This is the time of year that even the most uninspired gardener starts considering the benefits of digging in the soil and watching plants grow. But anyone romanticizing about gardening with young children has probably never tried it.
Rather, like most sensory experiences with three- and four-year-olds, gardening can be messy and chaotic. The seeds don’t land in neat rows. New seedlings are accidently stepped on. Plants are prematurely pulled up to check for progress.
“For most children gardening is just another form of play,” writes Catherine Koons-Hubbard, “There’s dirt, there’s water, there are fun tools like shovels and hoes; there are even sprinklers on hot days. But like all play, there is learning going on beneath the surface, just out of sight.” Continue reading for my favorite essay on gardening with children.
“Anyone working with young children knows that it’s messy work,” writes Kim Adams. “Children with developing bodies and developing minds explore their environment in ways we adults don’t always understand.
“Children will naturally exhibit curiosity, independence, and seek novelty. Their experiments will be messy in so many ways. There will be physical messes, social messes, emotional messes, and cognitive messes. Your schedule will get messed up, your lesson plans will get messed up and perhaps, like me, your notion of what it is to be a ‘teacher’ will get messed up too.
“However, we cannot afford to let our adult needs for order and control get in the way of the children’s need for creative, messy, meaningful, fun play.“Will you embrace the mess and join me in advocating for play?” Read more.
“Materials are the text of early childhood classrooms. They offer openings and pathways through which children may enter the world of knowledge.” Harriet Cuffaro
While the words used to describe them have changed over the years, the concept of using loose parts in early education is not new. Materials have long been used to support learning since the time of Froebel’s first Kindergarten.
So, do the terms you use to describe these materials matter? Is the display of loose parts set out on your table for your students an invitation or is it a provocation? Is there a difference? If the materials do not generate a response are they still a provocation, or are they a declined invitation?
Join Dr. Diane Kashin as she reflects on the relationship between provocations and invitations and their use in the early childhood classroom in her article: Coming to Terms with Terms
“Fantasy play is the glue that binds together all other pursuits, including the early teaching of reading and writing skills.” Vivian Gussin Paley
Fantasy play, or pretend play, is an integral part of childhood. While too often limited by the narrow confines of a dramatic play corner, pretend play can flourish outdoors if children are given the space and materials.
Fixed playground equipment like slides or swings encourage active play. What materials should you introduce to promote pretend play outdoors? Read the article.