Monday, October 26, 2009

Our Family Farm

Our "family farm" is one of the boys' all-time favorite toys.

A farm set is standard "equipment" in a Montessori classroom. It is apparently one of the few "toys" that survived Maria Montessori's "If they don't use it, remove it" rule. It is used to teach vocabulary, then again later to teach that words represent real objects, the farm game, to learn about adjectives, and later to teach grammar.

The boys don't have a farm among their toys because it is a "Montessori material," they have it because kids love farms. However, it will be useful down the road for some language activities.
Thanks to a creative and generous Grammy we have (in my opinion) the best farm set ever. Even better, it didn't cost $550! It is always growing and changing but here is a peek at how it looks at the moment.

Most of our toys are "collections" of things that I store in bins like this labeled with a photo. To keep it personal, where possible the photo label has one of the boys in the photo playing with the toy inside. All of the farm materials fit in this bin (for now) except for the barn itself.

You probably recognize the vintage Fisher Price barn. I picked it up at a rummage sale for $1. I like the Melissa & Doug barn a lot, but who drops $50 on a barn when you already have one at home for $1? Even better, I had the Fisher Price barn when I was a kid. For all I know, maybe this is my old barn coming back around through the garage sale cycle. The one I bought didn't have the silo so I reconstructed my own from an oatmeal box and a seldom-used Tupperware bowl.

I picked up some Playmobil Farm Fencing on clearance at the Learning Shop (I also bought a set for our zoo animals).

My husband stuffed Kal-El's second Christmas stocking with basic Schleich farm animals. I personally prefer the feel of Schleich animals to the Safari, but Safari offers more variety actually in stores so it is a cheaper way to pick up more niche animals. My parents are truly children at heart and filled in the set with a lot of little things like ducks, turkey's, goats, and the ever-necessary barn cat.

Our area farm store puts out every imaginable farm toy at Christmas time and my parents gifted them with a John Deere tractor/trailer and I purchased a John Deere combine at some point. My mom provided dirt "fields" from brown felt. I cut out a blue felt pond for the ducks, but indoors Kal-El prefers to use the pond his seven-year-old cousin drew for him. Outdoors he prefers to fill a frisbee with water.

Now for my favorite parts! These are the haybales my Mom made for the set from felt. She made them based on this tutorial. She also mounted a scarecrow on a spool to stand in the cornfield or pumpkin patch.

These are the fabulous pumpkins she made from wood beads, felt, and pipe cleaners.

The boys and this farm have been inseparable for the last week or because we have a new addition. I purchased this farm set for $2.37 at Lakeshore learning. It has many dirt "rows" to plant crops in.

The boys have spent a long time today pushing little carrots, cauliflower, tulips, sunflowers, blackberries, lemons, lettuce, and corn into little holes in the plastic rows.

Kal-El has been acting out the story of the little red hen over and over...planting the corn, harvesting the corn, cutting the corn, grinding the corn, making cornbread, and feeding it to the chicks at the farm. He is also very interested in the process of "planting" right now...digging the hole, putting in a seed, covering it with dirt, watering it, and watching it grow.

I need to pull out some materials so we can plant something this week. We have tied all of this activity in with the book Growing Vegetable Soup. This book illustrates the entire growing cycle. There are a lot of big bright pictures and each page has a lot of objects and vocabulary. Me Too is enjoying learning the names of everything and Kal-El likes reading about the planting, watering and harvesting. It is a good match if you have multiple children under the age of six.

My favorite store-bought part is the tractor and corn field from the Learning Curve Brands John Deere - Big Red Barn Playset.

They don't have the whole set (which received poor reviews at Amazon anyway) but found the tractor and corn field at a thrift store. I had seen the whole set at the farm store the year before but couldn't buy a whole farm set when I already had one and only wanted the tractor and corn field. My parents didn't even know I had been looking for it, but picked them up at the thrift store. I promptly "stole" them. (Sorry guys). We have since seen the tractor at many drugstores and at the family dollar (where my dad picked up another one) but haven't seen the cornfield.


  1. What a fabulous set up. I'm working on our farm at the moment. I know all of the kids are going to love it big and small. Thanks for all the pictures and the run down on everything. :)

  2. I found the Melissa and Doug's wooden set (with no animals) at the thrift store) for $5. I snatched it right up!! I had wood/painted animals already, so that is what we use. I love the pumpkins and hay, and all the "planting" things. Great set!!

  3. ADORABLE!! We have the same fisher price barn and no silo...I LOVE your solution. I think I'll be making some wood bead pumpkins with the girls tomorrow and an oatmeal silo! : ) Thanks so much for sharing.

    fondly, pink and green mama MaryLea

  4. Love it!
    I wish I could order from Lakeshore Learning, but since I am from Canada I have to order from the Canadian distributor and pay almost double. That really sucks since our dollar is almost at par. Oh well.
    I also wondered if anyone else had the same computer freezes every time I visit your blog. I have quiet a bit of trouble and it only ever happens with your blog. Just wondering if anyone else had that trouble or had any suggestions. That is why I do not comment more often.
    Have a great day, thanks for the wonderful post!

  5. That set up is great! I especially like the crops - the homemade pumpkins and the little carrots to plug into the dirt.
    It is interesting hearing what toys your sons play with. My almost 3 year old son loves trains.

  6. Montessori Moments,

    No one else has said anything... is it still doing it? I found it was crashing non-stop since October 22nd when I installed the poll widget for the "what to leave out question." I uninstalled that over the weekend and it has been fine for me since. I would tend to think that was the problem, but your comment makes it sound like it has been going on longer than that.

    If it is still crashing, would you mind telling me what browser you are using? I've checked it in Google, Firefox, and Explorer and it seems to work.

  7. Chaucey,

    We are big train lovers here as well. I posted about our trains a couple of times if you haven't checked it out:


  8. Andie,

    If I found a deal like that, I would replace my FP one, awesome!

  9. Que hermoso!!!!ME ENCANTA!!! BELLO, BELLO!! Mi princessa está fascinada con su granja!!!

  10. I LOVE how your parents get into this. What a great idea for the hay bales and pumpkins. And I love that planting the crops, great Montessori stuff for the pincher grip and hand-eye coordination.
    All of my children had the Fisher Price Barn set. My two older children (in their 20s) had one and I found the same barn at a thrift store almost 7 years ago when Sean was an infant. I have pics of him playing with it before he could walk. He still plays with it and he is 7. You've inspired me to see if it interests him with grammar materials.