We’re getting ready to go on a mini-vacation tomorrow. Instead of taking a whole week off this summer, my husband took two long weekends. The reason for this is because while I like the beach, he likes the mountains. So we’re compromising and doing both! My son couldn't be happier. Both the beach and mountains provide him with great opportunities to be outside exploring and being a part of nature.
While my ideal vacation is lounging on the beach, reading a book and sipping iced tea, I know that this will be far from reality. While my husband goes deep sea fishing (Nathaniel and I get sea sick just thinking about being on a boat), we’re planning on renting kayaks and exploring the North Carolina estuaries. Nathaniel has also researched a trip to Shackleford Banks and the southern portion of the Cape Lookout National Seashore to catch a glimpse of the wild ponies, the 500-year old descendants of Spanish Mustangs. He tells me that the island is also known as one of the best shell beaches on the East Coast.He is looking forward to finding and identifying shells such as Conchs, Welks, Queen’s Helmets, Scotch Bonnets, Olive Shells, and Sand Dollars. Of course, there will be plenty of water play and sand castling, too.
The best thing about the trip will be being together outside, away from the television and video games, and hard as it will be, I’m leaving my computer at home! In this age of technology, that’s no easy feat. Here are a few suggestions to help you and your family to get excited about exploring the great outdoors.
You and Your Montessori Child: Getting Back to Nature
- Plan a trip that will have plenty of action. While adults may crave relaxation and solitude, children want activities and adventure. Go fishing. Go hiking where there is wildlife to observe and new places to explore.
- Be enthusiastic. A positive attitude is contagious. If you aren't excited, your children won’t be either and they’ll be begging you to be able to dig their hand-held video game out of the duffle bag. Wonder at the beauty of the flowers in the woods. Delight as herons take off from their nests. Remember what it was like to view things for the first time as a child.
- Get on their level. A Montessori co-teacher of mine used the phrase “bend and stoop”. If your children are small, squat down on their level and look through their eyes. What do they see at that height? This way, you’re exploring together, not lecturing from above.
- Trying something new? What would Dr. Montessori do? She’d show, not tell. Need to build a campfire? Show how to gather twigs and sticks for kindling and larger branches and logs for the fire. Need to clean the fish you just caught? Demonstrate how to do it first. Children learn when they are patiently shown how to do something and tune adults out when they are lectured.
- Allow kids to be kids. Let them watch tadpoles in the pond, chase butterflies , catch ladybugs, or watch ants carrying food back to their nest. Children experience nature directly through their senses. They need to be allowed to watch, touch, listen, smell, and [sometimes] taste their surroundings. Delight in their joy as they freely explore the world around them.
- Allow for short attention spans. That 3-hour tour of the historic mansion might be fun for you, but little ones need activity. If you must go on that tour, plan ahead and bring along a bag of goodies: a healthy snack, a book to read, colored pencils and a small pad of paper. (No video games, please). Or try games such as “I spy” to pass the time.
- Model respect for the outdoors. Pick up litter, even if it’s not yours. (It’s good to always carry extra trash bags for just this reason). Treat the creatures and plants with respect. Leave things the way you found them. By doing this, you will instill a great environmental awareness. Children will be upset when they find that there is litter scattered about when they know that it matters.
- Little legs get tired. When hiking, take frequent breaks with healthy snacks to revitalize. Allow them to set the pace since they don’t walk as fast as adults do. A walking stick is not only fun, it is especially helpful on a steep incline.
- Be prepared! Remember to pack sunscreen, insect repellent, hats, sunglasses, bandages and tweezers, and if possible, a change of clothes. It’s miserable to be uncomfortable.
- Remember to take binoculars and a camera. Children want to see things up close and a camera will ensure long-lasting memories for years to come.
Previous NAMC blogs about Nature: Montessori Philosophy: Nature - Nurturer to the Whole Child.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Monday, July 28, 2008.