Learning the various land and water forms is an integral part of the Montessori physical geography curriculum. Not only is it important academically but it’s also a lot of fun for the kids. In addition, the activities are hands-on and they get to learn about several of the most fascinating topographical formations our planet has to offer.

In this lesson guide, designed for ages 3 to 9, we will cover some of the most common yet interesting forms of land and water, compare some similarities, and reinforce the lessons with a variety of activities and games. By the end, your children will not only be wiser but they will be motivated to learn about our wonderful world and do some exploring of their own!

This is an expansion lesson to our Montessori Geography lesson guide which has many fun activities. You may want to complete those before moving on to this guide.

Using our felt boards

Our felt boards and 3-part cards were specially designed to not only teach the land and water forms but also to get kids excited to visit and recognize these amazing topographies.

They allow the kids to relate abstract concepts to concrete concepts. This activity is meant to be a springboard to greater appretiation of the outdoors and our world in general.

Using felt is a very sensorial method of teaching this topic

The felt is smooth and layered to distinguish more easily the land and water forms. If you have never worked with 3-part Montessori cards before, here is an article that explains how to use them.

And you can find the nomenclature cards and felt boards in our shop!

Introducing the land and water forms

There are two levels of lessons in this activity, for 3-5 year-olds and 6-9 year-olds. For the little ones, starting with the paired land and water forms is simpler to understand and follows the Montessori guidelines. 

You’ll notice there are several long and difficult words to pronounce in the list. Make this a fun game and you’ll be able to get them laughing about their strange sounds. As a result, you’ll help their absorbent minds turn these unusual words into active vocabulary with repetition and practice.

The paired forms:

  • island and lake
  • cape and bay
  • archipelago and system of lakes
  • gulf and peninsula
  • isthmus and strait

Have the kids lay out a set of paired felt pieces (island and lake) and point to each one.

When I introduce each pair this is the language I use:

Say: “This is an island. It is a landform surrounded on all sides by water. Can you say island?”


Say: “This is a lake. It is a water form surrounded on all sides by land. Can you say lake?”


Next, you say:

“Can you show me an island?”  (they point)

Then, you say:

“Can you show me a lake?” (they point)

Then, you ask (pointing to the island):

“What is this?” 

“An island”

“What is this?” (pointing to the lake):

“A lake”


Now you have them lay out the 3-part cards below each felt piece. This is where the process from the 3-part cards article comes into play.

Repeat this process with each pair of forms.


Clay and water trays activity

As children take in what they’re learning by feeling and touching, we love this activity. It’s a great opportunity to sit and have fun with your child making the pairs of land and water forms in plastic trays with clay or plasticine.

This video demonstrates the process perfectly:

The photographic cards

Once all the pairs of land and water forms have been covered with the graphic cards and felt boards, move on to the set of cards which include photo cards. This is our opportunity to compare the graphic cards with the photo cards from the printable set or the photos we took on our family outing. They can talk about the differences and the similarities of each formation.

Having learned the principles of land and water forms with the trays and felt boards, they should have an easier time associating the graphic forms with the photos. You should notice an increase in attention and excitement as the photo cards have pictures of amazing natural wonders from all over the globe.

Advanced land and water form lesson

The older kids (6 to 9-year-olds) could easily review past lessons with the exercise from above. But they need something more challenging and that’s where the printable set of land and water form cards comes into play. This list is meant as an advanced lesson and should be done over several sessions.


  • Island
  • Cape
  • Archipelago
  • Peninsula
  • Isthmus
  • Mountain
  • Hill
  • Valley
  • Mesa
  • Canyon
  • Cliff

Water forms:

  • Lake
  • Bay
  • Cove
  • System of lakes
  • Gulf
  • Strait
  • River
  • Stream
  • Delta

As stated in the 3-part card article, you should work in groups of five. Start with just the graphically designed cards, then use the plasticine or felt boards with the photo cards as expansion tools.

Every child learns at a different pace, so it’s very important to stay alert and observe his or her emotions. We have found some additional reinforcing activities below for you to include in case your child has some difficulties with the initial plasticine or felt board exercises.

GO outdoors

In accordance with Montessori philosophy, the impact of all learning is greatly amplified by presenting children with learning in real situations. Thus, by checking out your local topography you can make a big impression on the children’s desire to learn and inspire them to delve deeper into the subject.

If you have coastline where you live, talk about the different shapes and formations of peninsulas, bays, and coves. Moreover, remark on the surrounding cliffs and how the ocean has played a role in their formation through erosion.

Family outings are a great way for kids to become aware of the environment around them

For inland dwellers, take a trip to the mountains or countryside and point out all the variety of hills and lakes in the area. Receding glaciers at the end of the last ice age probably shaped most of them. You’d be surprised by how many land and water forms you’ll encounter. To make it even more expansive, take pictures and print them out for the next lesson.

Further resources and activities

[Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases at no cost to you from the affiliate links below]

Sandpaper cards

For an additional Montessori method of learning, these sandpaper cards add an extra sensorial element to the activity. The land parts of each card are rough sandpaper texture and are a fun complement to the lesson.

Sand trays

As an alternative to plasticine, a great hands-on and fun way of doing this lesson is using the same trays and fill them with sand and water to make the different forms. Kids love getting dirty and it’s a great way of getting them active during the lesson. 

Montessori land and water forms trays

This set of trays is for much more use than just the clay and water trays. It can still have the water part of the exercise but is designed for many kids, like in a classroom or homeschool lesson.

Fun facts of the land and water forms

In this article, you can have a nice chat with your kids about all the beautiful natural wonders in the set of cards you downloaded. This should satisfy some curiosity they may have about the places in the cards.

Free printable: 5 pairs of land and water forms

In our free printables page, you can find a free set of land and water forms cards as well as the fun facts pdf. We hope you enjoy them!


Books and cards

This is a list of resources you can use to add to your curriculum. Using books is a great follow up activity to your outdoor excursion and serves to reinforce the learning.


This is a fun book we found on Amazon. It’s great as a storytime activity to review the various forms you learned during the day’s lesson.



This is a book by a renowned Montessori author Mary Da Prato and uses the principles of Montessori to explain the exact steps to take when tackling this topic.




This land and water forms book has beautiful photos of the ten pairs of basic land and water forms. It’s wonderful for young learners as it has all labels in lower case and vivid pictures.



For even more advanced landform photos this is another great activity book which adds the advanced land and water forms, like volcanos and glaciers. It is ideal for lessons with your 6 to 9-year-olds.




Well, that’s everything! I hope you and your kids find these activities and materials fun and inspirational. If used periodically, you should notice a gradual change in their ability to retain the many forms they have studied. That’s the great thing about Montessori methodology, every kid learns at their own pace and with hands-on procedures. Thanks for reading and please leave a comment below if you have any questions or feedback!

133 thoughts on “Montessori land and water forms activities that will encourage exploration

  1. Bobbie Hallberg says:

    This would SO great for our family as we move all over every 3 years! Such a fun and interactive way of learning geography.

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