they weren't interested in before can suddenly become their favourite activity!