Let’s talk about the importance of natural materials in the learning experience. Taking a walk outside with your child can be a beautiful adventure. Our environment is full of many resources and possibilities that are available to us all. The only thing it requires is looking, listening, and tapping into our creativity. Slowing down to look around and listen will allow us to truly tune in. Following the child’s lead can help us free our mind and open our hearts. The child’s perspective of the world will continuously offer a new and refreshing point of view. They will notice and see things we can’t and ask questions we would’ve never thought of. The fluidity in a child’s mind allows them to experience the moment in the most honest of ways.
In the image above you can see our Nature Table. You will notice a few different types of natural materials we collected on our many walks/adventures outside. Nature offers a variety of textures, sizes, colors, and shapes. All of which are opportunities for connection and learning. Collecting some of each and bringing it home will make those seeds, flowers, leaves, or sticks into your learning and teaching resources. There are endless possibilities to what you are able to do with these materials which is what makes them so special and unique. The more natural the material is, the less limiting it would be for the learning experience. When a material isn’t made with one goal in mind, it is more intriguing and more open to creativity. It allows us to experiment and go through the process of trial and error without judgement. As we are learning what works and what doesn’t work with the material, we are creating a new relationship with it. We are learning how to negotiate with it. When working with others using those same materials, the connections and relationships become more and more meaningful. Any human being thrives in that type of environment, adult or child.
One example we can see in the images below is how those materials are being used with children to recognize patterns. The way to share this piece of knowledge is by setting up a table with 2-4 different material options. You then start a simple pattern of 1,2,1,2,1,2 and place it on the table. Depending on the age of the child, you can either let them approach the table when they are truly interested and allow them to think about what they are seeing. Or you can introduce the idea of patterns to them before and then show them to the patterns table. Taking it a step further into deepening the connection and relationship with the material would be asking them to draw the pattern they have just created. They will choose the color palette they see in the materials and then start. Doing this exposes them to new math skills, strengthen their fine motor skills, and allow them to see their creation in a new way. It teaches planning and flexibility while allowing the child to have total control in their experience.
Another wonderful use of natural materials can be seen in the images below:
This 2-3 year old is painting with water on differently shaped rocks and shells. Once again, the idea of painting with water allows so many learning opportunities. She is refining her fine motor skills, she is creating different designs on the rocks over and over again. Every time the water marks disappear, she is given a new slate to continue her experimenting process. She is learning about the possibilities that are offered by making marks. The creative door this opens in anyone’s mind is very exciting. With such simple yet rich materials, we are providing a meaningful and intentional learning experience.
I invite you to go bring your outside in today! Enjoy!
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