I'm reading The Montessori Way by Tim Seldin & Paul Epstein. Just flipping through and looking at the photos, I can see the emphasis on manipulatives as a way of discovery. What I like about this philosophy is that there are centers around the room that allow for varying experiences. Kids then are allowed to select centers that interest them. I'm not quite sure how this could be done in a homeschooling situation. What I've been doing is introduce an idea (sensory bin or new manipulative) and just left it sitting on the table. Sometimes Caleb won't touch it for days but all of a sudden he'll pick it up (as if it was his idea) and play for hours. I like this casual, yet semi-structured play.
Lego Guy Forest
I got this idea from Made by Joel's Website. I'm amazed how such simple concepts allow for creative play. My husband drilled holes into a piece of plywood and then my son gathered the sticks from our front yard. [We are not in want of excess trees for our forest! I'd be happy to mail you some!] Our Lego guys have had many battles in this forest.
Freezing Ice with Toys
This will teach you that every once in a while you should let your kids scope out Pinterest. I glossed over this idea, but my son, who was looking over my shoulder at the time, yelled, "Mom, go back!" He saw a photo of toys sticking out of ice and said, "We've got to do that!" Really? Ok! In the photo below, we didn't have the patience to wait for it to freeze all the way through, but it was fun this way too! Caleb will make up different stories as to why/how the items got stuck and then come up with various stories of their rescue. Serious fun!
And honestly, we do this about once a week now. We use our bundt pan so we have a cool ring shape. Sometimes we let the ice melt in the cold water in the kitchen sink--Sometimes hot water in the tub--Sometimes outside in our driveway. Sometimes its farm animals that are trying to get free from our iceberg and other times its fighter planes. No matter what, freezing toys is always fun! Go figure!