Enjoying Fall Nature with Your Montessori Child
What do we think of when we imagine our children and their relationship with nature? Perhaps a small collection of shells on a windowsill, planting flowers in the spring, or pushing a toddler in a stroller through a park come to mind. While all of these activities have a place and can be enriching in their own way, they fall short of giving children authentic natural experiences. As adults, we have developed habits that keep our interactions with the natural world at a distance. We find ways to carefully shelter ourselves away from the elements so that we may be safe and comfortable. We likely developed this perspective while we were still children ourselves, at the urging of adults who didn’t want us to jump in puddles or ruin our best clothes. But maybe we should take a moment to step back and reevaluate our own relationship with the natural world.
As Dr. Montessori so eloquently stated, “Only poets and little children can feel the fascination of a tiny rivulet of water flowing over pebbles.” Even when we make efforts to take our children on a walk in the woods, it’s easy for us as adults to focus on the walk or the destination. Children are fortunate in that they live in the moment. They see a caterpillar and it calls to their desire to observe. A small fragment of a fallen leaf is a tiny window into a world they are still discovering. Children’s wonder and curiosity has much to teach us, if only we can remember to slow down and follow their lead.
Now that it’s fall and temperatures are finally starting to cool outdoor activities can seem much more plausible and enjoyable. The crisp weather lends itself beautifully to picnics and extended outdoor activities. Apple orchards open up for picking and cider tastings. Halloween is right around the corner and with that comes falling leaves, candy, and Jack O’ Lanterns. Whether or not you participate in Halloween, pumpkins are a fun symbol of this time of year. A fun symbol that can easily be adapted into a Montessori approach.
Look around and see if you have a local farm that grows and sells pumpkins. Not only is a trip to the local pumpkin patch a traditional autumn activity, but it also provides kids with an opportunity to learn about where pumpkins come from. So instead of thinking we just buy them from a store, they will have exposure to the very place that plants the seeds and grows them. This will give them a sense of connection and an appreciation for the people and plants involved in the process.
While it may be too late to grow your own pumpkin patch, there’s still plenty of time to teach our kids about the life cycle of a pumpkin. You could have a formal discussion about it, or just casually ask some questions while you pick pumpkins, carve jack-o-lanterns, or during any other pumpkin activity you may find yourself doing this fall. Questions like: where do pumpkins come from, how do you think we get more pumpkins, or how long do you think it takes to grow a pumpkin?
Even little activities can be so enriching. Did you know that in many Montessori classrooms it’s common to have a large stump that children are able to hammer nails into? It’s great practice for motor skills and coordination. Try putting a seasonal spin on it by using a large pumpkin, a hammer, and either nails or golf tees to let your little ones have some fun. For older children, estimation and measurement skills can easily be incorporated into fall activities while enjoying pumpkins, acorns, or even fallen leaves. You might estimate the weight of a pumpkin or how many seeds are inside, guess how many acorns it takes to make a pound, or how long it takes to rake a big pile of leaves, then have fun finding out. You could take turn estimating the circumference of trees. Parents can develop real-life math skills by creating word problems on the spot: If there are four people in your family, each person wants to carve a pumpkin, and they cost $6 each, how much will you spend? And will your child even realize they’re doing multiplication? Spoiler: as a Montessori child, they probably will realize it, and they will probably love the opportunity to have fun with numbers!
As parents and caregivers, the easiest way to let our children live more natural lives is to lead by example. We can find ways to enjoy the outdoors on a regular basis, in all seasons. Explore the parks, trails, nature preserves, and bodies of water near your home. It can be fun to take up new hobbies together as a family, or to find other like-minded families that you can team up with. Whether you like adventure, taking it easy, or something in between, there are outdoor activities that will put you back in touch with the world around you.