I'm currently reading Barefoot and Balanced by Angela J. Hanscom. It's about how unrestricted outdoor play makes for strong, confident and capable children. It's an excellent book for parents and teachers. One reviewer said "This book is a must read for anyone interested in helping children develop the way they were created to develop. I am a different parent because of this book. I will be making different educational choices for my children because of this book." Wow!
It's also perfectly in line with the Montessori way of thinking - "Children are naturally curious and seek out opportunities to make sense of their world. When children are left to their own devices, they experiment and with their surroundings, take risks, make mistakes, and then learn from their mistakes." The author also provides practical ideas for spending time outside starting with babies! I love the concept that the outdoors offer a perfectly balanced sensory experience. In Montessori we talk so much about the indoors, here is a snapshot of our outdoor play today.
While our backyard isn't like an open meadow or forest we do provide unrestricted access. It's still winter but the sun has been out and it's been so very beautiful.
Our outdoor space is treated much like our indoor space. Otto has free access to his materials. It's almost a 'yes' space, there isn't anything he can't touch or do (besides eat the dirt or the plants). Our neighbor's dog keeps on getting over the fence which is a delight, Otto looks for her first thing in the morning.
Although we have an art easel, a sand/water table and, a few materials, Otto spends most of his time outdoors running around with a stick, or his rake - just being busy or digging. Buckets are very important to our outdoor space as Otto will spend a lot of time transporting water. He's also barefoot outdoors as much as he can while the warm weather is here. The feet get a lot of sensory feedback and going barefoot helps to develop those little feet muscles.
I'm also passionate about block play. In Australia, we had a unit block set that the boys often used outside. Unit blocks are very large and the children could build high structures. Here in the UK, I wanted a set of blocks just for outside, we decided to use the very affordable tree branch blocks pictured above. These have a lovely texture and are perfect for Otto, with some big pieces and some little pieces. He can throw them, he can bang them together and he's not going to do any damage.
While we have chosen not to have a Pink Tower at home (Otto can use that once he starts school) we have toddler stacking boxes which are fun to use outside too.
The stacking boxes are large and heavy so they provide a different kind of experience for Otto.
It's all about experimenting and free play - outdoors!!!