Outdoor play time can help your child focus on new and exciting experiences in nature. Whether it's filling a bucket with rocks to carry around the yard and exert maximum energy or planting some seeds to watch them grow, setting up a Montessori-inspired outdoor play space provides a rich environment for fun and learning.
But don't overthink it, mama. A Montessori space can be organized and set up similar to an indoor play space with a few adjustments for size and safety. Some families like to have exposed shelves on a patio to store just a few items at a time while other designate bins or lower areas of a shed for their little ones toys and materials.
Here are a few ideas to create a Montessori-inspired outdoor space from Zahra Kassam, CEO and founder of Monti Kids:
1. Create a garden
From planting herbs and flowers to complex vegetables and trees, gardening is a great way to help kids appreciate the greenery around them. A study found that a healing garden at a children's hospital in California had positive effects on users —about 85% reported feeling more relaxed, refreshed or better able to cope after spending only five minutes in the garden.
"Gardening is a wonderful lesson on the power of nature but also in patience and care, says Kassam. "Invest in child-sized watering cans and tools."
2. Create access to water
Children learn through exploration and experience, and water is the perfect tool to explore. Having a watering can and water table for scooping, pouring, dumping, spraying and staying cool is the goal for fun in the sun. "You can also encourage water exploration with a hose on a safe setting, or even a jug of water that is refilled by you," says Kassam.
But whatever type of water play you decide, remember to be safe. According to the AAP, parents need to ensure "close, constant, attentive supervision around water [and assign] an adult 'water watcher,' who should not be distracted by work, socializing, or chores."
3. Play in sand
A sand area with buckets, shovels and trucks are also great for entertainment and child-lead learning. "Put that interest in building and creativity to work," says Kassam. "Sand is a great outlet for sensory fun with a different medium."
4. Create a mud kitchen
Mud may sound like a mess you'll want to avoid, but it's great to create an "anything goes" space, says Kassam. "Put the water and sand together and it's a great foundation to build, mix, scoop, dump and pour," she says.
5. Encourage play with gross motor toys
Push toys, ride on cars, big trucks, rakes, wheelbarrows, balls and slides are perfect for developing gross motor skills. If you have the space, create "parking spots" with tape or chalk lines for each one, says Kassam.
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6. Have many yard tools
A child-sized broom for sweeping sand and debris, a rake for sticks, leaves and a shovel for digging, planting and worm hunting (and shoveling snow in the winter!) will be staples in your outdoor space for years to come, says Kassam.
7. Play with art
According to Kassam, you'll want to regularly keep large paint brushes and a container for water to paint the patio, fence or sidewalk on hand. It's also great to have a bucket of sidewalk chalk to help your little one to find an outlet for their creative side while enjoying the outdoors.
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