Thursday, March 22, 2012

Spending Time in Nature

Spending time in nature is a huge component of the Montessori approach, and it's an idea that completely resonates with me. I haven't read much of anything on the topic, like this book, because I don't really need any convincing. It makes sense on so many levels.

For example, I believe that the foundation of environmental stewardship is just a downright love of nature. The more children love being outside in the natural world, the more likely they are to take care of it. Plus, nature is an amazing backdrop for creative play and exploration. Children can satiate their natural curiosity and love of learning by turning over rocks, look up at the sky, stepping in creeks, etc. Further, the first six years of a child's life are the "absorbent mind" period according to Montessori theory. It makes sense that Henry should spend as much time as possible outside, soaking in the natural world as he forms the very core of his being.

We started taking Henry outside when he was an infant. He and I would lie on a blanket under a tree and he would stare up at the limbs as if they were a mobile. We would also sit on the front porch swing or go for walks in the Moby wrap. As he got a little older and more mobile, it was more difficult to take him outside because he put everything in his mouth very, very quickly. I don't mind if he tastes a rock or a leaf here or there, but it was very stressful to monitor him constantly. We instead took daily walks in the morning (and most evenings) in the stroller.

Then one magical day, he stopped putting EVERYTHING in his mouth. He still tasted a fair bit of the world, but it was much slower and more infrequent. That's when I started taking him to the park almost every day. He loved crawling around in the mulch, climbing up play structures, watching the other children, swinging, and going on the slide. We also spent more time in our backyard watching the chickens.

Now, we try to spend even more time in nature. Henry shows a lot of interest in nature. One of his new hobbies is looking for birds (I want to get him this bird feeder!). Our backyard is the perfect spot to hang out. We watch bugs, point out birds, practice saying the word "tree" (well, I say the word and Henry points at it). I still take him to the park sometimes (which is also directly behind our house), but I love to give him an informal natural environment to explore.

Since moving to Austin, we've started going on weekend hikes. Henry is so content to ride along in an Ergo carrier (we're looking for a hiking backpack). He watches absolutely everything. My favorite part, though, is when we get to a good spot and get him out. I love to let him walk around and explore. It feels like he's learning so much about how the world works and he's learning to love the natural world.

When I start to get busier and busier with my work, will you all please remind me about how important it is to spend time in nature? And about how I want to slow down and spend time as a family doing the things that really matter? Please and thank you!

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MBD said...

You're such a good mom : )

I'll remember to remind you!

Carrie said...

I'll remind you, too! Don't forget that play time in nature is good for YOU AND MATT, too! My husband's and my ultimate goal is to have a house on Kennebunk Beach in Maine. It has absolutely nothing to do with prestige or status or whatever. It has to do with the SOUND OF THE OCEAN and walks on the beach--both sources of ultimate calm for us. :)

Our 3-year-old is having a blast as spring arrives here in Maine with the sounds of the birds, buds on the trees, etc., and our almost 1-year-old is LOVING rides in the stroller and push car. Do you have any recommendations for protecting knees of crawlers outside? We don't yet have plush green grass or anything, but the temps have been unseasonably warm lately, and our baby isn't yet walking. I am considering attempting to convert some of my husband's socks into little knee pad/leg warmer kinds of things to go with shorts, but I'd welcome your ideas for anything easier! :)

Sara E. Cotner said...

Aww, thanks, MBD!

Hi, Carrie! I love your beach house vision. Every time I hear about it, I get a little jealous.

We never had to worry about the knee thing because the weather was cold when he was crawling on his knees (yes, we did ruin a couple pairs of pants), and now that the weather is warmer (he's still not walking), he has adjusted his crawl to the hands and feet thing (I like to think he's modeling himself after his big brother, Hoss...).

I like your idea for socks as knee pads. Maybe you could use an older kid size rather than your husband's, so they would be more snug and you wouldn't have to do any kind of sewing? Please report back when you figure it out!

Kristy said...

That book is so good! I find nature so calming for both of my boys. They are completely at peace outside. We absolutely LOVE our Mountain Equipment Co-op backpack carrier (have used it now with both kiddos) - they do ship to the US. It is a serious hiking backpack with so many good reviews.

It is so nice to see others spending time outside with their kids and not just time with an agenda (ie. organized sports).

Kylie D'Alton said...

A gorgeous picture Sara. Can you tell us (me) a little about the shoes Henry is wearing. I'm currently researching first shoes and would love to know what you have chosen.

Sara E. Cotner said...

So funny you should ask, Kylie! We actually ruined Henry's shoes in the picture above: water + leather = crunchy, uncomfortable shoes for little feet!

I asked around about Montessori first shoes in the Montessori For All online group and got some good recommendations. Ultimately, we decided to go with just a soft little leather shoe from Target (which is like a discount store kind of place). We tried to find them at a consignment shop first, but we were unsuccessful. They are most similar to the Robeez brand, but they were much cheaper at Target. The first pair we bought had a little velcro strap across them. The second pair just has the elastic around the ankle. We found both pairs work well (although the elastic is more difficult for Henry to take off than the velcro).

Meg over at Sew Liberated once wrote a post about letting Finn go barefoot as much as possible, since it helps with their walking and their sensory integration. That's what we try to do, too.

Can't wait to read about what you decide on your blog!

Kylie D'Alton said...

Thanks Sara. I went back over the recommendations, I should have checked there first. We have avoided shoes so far but winter is fast approaching and we will soon have a little walker.

Carrie said...

For shoes, I've had great luck with used Robeez on ebay. I know some may balk at used shoes, but little feet aren't particularly sweaty, and we all know that moms buy too much stuff, so shoes may have been barely worn! I've purchased some for $2.99, and with shipping, like $5.

Sara, I actually found some knee pads on ebay for $5 + free shipping, so I went ahead and bought some.

Sara E. Cotner said...

I definitely don't balk about buying used shoes for little feet! There's way too much baby stuff out there.

Can't wait to see a Facebook pic of the little knee pads. Sounds adorable!

Kylie D'Alton said...

Sara, did you consider the shoes at Michael Olaf? I am thinking about ordering these and their training pants. I'm not sure how their shoes would hold up outside though. They look super cute.

Sara E. Cotner said...

Kylie, are you talking about these shoes?

When Henry needed shoes, the weather was warming up (it's so weird that we experience opposite seasons!). That's why we went with the shorter Robeez style. They seemed cooler.

I think the classic Montessori style would work really well in the fall and winter.

Kylie D'Alton said...

I think they are the same ones, we would get the 12 month ones. Not only opposite seasons, I recently looked up our time difference out of interest.

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