Summer-time is upon us in full bloom, and for most of us the daily routine of Jarrow Montessori School has dissolved. For most of us summer was a time of free-play; a time to explore and discover; a time to deepen our friendships and have long extended time outdoors, in our yards, at the park, or if we were lucky deeper into nature near a stream or a pond surrounded by trees, shrubs, rocks and sticks.
I recall the summer of my 5th year, living near a creek near Georgetown, Colorado. Every day after breakfast I would race to meet my friends and play in the nearby stand of trees near the creek. It was our ‘100 Acre Woods’ and we explored every inch of it with enthusiasm and delight. We made makeshift forts, collected shiny rocks for keeping and flat rocks for skipping, and we learned how to get along. There is something so important about having free unstructured time to play, especially outdoors in nature. In the article “the Values of Outdoor Play” by David Elkind, published in the September 2006 edition of Exchange, The Early Leaders Magazine (HERE), he notes that over the past 20+years, “children have lost 12 hours of free time a week, and 8 of those lost hours were once spend in unstructured play and outdoor activity.”
Now, coming from a Montessori tradition of ‘purposeful, meaningful work’ we may tend to de-value the free unstructured play of the playground, but in all honesty, the deep play that I am talking about is the same kind of purposeful and meaningful activity that in Montessori is called ‘work’.
Another hallmark tenant of Montessori is “follow the child'”, so from this perspective I encourage you all to plan and prepare outings to places nearby that will allow all of you to experience deep rest and play maybe more rest for you and play for the children!. I love to go to Eldorado Springs, up the canyon, near the creek at one of those picnic sites. Bring along the necessary food and materials to spread out and let go. Another favorite location is up behind Jamestown, along the St. Vrain. Here you can even consider an overnight camping trip. Really allow yourself to “follow your child” and allow them the space and time to explore. Two of the most important foundations of Montessori are Practical Life and Sensorial; what could be better for the development of the senses and one’s practical life skills than exploring and having deep adventures in nature.
In his article, David Elkind, also does a great job of identifying and describing the difference and similarities of ‘work’ and ‘play’ and goes further to highlight the importance of ‘love’ or ‘desire’ in this equation.
David says, “Play, love, and work are the innate drives that power human thought and action throughout the life cycle. Play is the drive to transform the world to meet our personal needs. Love is the drive to express our desires, feelings and emotions…and Work is the drive to adapt to the demands and expectations of the physical and social world….Although play and work are often thought to be in opposition to one another, they are most effective when they, along with love, are all operative.” In our Montessori classroom this is so true, each child chooses play the work they want to do love and engages deeply with it to develop knowledge and mastery work resulting in the most meaningful learning possible.
Summer-time is a time for both free-unstructured play, as well as a time to support your children’s growing interests, creativity and emerging intelligences. It is a great time to go deeper with their creativity and athletic interests like music, dance, visual art, athletic games, etc. While it is a great time for organized activities and specific learning camps, don’t forget how valuable it is for your children and you whenever you can schedule the time to just simply play and explore the natural world fully and with all your senses.