A Preschooler’s Garden
Posted by Helena Eddings
By Susan Shea
Balancing the time demands of garden maintenance with parenting can be difficult. Certainly, a new baby can sleep contentedly under a shady tree while the weeding gets done and, for as long as naps remain part of the daily routine, some amount of work can be accomplished throughout toddlerhood. At around age three or four, however, when a child begins to demonstrate more endurance throughout the day, some careful planning on your part can help facilitate the needs of your child alongside the needs of your carrots.
If your child has turned two over the winter it is likely that you will see some very significant behavioral developments by next summer, for instance. Knowing what to expect well before you encounter it can help to shape how your plot is organized, which plants to choose and why it is important to take all factors into account for the sake of a successful season. Did you know…
From two and a half until approximately six years old…
A child takes in an inordinate amount of information through the senses. Plan to provide stimulation for the nose and the hands as well as for the eyes and the tastebuds. Fragrant herbs can be a good choice as many release their scent when touched and, of course, they are edible as well as pretty. Many herbs feature in children’s stories, songs or rhymes, which provides you with an instant means of creating connections for your little one. Garden herbs can also be trimmed with a child-sized scissors, which is a skill that all preschool-aged children should be practicing, and many last into the fall when they can be taken indoors and nurtured in pots.From two and a half until approximately six years old…
A child’s natural tendency is to move. This includes digging holes with sticks or trowels. It may be helpful to leave a corner of your garden free for excavation while you attend to the plants. Yes, this means a potentially smaller area for planting, but it does provide a safe place for you both to work alongside each other. The child’s play is his/her work, in which he/she needs to refine all the muscles of the body through movement of all kinds. A preschooler might be interested in the idea of helping a parent pull weeds but will be equally if not more interested in making holes, mixing mud and jumping in puddles just for the sheer process involved in doing so. This is healthy, normal, and requires lots of old clothes that can take the wear and tear.
From two and a half until approximately six years old…
A child is attracted to tiny objects. A garden is a wonderful place for little treasures of all kinds. Rocks, seeds, insects, leaves, petals, or snails will all provide hours of enjoyment. This curiosity about small items might also explain why your child might pull the petals off some of your daisies, fill both pockets with worms or be tempted to investigate animal droppings. It serves all parties well to develop a strategy for explanation rather than admonition. A trip to the library might uncover a book about the needs of plants or animals. Children of preschool age are far more interested in reality than many adults give them credit for. Understanding their immediate environment better will empower them with a sense of responsibility and stewardship.
Lastly, your preschooler is eager to learn new words. As you work outside together, talk about what you are both doing. Name the seeds you are planting, the tools you are using, the birds you are hearing, the insects you are unearthing and the fragrances you are smelling. A young child will absorb many of these words just by hearing you use them in conversation. Furthermore, the conversation itself will foster an emotional connection to a place you love and want to share with your child. Spring is coming.
Susan Shea promotes early literacy through nature at phoneticplanet.org. She’s a trained Montessori guide and enjoys creating vocabulary building materials to share with children and families.
Why Children Need Lazy Summer Days!
Posted by Helena Eddings
There are many enriching and worthwhile summer camps and classes for children. Often parents spend countless hours researching the options and cobbling together a full summer of planned activities. Somewhere in the middle or at the last minute, there’s a planned family vacation, often tightly orchestrated as well.
While it’s reassuring to know that your children are cared for, entertained, and enlightened, have you considered the benefits of down time, being bored to tears? No one likes to hear whiny children complain, “there’s nothing to do” but often children today are so over scheduled they don’t know how to initiate their own fun. They assume that parents or caregivers are responsible for their constant entertainment.
Plan some lazy days for your children this summer. Turn off the TV. Take away the electronics. Have some good books lying around. And get them outside. Let them play in the dirt. They need to re-charge, re-think, re-new.
For tightly scheduled and stressed parents, it’s difficult to watch a 10-year-old hanging out, not productively engaged. But research shows that the daydreamers, the kids who have time to “mess around,” are much more likely to be the innovators and creators that our country so desperately needs to stay competitive in the future. What is the engine that drives creativity? It’s not pouring more into our kids that will give them the edge; it’s giving them time to just be.
