The following is the text from this section of the 2009-2010 edition of The Joyful Child, Montessori from Birth to Three
To see other sections of this publication return to: http://www.michaelolaf.com/JCcontents.htm
AGE 1-3, PLANTS AND ANIMALS
Solicitous care for living things affords satisfaction to one of the
most lively instincts of the childs mind.
Nothing is better calculated than this to awaken an attitude of foresight.
An atmosphere of love and respect for life is the best foundation for
the study of plants and animals. This begins in the home.
The most impressionable lessons come from first hand experiences of plants
and animals in nature. Nothing can substitute for walking in the woods
and listening to birds, looking for shells on the beach, watching the
daily growth of a flower in the garden. From the very beginning of life
it is vital to maintain the link between the child and nature.
For the infant we can have lovely flowers, and fresh fruit to look at
in the house and garden, and expose her to the shadows and rustling of
the leaves on trees. It is important for a child to spend some time in
the outdoors experiencing nature every day if possiblein all kinds
of weather and during all of the seasons.
Very early in life a child will appreciate the variety of texture and
color of tree bark, leaves, and the corollas of flowers, the looking at
brightly colored pictures and books of plants and flowers. When the child
is "exploding" into language in the first three years, he wants
to know the names of everything. Not just flower but California Poppy,
and descriptive words such as orange, small, and soft. If you are a gardener
who knows the Latin or scientific names of plants, you will find that
these are as easy for the child as the common names and what fun to learn
If you are planning an outdoor environment that will be good for children,
be sure to include a space for wild flora and fauna. Some of the best
biological specimens are wild plants such as dandelions and thistles.
When the child begins to walk, there is a lot she can do related to plants.
He can cut and serve fresh fruit, learning the names of each. Simple flower
arranging and leaf washing is enjoyed at this age since the child loves
to do anything to do with water, pouring water into a tiny vase and placing
one bloom on the table on a cotton doily for the family meal.
Having garden tools and a small wheelbarrow and helping to carry grass
cuttings or anything else that needs to be transported is an excellent
way to involve the child with the yard work. But even one pot with one
plant is better than nothing where there is no garden. A large clay pot
can actually serve as a great ever-changing seasonal garden for a the
family, and is just the right size for the child to participate in the
gardening in the beginning.
NOTE - SAFETY: Be sure that house and garden plants are safe for
Beautiful pictures of plants and flowers, sometimes examples from great
works of art, can be hung on the wall; and you may be surprised at a child's
preference for nonfiction books about nature when she has been kept in
touch in this way.
Animals are best observed free in nature rather than in cages. Hang a
bird feeder just outside the window and show the child how to sit quietly
so that the birds won't be afraid.
Binoculars give the child a feeling of participating in the birds' activities,
and allow the child to watch birds from a distance. Having temporary tadpole
guests, and watching cocoons hatch is a truly magical experience for the
child. It provides the experience of seeing a creature close up without
having to keep it permanently out of its natural setting.
Because wild animals are less accessible to the children than plants,
we suggest first observing birds, insects, and other animals in nature,
to arouse an interest and, after this experience, providing more animal
models, pictures, and books about thempicture books, beginning reading
books, and reference books.
Playing with animal models and blocks has always been a favorite open-ended-toy
choice of children. Please be sure that your child's animal models are
made of safe plastic instead of toxic plastic materials. We find that
the ones made by European companies are safe for children at this age.
We focus on the child's natural love for and affinity with nature, and
the tendency to want to touch, hold, and care for nature specimens such
as rocks, shells, seeds, flowers and leaves, insects, kittensall
things living and nonliving.
Books can help the child explore animals outside their immediate surrounding
and learn even more names.
Another gift from our children comes to that adult when we slow down,
to follow the interests of the child, being in the moment, appreciating
nature that is all around us, taking the time to see and feel and hear,
to just be.
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© Susan Mayclin Stephenson, 2010 (www.susanart.net)
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