Maria Montessori recognized that real practical life activities are more attractive to children than pretend activities. It’s more interesting to prepare and serve real food, to sweep and mop the floor, and to work with a purpose, than to play with pretend food or to play house. Gardening provides so many real life activities for children to enjoy. First we enjoyed mixing in the compost, using trowels and rakes and our hands. Then we dug holes for our plants and seeds. The gravel pit, where the children normally dig, was deserted when we had the opportunity to dig for a purpose in our garden boxes.
Now we return each day to ‘pouring games.’ Our watering materials include a hose, a deep basin, a pitcher, a funnel and a selection of watering cans of various sizes. After filling the basin with water, the children take turns filling the pitcher, sometimes using the funnel to then transfer the water into the watering cans and sometimes just pouring the water in directly. The big watering can filled with water takes a lot of effort for our three year olds to carry, but they love to use their strength and test their muscles! On a hot day, getting the chance to play in and around water is a joy. Getting a little bit wet helps us stay cool. And yes, just using the hose would be quicker and less effort, but that’s more the adult’s view of work than the child’s. Effort is what they enjoy!
We are growing cherry tomatoes, squash, radish, corn, ‘jack o’ lantern’ pumpkins, beans and strawberries. In the fall, we’ll plant bulbs, and then in the spring, we’ll be reminded of our planting when the flowers appear.
When my own children were young, every spring break they would choose plants for their own large planters. They mostly chose flowers. If I were to start over, I would have given each of them a large barrel planter and helped them to grow something they could eat. Strawberries and cherry tomatoes fresh from the garden, warmed by the sun, are unbeatable for taste!