Taking Art Outside

 “Let the be children free; encourage them; let them run outside when it is raining; let them remove their shoes when they find a puddle of water; and, when the grass of the meadows is damp with dew, let them run on it and trample it with their bare feet; let them rest peacefully when a tree invites them to sleep beneath its shade; let them shout and laugh when the sun wakes them in the morning.” Dr Maria Montessori 

Process Art is not only important to us as a family and as a trained Montessori teacher, it is the only kind of art advocated for by the majority of those in the childhood social neurological development world for children under the age of 8 years. 

For us, it just makes sense to take Art outside. Art is all about the sensorial world and there’s no better Prepared Environment that plays to the senses than the outdoors. 


At the beach or in the forest, nature can inspire the child and spark their imagination. 


Art also helps us extend what we’ve been exploring as part of our monthly Montessori Nature Study

A little preparation can go along way. Here are some of our favourite things to bring outside:

  1. A thin, easy to carry watercolour palette
  2. mini clipboard to secure paper and provide a writing surface
  3. A large watercolour paper pad cut into quarters for easy transport
  4. This workbook is becoming a fast favourite.
  5. As is this one
  6. Nature Anatomy is our absolute favourite Nature Study book and the one we have been using for our own Nature Study for the past year. 
  7. Lyra pencil crayons are some of the best on the market. Vibrant true tones that spread like butter on the paper and the Ferby is the perfect size for little hands. 
  8. A well made, well fitting child sized backpack to keep all of it in. 

We also love adding audiobooks to our art times. Calm classics quietly read in the background help prepare a space for peaceful art. 


All this with a healthy homemade snack and water bottle and you are set to make art outside.

Even the youngest toddler will enjoy squishing fingerpaint onto paper while under a big tree or beside a quiet stream.  

If outdoor art is new to you take it slow and prepare in advance. Here are some helpful tips:

  • Think about your own child’s interests/abilities. Do they love crayons over watercolours?
  • Go at a peaceful time of day. Tired and hungry children are not happy artists. 
  • Process art is exactly that. Let the child lead. It’s about the scribbles and sensorial input, not about how much the finished product looks like you wanted it to look.
  • Art can be messy (and that’s a good thing). Prepare in advance with something to clean up spills, wipe fingers and pack wet things home in. 

Now go and enjoy. If you happen to try an outdoor art session we would love you to share it with us on social media either on our Facebook page or on Instagram by tagging us. 

Sunday Book Club Summer Edition Part 1: Books, activities and more

We love Summer and all that it has to offer.

With school over, the boys and I have been spending lots of time outside. We always take a Montessori approach to home learning, which simply means that we “follow the child”. So although there is always an opportunity to foster curiosity we don’t advocate for structured, academic summer home learning. 

However, we do love finding new and interesting activities and books that help spark that curiosity. Quentin has been interested in pond life and so with that in mind here are some of our favourite fiction books for 3-6 about the topic. 


Over and Under the Pond is absolutely excellent for exploring a pond biome and life cycles. It’s perfect for introducing these concepts to children 3 and 4 or opening up larger discussions for the 5’s and 6’s. 
Pool is beautifully drawn, imaginative and above all completely wordless. We love the picture story’s ability to suck a child into the story teller role. It’s so interesting the differences in descriptions and abstract depth that come when you read this book in a mixed age setting and ask them to read it to you. 
Beyond the Pond is such a favourite that we’ve featured it before. Intended for children who are in the Second Plane, we began reading this when Quentin was 4 because of the richness of the text. If you want to introduce words such as “extraordinary” and “raucous” into your child’s vocabulary, sit down with this book. 
In the Red Canoe is the story of a Grandfather and Granddaughter gently paddling around a lake, taking in the wildlife, told through the eyes of the child. It’s gorgeously illustrated and a soothing read at the end of the day. 

The lily pads are in full bloom at our local freshwater pond. We often take art supplies with us in a backpack as well as some snacks and a blanket to make a day of it. 


Watercolours are so easy to bring outside. They dry quickly, clean up easily and are just so pretty and delicate. 

I love having little ideas ready in case Quentin asks for Art, or is looking for a new game, or has an interest in a specific nature theme. Allyson of Tanglewood Hollow produces some of the best Montessori compatible Nature Study themed materials out there. She has recently opened a printables shop here. I’m absolutely thrilled as now I can get her materials and immediately download them to take with us or display in our Montessori workspace.

Last but not least a Giveaway 

Summer Giveaway 
The Summer Curriculum found here, is “a guide of 26 pages filled with summer songs and poems, art exploration, garden activities and games, science exploration, reading, and more! Make a nature weaving, do some garden yoga, race invertebrates, and build a terrarium!” 

Stay tuned Monday July 10th on our Instagram feed found here as we are thrilled to giveaway one professionally printed copy of the Summer Curriculum for you to use to help create all that “awe and wonder” that we as Montessorians are so passionate about. 

We hope that you are having a relaxing, exciting and memory making Summer. 

