Montessori Gardening with Toddlers – Child & Nature!

Are you aware that Montessori education considers the outdoor environment to be an extension of the indoor classroom? The natural world is capable of providing endless possibilities for experiential learning. This is why immersion in nature is a significant aspect of the Montessori method. Increasing a child’s interactions with nature promotes holistic development. It also teaches the child to lead an environmentally responsible lifestyle that carries on well into adulthood.

“The land is where our roots are, which is why the children must be taught to feel and live in harmony with the Earth” – Dr. Maria Montessori

Springdale Academy in Hillsborough Township, New Jersey, is dedicated to providing its students with sensory experiences through nature to enhance classroom knowledge and learning. And we achieve this through the activity of gardening. Everything from the colors or scents of flowers to the taste of the produce or the texture of the plants contributes to their sensory learning. Our students are also far more inclined to consume healthy fruits and vegetables as a result of the tactile experience.

Our students witness life emerge from virtually nothing into this plant that grows with every passing day. When they see the fruits of their labor, it boosts their confidence. It teaches them about trial and error, as not every plant is going to make it, and showing the child how to accept and move on from this loss or failure is a valuable life lesson. Allowing them to process how they feel helps them to understand that they are a part of a greater universe and their actions can make a difference. It doesn’t hurt to mention that gardening is a calming activity as well. It can reduce and alleviate stress while simultaneously improving our ability to concentrate and memory. How could children not benefit from this?

While all this makes gardening an excellent fodder to facilitate the emotional, philosophical, and cosmic development of the child, what about the scientific side, you may ask? Springdale Academy’s Montessori-trained teachers utilize gardening as a tool to help their students acquire practical knowledge. They discover botany through simple interaction with plants or the dissection of seeds, while foundational mathematics is introduced via seed management and planting. They discover chemistry by recycling leaves or food scraps into fertilizer. They also come to know about meteorology by keeping track of the weather and how it affects the plants. Now, we are not saying that these activities can teach them all the complexities of the sciences. Instead, they will fuel curiosity and exploration. For children, this opens up a whole new world.

Gardening at Springdale Academy is a free-form activity, with no time limits or confined directives. Our teachers are only present as guides and encourage the children to do things on their own. Activities like digging, raking, turning compost, or carrying soil and water help the child develop motor skills, body management skills, and object control skills. Even literacy skills are a part of gardening. For example, learning how to pronounce the names of different plants or reading books about flowers and trees. And neither is the spirit of teamwork left behind. The students help each other while planting seeds and watering the plants. They can also be seen discussing their favorite foliage. Moments like these demonstrate how their social abilities have progressed.

There is so much to learn through gardening, from understanding responsibility to discovering their love of the environment while nurturing their creativity and reasoning. And a yard is not always necessary to make it happen. Start simply by placing a tiny pot close to a window or using planter pots on your porch. Just like we do at Springdale Academy, encourage your child to engage in this experience at home.

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