Head of School
6 Ways to Raise Nature-Loving Kids in a Media-Loving World!
Posted by Helena Eddings
by Kate Koch-Sundquist
“It smells good out!” Junior declared, standing in the open doorway after dinner. It had been an unseasonably mild week, the first hints of spring revealing themselves in a warm southerly breeze and jackets left hanging inside.
A day of rain had washed everything, and now, tonight, the sky was clearing again and bulbs were just beginning to push through the rich soil. The air felt extra oxygenated, smelling of dirt and grass and fresh clean nothingness. Junior stood in the open doorway after dinner, taking in big gulps of it as though he were still hungry. Little Bear, perched next to him, noticed the sound first and cocked his head slightly.
“What’s that mama?” he asked. “What’s that noise? Birdies?” I stood with them and heard the first peepers of the season.
“Those are frogs, sweetie. Little, tiny frogs who live in the swamp back there.” Junior’s eyes went big and his mouth dropped open. Little Bear mimicked him. I wish I had a picture of them in that moment. Their pure delight and awe of the natural world written all over their faces.
I once wrote about six ways that I convince my kids to go outside on a daily basis. But since I wrote that, I’ve reflected a lot on why these methods are successful and I have to admit that there’s a lot more to it than getting them out the door each day. My kids go outside daily because they want to go outside daily. In fact, they love being outside. It is easily their happy place.
So how did I get so lucky? Is it genetic? The fact is, I have worked with purpose to instill these values in my kids, and it is not a coincidence that they have grown into who they are today. But it’s also not that hard.
Here are six ways that you can raise kids who love nature too.
1. Create family traditions that include nature.
We have a few family traditions that involve time spent outdoors, but my favorite is our full moon walks. Each month, regardless of the weather, we gear up after dinner and venture outside to enjoy the full moon. Even on stormy nights when it’s not visible, we go out. The kids think that being outside after dark is a great adventure, and they are slowly picking up on the moon’s phases. I don’t force them to participate, but so far I have always had the company of at least one of them on my walks and usually both choose to come along. Create a new family tradition that involves being outside. It could be collecting shells, stones or acorns at a favorite place. It could be Sunday morning walks. It could be lighting candles along the walkway or reading a bedtime story outside. To increase your chance of successful follow through, choose something that’s easy to accomplish but still feels special.
2. Encourage a sense of wonder and curiosity.
It is easy to forget how magical our world is. On my own, I would have easily missed that first chorus of frogs chiming in from beyond our back fence this week. Try to be mindful of the smallest signs of natural beauty and point them out to your kids often and with reverence. In summer, draw their attention to worms and butterflies, flowers that bloom anew all season long and those that die after just a week, stars and fireflies, puffy cumulus clouds and thunderstorms on the horizon. In fall, watch how the color changes on a single leaf over time, note the later sunrise and brisk mornings, the first frost if you have one and the unusual warm days sometimes still lingering. Winter may bring snow or sleet or hail or rain, the shortest day of the year and patterns of ice crystals on the windows. Spring brings tiny buds and bulbs, grass that turns green again, days growing longer and fresh mud for months. Point out small changes that you take for granted. Encourage questions and if you don’t know the answer, look it up together. Kids who notice nature are more likely to appreciate its subtleties.
3. Share your previous adventures with your kids and use them to inspire new ones together.
We love to pore over old photos with the kids, pointing out favorite hikes or sailing grounds that we explored before they came onto the scene. The kids love to hear about the amazing adventures that we’ve experienced, and they long to come along on some of their own. Sharing ours inspires their own imagination and passion. We set new goals together and talk about how we’ll work to make them happen. When the kids understand that backcountry camping requires long hikes with packed gear, they are more likely to come along on shorter hikes that build endurance towards their goal.
