Outdoor Montessori Setup
My kids love being outside, and I know that heading outside is a good way to cure a cranky mood or start the day off on a positive note. The outdoors can calm minds and bodies and also provides an opportune environment for Montessori-inspired play. Montessori principles reach beyond the classroom and can also apply to outdoor spaces at home. Maria Montessori, the genius behind the Montessori Method, believed in the importance of outdoor play. Time outdoors is an opportunity for kids to explore, imagine, and use their senses. Fortunately, there is no need to create an elaborate and expensive outdoor play setup for kids to get the benefits Dr. Montessori described. Here are six Montessori at home outdoor setup ideas that encourage quality play outdoors:
6 Montessori at Home Outdoor Setup Ideas
A home garden is an engaging Montessori at home outdoor setup idea. By providing soil, seeds, plants, a watering can, and age-appropriate gardening tools, parents give kids the opportunity to immerse themselves in nature. Scooping, shoveling, and planting seeds are great activities to practice fine motor skills.
Additionally, interacting with natural elements is a priority of Montessori education. Working soil and pulling weeds is a way to touch and feel natural elements. Cutting flowers or small branches and arranging them in a container is another enjoyable project for kids of many ages.
Montessori-inspired gardening with kids is an example of valuing the “process over product.” The expectation is not a beautiful, manicured garden. Instead, gardening is an opportunity to inspire practical life skills and an appreciation for the natural world.
One option for a Montessori at home outdoor setup is a sandbox or sandpit. Our current sandbox is one of the most utilized play spaces in our backyard. Sand is a natural element generally available at home and garden stores. There are many large sand pits available on the market, but a large storage bin can work as well. Filling an under-the-bed storage bin with playground sand is an easy way to get started with this type of play. Whichever container you choose, make sure to get a cover to keep the weather and critters from the sand.
Basic scoops, shovels, and containers leave ample room for creativity in play. These tools can also help kids practice pouring and measuring sand. With a few basic materials, kids can follow their imaginations. Sand can become fodder for a tea party, dinner party, sandcastle play scene, and more.
Sand is also a medium conducive to practicing letter and shape formation. Kids can return to the same type of play each time they go outside or create a different experience.
A wet pouring station is a versatile Montessori activity and makes for an inviting Montessori at home outdoor setup. This setup can be as simple as a basic pitcher filled with water and containers to pour into. Optionally, parents or caregivers can add fill lines so kids can practice precision pouring. Food coloring can also be added to the liquids for added fun and novelty.
A sponge also makes a valuable addition to this outdoor setup. Kids can watch the sponge soak up water and become familiar with its texture and function. Using water, children can play tea party, lemonade stand, or simply enjoy pouring. Learning how to pour is an enjoyable way to practice hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills.
When kids are all done playing with water, they can use the leftovers to water any plants or grass in your outdoor environment. Being outside makes this a low-stress activity, as spills are not usually a problem.
My kids love “cooking” outside and can often be found concocting leaf soups and mud cakes. An outdoor kitchen with basic utensils and containers provides many opportunities for open-ended play. There are outdoor wooden and steel mud kitchens available for purchase. If you’d like to try out a mud kitchen without a substantial financial investment, you can start by gathering essential kitchen tools like a spoon, spatula, bowl, and measuring cup on an outdoor table. Pots and pans, as well as plates, can also enhance play.
Once kids understand that their mud kitchen dedicated to play, their creativity can run wild. They can use child-safe materials like leaves, twigs, pebbles, and mulch to play. Alternatively, parents can provide beans, rice, or sand as play materials. Make sure to store food materials away when not in use to protect them from animals.
Interaction with natural materials activates kids’ senses. Furthermore, working with different materials helps kids discern various weights, shapes, and textures. Kids may love creating pretend outdoor picnics, dinners, restaurants, and more.
My kids love being helpful and imitating the roles and responsibilities of the adults around them. A cleaning station can make an easy, practical outdoor setup. With a rag or sponge, a bowl of water, and/or a spray bottle filled with water, kids can clean bikes, fences, tables, leaves, and many other items. Providing tools and toys made of natural materials, like a natural sea sponge or cotton cloth, is a play option founded in Montessori ideals. Obviously, kids need to stay away from cleaning anything electronic or otherwise damaged by water.
Learning real-world skills and taking care of one’s living space is an emphasis of Montessori education. Cleaning, wiping, and spraying help teach kids how to care for items and practice fine motor skills. Importantly, this activity is often enjoyable to kids, often to the astonishment of adults!
The importance of large body movements is fundamental to a Montessori education. Within reason, children can climb trees, balance on walls, kick balls, or ride a balance bike. Montessori by Mom’s book Movement and Motion is full of movement ideas for kids. Additionally, the Movement and Motion toolbox provides materials for movement activities.
To add movement opportunities to a Montessori at home outdoor setup, parents can also provide a balance beam, climbing ladder, or a tire swing. Larger play structures can provide a setting for playing pirate ship, castle, or home. These types of activities invite play and burn energy, a primary reason parents and caregivers take children outside!
Choosing One Montessori at Home Outdoor Setup Idea is an Easy Way to Get Started
There are many ways to enhance outdoor play with activities rooted in Montessori principles. Some fun Montessori at home outdoor setup ideas are a gardening area, sandpit, mud kitchen, wet pouring station, a cleaning station, and movement activities. If you’re unsure where to start in creating an outdoor setup, it may be helpful to choose one setup idea to start with.
Over time, parents can add and change the outdoor play experience in their home. Quality over quantity of play experiences is important in Montessori education. Additionally, there is no need to feel like all of these play systems are necessary.
Keep Outdoor Setups Tidy and Accessible to Kids
Keeping Montessori outdoor setups tidy and easily accessible to kids is important for facilitating quality, creative play. Often, simple, open-ended play setups are best. Kids benefit from being able to access the materials they need for play when they feel motivated to do so. Having fewer, orderly items to access prevents overwhelm and inspires creativity.
Kelly Marie is a former scientist and mother of three young kids. She enjoys writing about her experiences in parenting and regularly creates free printable resources for parents and teachers for her blog Hey Kelly Marie. She currently lives in Kentucky with her family.