One of the most important part of child’s development is introducing them to the natural world by helping them to connect and explore the beauty of it. Giving them enough time to walk barefooted in a fresh green grass, play and chase the adorable butterflies, touch those colorful flowers in the garden, sniff a piece of wood, smell the flowers, feel the texture of a rock or watch the bamboo tree sway. This activities will give them the opportunity to experience the beauty of nature and at the same time appeal to their developing senses.
As a first time mom and preschool teacher, my goal is to give my child ample time to discover the beauty of the world by showing places she can play, explore, and observe. This moment is an opportunity for a child to understand the connectedness or the relation of human to the universe.
The History of Children’s Contact with Nature
Modern humans evolved and have lived in intimate contact with nature, in the savannah and forests, for almost their entire year history and that is more than 100,000 years ago. The cultivation of plants and the domestication of animals allowed our ancestors to dwell in permanent settlements, to expand their population more rapidly, thus beginning a sad disconnection from nature. It wasn’t until recent history that most people lived in cities. Even until very recent history, children still grew up with intimate contact with nature. Most of the history, when children were free to play, their first choice was often to flee to the nearest wild place, whether it was a big tree, brushy area in the yard, a watercourse or woodland nearby. Two hundred years ago, most children spent their play time surrounded by fields, farms or in the wild nature at its edges. By the late twentieth century, many children’s environments had become urbanized. But even then, as recently as 1970, children had access to nature and the world at large. They spend most of their recreation time outdoors, using the sidewalks, streets, playgrounds, parks, greenways, vacant lots and other spaces during the urbanization process or the fields, forests, streams and yards of suburbia. Children had the freedom to play, explore and interact with the natural world with little or no restriction and supervision.
“Scientific observation then has established that education is not what the teacher gives; education is a natural process spontaneously carried out by the human individual, and is acquired not by listening to words but by experiences upon the environment.” Dr. Maria Montessori
This photos was taken from our family trip at San Francisco Botanical Garden. This garden is a perfect place to learn about nature such as plants, trees, flowers, pond, woods and plant nurseries.
The beautiful and huge lily pads at the pond.
Components Of A Naturalized Play Environment For Young Children
- Plentiful indigenous vegetation, including trees, bushes, flowers and long grasses that children can explore and interact with
- Animals, creatures in ponds, butterflies, bugs
- Sand, and best if it can be mixed with water
- Diversity of color, textures and materials
- Ways to experience the changing seasons, wind, light, sounds and weather
- Natural places to sit in, on, under, lean against, climb and provide shelter and shade
- Different levels and nooks and crannies, places that offer socialization, privacy and views
- Structures, equipment and materials that can be changed, actually, or in their imaginations, including plentiful loose parts
“It is true that man has created enjoyments in social life and has brought about a vigorous human love in community life. But nevertheless he still belongs to nature, and, especially when he is a child, he must needs draw from it the forces necessary to the development of the body and of the spirit.” The Montessori Method
“Since it has been … necessary to give so much to the child, let us give him a vision of the whole universe. The universe is an imposing reality, and an answer to all questions…. All things are part of the universe, and are connected with each other to form one whole unity. The idea helps the mind of the child to become focused, to stop wandering in an aimless quest for knowledge. He is satisfied having found the universal centre of himself with all things.”- Dr. Maria Montessori