May Nature Study: Butterflies and other Insects 

The warmer weather has finally arrived and so we spent the majority of our May Nature Study outside. 

Studying insects is one of the easiest topics to do because they are accessible on almost every continent, there is a large variety and children are most often fascinated by them. 


We began our study by exploring different species of butterfly with the help of these beautiful cards from Alice Cantrell of Twig and Moth. We use so many of her materials because they are well priced, printable at home and above all beautiful. 


We enjoyed some old favourites on the topic. This book is fantastic. The art style and amount of information are perfectly paired. 


We also enjoy this book and we recommend all of this series. It is our favourite nature series for the 3-6 age group. 


Lastly we decided to take a field trip to our local butterfly sanctuary. It is so beautiful there with so many different species of butterflies and moths. At just turned 5 Quentin now does really well on learning outings. This will serve him well as he progresses into the Second Plane of Development. 


Montessori asks us to “Follow the Child” and this simply couldn’t be more applicable than when out and about. We travel at his pace, and stop when he wants to. This gives him an opportunity to really take in what he is seeing, to ask questions or to return to something he wants to know more about. 


We both agreed that a butterfly sanctuary is a gorgeous spot to take photos. 
If you have been looking to start a nature study, insects is a great place to start. Books from the library, and simply stepping outside are all you need.  

Summer: An Update 

The other day, we had our first morning where the wind definitely had an Autumn chill. It was light but it was there. And so, with school just over a week away I thought I’d share some of my favourite Summer moments we’ve had. 
 
Creating under the big Maple tree in our front yard. I think of all the mornings we’ve spent there drawing painting and reading will be my favourite memories of this Summer. 
  
Nature Journaling. We pack his bag and go. He collects small samples to bring back for our Nature Tray and records the rest. This has been a good way to channel his writing practice. 

  
Practical Life. It never really stops. He will sit and sew and we’ll talk. Sometimes about everything and sometimes about nothing. 

  Bike riding together. Their bond has strengthened while they’ve been off together. This was Anthony’s Birthday.  

 

And finally, because within every Montessori child lies a teacher, there was work. He would pull something off his shelves, set it up carefully and then call the cat over. 

Here Huxley, see a nineteen is really just a 10 plus a 9. 

His new school bag hangs from his dressing chair and his new school shoes should arrive tomorrow. And we are ready. Ready to get back to it. He asks daily if it’s a school day. It will be good to start the next school year and watch him grow, but it has been a very nice summer. 

Montessori Summer activities to keep the learning fresh

  
Summer. It is a glorious thing isn’t it?
Both boys are now finished school and we have been blessed with hot, not warm but hot weather.  

The new school year is still in the distance and so I’ve been thinking about activities to do with the boys. Things that will keep them from (oh I even hate to type it) the “brain drain.” 

Here’s what we do in the Summer: 

We linger 

  

We stop a little longer to watch the bees hurry about their work. We breathe the heady scent of lavender a little deeper and we let our fingers run over the soft scented stalks a little more. 

We wander

 

Whether at the beach, around town or through a good book of far off places. We allow time for exploration of all things. Quentin’s favourite is geography. 
We create 

  

With paints and pencils and small world play, we encourage creativity and the expression of knowledge. Quentin loves to set up his Schleich farm animals and barn. 

His Bruder recycling truck (pictured below) and tractor (pictured above) also offer him a chance to create with to scale and realistic materials. 

  

How does all this have anything to do with learning you ask? 

Well, in the Montessori pedagogy learning comes from within the child. It does not happen to the child. So instead of math sheets and reading apps we continue to prepare the environment that will engage the child. We cater to the senses and the inborn curiosity. 

I often get asked about “the trays”. I answer that is doesn’t matter what’s on the tray. What matters is what is in the hand. What I mean by this is that a pretty tray of carefully designed sea shell work is nice, but it is incomparable to the vastness of learning happening when holding a shell at the beach. 

And then, just like that, everywhere there is learning. From connections made from reading to real world exploration. From measuring and counting as we bake, to keeping the senses sharp with environmental sensory input (flower smelling) it all keeps the light in their eyes burning. Their growing brains constantly seeking. 

There is this quote that rattles around my own brain often.

“Be careful what you teach. It may interfere with what they are learning.” 

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When you live in a world where summer is a very small part of the year, there is no time to lose. You must get outside.

For us, it means a slower pace (if there is such a thing) and making sure to take advantage of all the summertime culture that is freely available to us. Our absolute favourite is a farmers market.

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I truly love that farmers markets offer so much to a child. I also love that our small little town’s own farmers market has a wide range of stands and most of those stands have children actively assisting in them. It is a wealth of sensory experience, even if you don’t buy anything. It’s a chance for your child to see the people that grow the food and make the items and I can’t help but feel that it brings people a little closer together.

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Of course, a stop at the baking stand is a very nice way to end the day.

What are some of your favourite ways to spend time outside alone or with a child?