Otto received this little red wheelbarrow for Christmas. It's almost as if at this age we avoid expensive gifts because we know the simpler the better. He wants toys that help him to do things. Practical life materials. While his brothers are outside (for hours) kicking a football around, Otto wants to be doing things, he wants to be working with his hands, he wants to be productive.
"Human beings of ages want to be able to communicate with others, to challenge themselves, to do important work, and to contribute to society. This is human nature at it's best. This desire is especially strong during the time when the child who has been observing all kinds of important activity going on around her has finally mastered the mental and physical skills to stand up, walk, use her hands, and participate in real work... A child learns self control, and develops a healthy self-image if the work is real - washing fruits and vegetables, setting or clearing the table, washing dishes, watering plants, watering the garden, sorting, folding and putting away the laundry, sweeping, dusting, helping in the garden, any of the daily work of her family." - Montessori Practical Life, Real Life, Today - Birth to Age Twelve at Michael Olaf.
So we teach him to garden, in the middle of winter. There are always leaves to be swept and taken away. There are always pots to be watered. Weeds to be removed. Earth to be touched. And there is life to be found.
Maria Montessori in The Discovery of the Child said "When children come in contact with nature, they reveal their strength." Those with children know this to be true, we must not limit this interaction to the warmer months.
What are we really teaching the child? We don't need to fear the weather. Gardening just isn't a spring time activity. Plants grow in the depths of winter (we have some lovely snowdrop flowers appearing and lots of bulbs peeking through the earth). We are teaching daily activity... outdoors! We are teaching appreciation for the limited daylight hours (oh the days are still so short), we are teaching appreciation for that cold fresh air.
We are also giving the child movement, self control, a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. We are giving them the opportunity to develop new skills and new knowledge. For Otto we are also teaching new words.
I'll be showing more of Otto and Otis' outdoor prepared environment this week, we want the indoor/outdoor environment to be as free flowing as possible and for the opportunity to exist for the use of fine motor skills outdoors too.
Today is New Years day and we welcome 2019! My commitment to the new year is to spend more time with my children outdoors, to look at what we have, not at what we don't have. As a Queenslander in England, the winter is difficult, but there is opportunity and there is positivity! Happy New Year to you and your family! May 2019 bring you exploration, love and light!