How I tried out Montessori – inspired summer activities and had a fun day with my little cousins
Summer is the season of freedom – the season in which we allow ourselves to kick back our shoes, walk barefoot on the beach, explore the surrounding nature and experiment in the blinding sun. Summer is the time for iced lemonades, grilled fish, corn on the cob and watermelon slices. It is the time for shared smiles and stories with our friends and family around the campfire looking at the falling stars.
Moreover, summer is the season of summer vacation for kids. Summer presents immense opportunities for parents to give their children the freedom to be themselves, be creative and look for answers to different questions on their own. The Montessori way enables parents to use the environment as a means of entertainment for children. I have come up with the following five summer Montessori activities, which aim to fill the environment with beauty, simplicity, cleanliness, and harmony. They are inspired by the time I have spent with my two little cousins over the past few weeks.
1. Clean up children’s closets to free up children’s attention.
Removing the clutter of toys and clothes in children’s closets allows kids to focus their attention on the remaining few objects. Children tend to thrive in a harmonic and clean environment. Chaos can easily throw them off and make it harder for them to concentrate and find enjoyment in playtime. Organizing children’s closets by category and designating the different shelves based on these categories gives children the opportunity to build a mental map of the place of belonging of each item.
If children get too bored with some toys, parents can keep these toys on upper shelves and reintroduce them in a few weeks when they can spark a renewed interest in children. Parents can also organize the children’s room by different areas – an area for art, for science, and for reading and writing. Another idea is to decorate the room with different shades of summer colors to welcome peace into children’s rooms and make kids feel as if they are physically in nature. The main message is to keep it simple, minimalistic, organized, and clean.
2. Prepare smoothies and popsicles with your children.
Children could take part in preparing foods with their parents to see what it means to build something from the ground up. Smoothies and popsicles are easy to prepare, healthy and delicious to eat. Parents can use seasonal fruits, and different milk and yogurt alternatives. My favorite recipe uses a mixture of two cups of berries (strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries), two cups of almond milk yogurt, and 1/4 cup of coconut sugar. To prepare this recipe, help children place the ingredients in a blender and blend until the mixture is silky smooth. This can be consumed either as a smoothie or a popsicle. If children desire a smoothie, pour the mixture into jar glasses and garnish with blueberries and mint sprigs. If they desire a popsicle, pour the mixture in popsicle cups and freeze overnight.
3. Teach children some gardening skills.
Connecting to the earth releases stress and gardening is the appropriate activity to achieve this. Gardening can teach children patience, love, and appreciation of beauty. It shows them that in order for the planted seed to grow into a beautiful flower, it needs sunlight, water, nurture, and love. Gardening could present itself as a learning opportunity for children to study the names of seeds, flowers, and plants. While planting, parents could explain to their children how flowers grow. Parents could additionally permit children to plant themselves since it is not difficult to seed some flowers – just look at the instructions on the package to determine this. Some beautiful flowers to plant together with children include daisies, sunflowers, and marigolds.
4. Use the beach as a Montessori classroom.
The beach offers so many various hands-on opportunities for learning and is so full of natural materials that it could be determined as a Montessori classroom. Children can walk around the beach, collect seashells and create beach art. Parents could help children create different shapes, such as hearts. They could also help children sort seashells by color and texture. Children could improve their handwriting and math skills while playing on the beach. They could draw shapes and lines, practice writing letters and numbers. Building sandcastles is another activity to show children what it takes to build something from the ground up. Children could also draw from observation allowing them to take in the surrounding environment with all of their senses. All of these activities come naturally to kids and could make them more inquisitive and curious about the world around them.
5.Have a picnic
We all have an innate sense of belonging in nature. Summer gives us the opportunity to be in our natural abode as much as we would like. Walking around local parks and marveling at nature’s greatness fill both the parents’ and the children’s minds with peace and gratitude. Parents could allow children to run around the fields, pick rocks, chase butterflies and fireflies, and play in the mud. This is the kids’ way of appreciating nature, being curious and exploring nature’s qualities. Parents could also take advantage of organizing a picnic to challenge children with picnic preparation.
Some delicious recipes for an open-air feast include chocolate hummus and fruit salad. Children could help parents put their own twist to these recipes and come up with creative combinations. The chocolate hummus recipe, which I have recently tried, is a delicious dip for apple slices, fresh strawberries and nuts. Parents can try different ingredient combinations in the preparation of the chocolate hummus to find the taste that suits children most. They can substitute chickpeas for northern beans, peanut butter for almond butter, cashew butter or tahini, and honey for maple or agave syrup. Parents could prepare a coconut milk sauce to enhance the taste of fruit and serve the salad in ice cream cones. Whatever recipes parents choose, children will always jump with excitement to help, even if they sometimes leave a mess after themselves.
If help and salvation are to come, they can only come from the children, for the children are the makers of men. – Maria Montessori
Over the past few weeks, I have realized that children know and understand a lot more than adults assume they do. My cousins’ laughter and their appreciation of little gestures have shown me that kids actually have more answers than adults do. Their love has warmed my heart and has given meaning to my being. Let us not forget that children are our salvation, their dreams point to a world we can all work together to create, and their smiles light the way to this new world. I believe that the two greatest gifts that any parent can give their child are wings to fly and a warm embrace when those wings are bruised.
About the author: Christina Lalova was born in Bulgaria and moved to the United States six years ago. She graduated from Drexel University with a bachelor’s degree majoring in Finance and Accounting. She is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Finance at the University of Connecticut. Her professional interests are in the areas of environmental finance, ethical investing, education and development economics. Her hobbies include cooking and tennis.