It is our first spring as a family, and I wanted to assemble Montessori trays that were made of purely natural materials, as well as give the children chances to contribute to caring for living things in their environment, instead of just practising trays in isolation (in fact, as I write this, Emmy is helping to water our herb plant). Only leaves and one rock used for these seven activities!
This Merry Montessori’s garden shelves also inspired me in setting up our nature table/ child workspace.
1. Felt weather chart
Useful for marking changes in weather from winter to spring. I saw this on Etsy for $12, made this for just $2 . I set the nature table by our window, so the children may observe or predict the day’s weather. The felt buttons stick to the white felt without any Velcro.
20 more lightweight, compact activities perfect for travelling here.
2. Leaf polishing
I pointed out how dusty the leaves of our plant looked (due to my neglect!), and why they needed to be cleaned to better photosynthesise.
The tray contains a tub of milky water solution (more effective than plain water in making the leaves lustrous), cotton balls to clean the leaves and a sponge to wipe the spills. Inspired by the Montessori polishing works, I tried to color-coordinate the items on the tray in green so the child in a sensitive period for order would know they belonged together. (Color-coordinating the kitchen/ cleaning tools here.)
If this looks a little complicated, you could have a younger toddler simply dust the leaves. But Emmy at 2.5 is entering the conscious portion of the first plane of development, and is more able to carry out a multi-step sequence like this.
3. Watering plant with a pipette
We previously used a spray bottle, but the walls ended up getting misted too. I thought using a pipette would minimise some of that wastage.
I set a small bottle and pipette out on a stand. Previously I would have supplied the water, especially since this bottle has the convenience of a screwcap to cap it when not in use. Now it is empty because I trust the children to access the tap to fill it without wasting too much water.
Dylan pippetting carefully…
4. Plucking herbs
A potted herb doesn’t cost much more than a packet of herbs, and adds such color and scent to the home. Emmy plucks mint leaves delightedly…
Puts them in glasses, one for me and one for herself…
And makes mint tea.
Fresh mint tea is something we discovered here in England. Only two ingredients, fresh mint leaves and hot water! And in the Netherlands I hear they just put the whole sprig of mint in. I pour an inch of boiling water and Emmy tops it off with lukewarm water. Another farm-to-table activity here.
5. Cutting leaves and making leaf letters
Inspired by these phenomenal tactile nature letters from Living Montessori Now, I set up a cutting tray to cut dried leaves from a bouquet.
6. “Leaves in Art” book
I compiled a book of leaf images in fine art and graphic design (why we go for handmade, here.)
Chinese calligraphic painting…
The Palm Beach banana leaf wallpaper, Martinique…
But she keeps going back to this page featuring the cover art for Miffy at the Museum (a book we own in Mandarin)- preceded by its inspiration, Matisse’s leaf painting.
(Oh and no filters were added to these pictures, that’s just the way the sunlight was this morning.) If you would like your own leaf book, do click here: leaves-in-art. This version is shorter as two images were copyright, but I’ve just snuck the names in ever-so-unsubtly above so you know what to look for if you want to add to your book 😃
7. Painting a rock
I was enamoured with fullstop Slipstream, a sculpture by Fiona Banner, along the River Thames. Although it was meant to represent the ubiquitous full stop, I also felt its glossy, pockmarked black surface reminded me of a river stone that now reflected the city around it rather than the river under it.
To produce that same meditative experience, I had Emmy paint a rock using a water pen.
The chopstick holder in Emmy’s hand is for the pen to rest on. And the rock is actually the door stop that came with our rental. It has the plus of having crayon marks on it so the children can scrub it off.
And some outtakes of the children doing leaf-cutting and rock-painting…
Our Practical Life album and AMI Cert Course album are full of ways to help children help themselves around the home (cooking, cleaning etc), and we just finished a unit on insects too, so do visit us on Facebook!