4. Provide unstructured playtime outdoors, away from playgrounds.
Give your kids time to explore nature on their own in an unstructured way. Playgrounds may be a great place to meet friends or burn off some excess energy before bedtime, but to really appreciate nature kids need to have time to immerse themselves in it, and most playgrounds are not natural environments. Away from manmade play, kids use their own imaginations and are more likely to pay attention to their environment. Logs become balance beams, trees become climbing structures and bushes become hiding spots. As difficult as it seems at first, bite your tongue and allow your children to explore and discover their world independently. You’ll be amazed at how much they learn through their own experiences.
5. Surround yourself with like-minded friends.
Use peer pressure to your advantage. Reach out to other families who share your values and coordinate some adventures together. If you aren’t sure who to invite on your weekend hike, ask your kids. When their friends buy in, they are more likely to buy in too. Some of our best friends and favorite memories were made on rainy days in the woods.
6. Create a nature-rich environment in your home.
You don’t always have to go outside to create lasting connections with nature. Bringing plants into your home, filling your bookcases with field guides and reading nature rich stories together are great ways to encourage curiosity and spark passion for the natural world. We collect stones, shells, pine cones and acorns to decorate our home. We engage the kids to research with us in books or online to answer their many questions about the environment, everything ranging from cloud types and plant identification to bird calls and weather forecasts.
Our kids are surrounded on a daily basis by media that pushes technology, processed foods, medication and the importance of being faster and better at everything we do. By providing them with the opportunity to slow down and appreciate the natural world around them, we ground our children in the bigger picture and allow them to experience childhood more simply. They will have a lifetime to experience the priorities of adulthood. What’s the rush to start now?
Kate is an adventurer, sailor, writer and mom based in the Boston area. She holds a master’s degree in education, captain’s licenses in the US, the UK and Australia, and a school of life degree in toddler wrangling. Her work has been published by Bonbon Break, Parent.co and the Huffington Post, and she runs her own content writing service at www.ksundquist.com.
Nurturing Your Child’s Spirit Outdoors
Posted by Helena Eddings
Evidence is growing that all children find solace and re-gain balance with exposure to nature. The opportunity to explore outdoors in an unstructured, unscheduled manner not only builds coordination and strong healthy bodies but also calms children and helps them focus. In addition, children with frequent opportunities to play outdoors grow their problem-solving skills and develop their curiosity. There are also studies reinforcing the connection between outdoor learning and school success in science, writing, gardening, botany, ecology, etc.
Connecting with nature takes time, intentional, unhurried time. The earlier young children are exposed to prolonged time outdoors the more familiar and comfortable they will be with nature and its rhythms and the more connected they will be to the land as they mature.
This spring take your babies and toddlers outside, and not just in a stroller. Spread a blanket on the grass so your baby can see the sky, experience the wind, smell the grass. Let your toddler get dirty, find treasures, experience freedom. Teach them the vocabulary of nature: the names of the trees and flowers, insects, weather, and share their delight in the joy of discovery.
Head of School
11th annual 5KDub
Posted by Claire Aerdeman
Calling all Superheroes!
Superheroes come in all shapes and sizes, each having incredible powers to help others in need. Karen Weeks was a superhero, suiting up each morning to help our children grow and learn. Even when diagnosed with cancer in 2000, she continued to walk and show her physical and mental strength to the West Side community until she lost her battle in 2005.
This year marks the 11th annual Family Fun 5KDub event which helps fund the Karen Weeks Scholarship. Recipients of the scholarship are also everyday heroes and must exhibit all the traits of a true Montessori child; have a love of learning, respect for the environment, and be a keeper of peace.
We ask you to join us in honoring our heroes and support scholarships for students at WSM. Please consider attending the event to be held Tuesday, May 16, 2017 at 5pm at Olander Park (Nederhouser building). The event will have family fun activities for children of all ages including games, a DJ, and dinner. Dress as your favorite superhero and join the crowd for our 5K walk/run too! There will be a special area for LH and CH fun!
Register HERE to be a sponsor, race participant, order a swag bag, and join in the fun!
There’s a superhero inside all of us. We just need the courage to put on the cape.
Donate today and support a student hero!