From about eight weeks of age, I started placing my daughter outside on a blanket to enjoy some fresh air, her response to this astounded me. It was incredible to see how much she soaked up her surroundings and the focus she had with nature. I was naturally following some Montessori principles of allowing a child to experience nature, before I ever really knew and understood the benefits of it.
Montessori approach to nature
In her book, The Discovery of the Child, Maria Montessori goes into detail about the benefits of immersing children into the natural world. I found it most fascinating that she links exposure to nature with humanity. If children know and understand how plants grow and how animals live in the wild, they are more likely to grow up with a respect for them. Specifically, Montessori refers to children who don’t spend time in nature being more likely to steal eggs from a bird nest or kill insects.
Children can develop a sense of responsibility by taking ownership of a plant and caring for it. For babies, let them be present while you’re doing the gardening or picking some flowers. Turn this into a sensory activity and bring different smells and textures to them. Toddlers are able to join in with tasks like watering plants and flower arranging. Give them their own watering can and watch them be proud of themselves and start to bond with nature. Planting a seed and being a part of the entire process is a great hands on lesson for any child to experience.
Nature and environmental responsibility
As a parent, I feel a certain responsibility to teach my child about caring for the environment and how individually we impact the world. In her own handbook, Dr Maria Montessori said “The land is where our roots are. The children must be taught to feel and live in harmony with the Earth.”
There are studies that show that being exposed to nature from a young age, encourages a child to practice environmental responsibility through to adulthood.
Babies and toddlers outdoors
I remember meeting some Danish mother’s who told me that it was common in Denmark to leave a baby to nap out in the garden in their pram, what a great idea! I feel like in Australia, I would be hesitant to do this without some kind of protection from the insects, but supervised outdoor time every single day from a young age has been such a big priority for me.
As my daughter has gotten older, she is now nine months, she has changed the way that she interacts with nature. Once she could roll onto her tummy, her view suddenly became of the grass and no longer the sky. Once she could crawl, she started pulling out the grass (and attempting to put it in her mouth). As the season changed and leaves started falling, she wanted to scrunch them in her hands and investigate each side of them. Watching her notice bird noises, feel the wind on her skin and see shadows, is rewarding to me as I know that she is appreciating her surroundings and finds it fascinating. She doesn’t need toys when outside, she just wants to explore.
I look forward to her starting to walk and letting her lead the way to what she wishes to investigate. As she gets older I will have her help me with growing vegetables and teach her about the world and I have no doubt that I will learn so much from this time as well.
How do you incorporate nature into your daily lives? I would love to hear your ideas!