Warmer weather tends to lure young children outside. If we are following the child, we will naturally be spending more time walking in the woods, gardening or playing in the yard when the weather permits it. When we do this, it might feel like we are pressing pause on our child’s educational pursuits - but nothing could be farther from the truth. Nature has her syllabus ready!
When we leave our shelves and baskets behind, Montessori learning can still follow us. One fantastic principle that will help you get the most out of your time outside is the teachable moment.
The Teachable Moment is a powerful concept used by Early Childhood teachers. The main idea is that information and lessons are learned most easily when they are presented in response to a child’s curiosity. An important quality of the teachable moment is that it is, for the most part, unplanned. When we meet a child’s curiosity with patience and skill we are often astonished at what they can understand!
Finding a “teachable moment” is like finding a goldmine.
It can look something like this: You are planning to wash the car with your child, and they notice something stuck to the side of the bucket. They ask “What is this?” It looks a little like a cocoon, but you see that it is a chrysalis and that there is a butterfly, rather than a moth, waiting to emerge from it. Here are some ways to make the most of the teachable moment that has presented itself:
Investigate together: Pull out a magnifying glass and take a good look together. You might notice everything you can about it together and wonder together about it. If you know what it is, it can be powerful to hold off on naming it until you’ve really investigated it. If you don’t you might have to skip right to the research!
Give the information you have: After being in wonder together for a while, if you know what it is, tell them! This is a great time to add additional interesting information, such as talking about the life cycle of the butterfly. Try to avoid giving them a lecture, but instead give them enough information to ignite their curiosity further.
Follow your/their inspiration: A moment like this can inspire all kinds of projects and impromptu creations. You might take some time to pretend you are butterflies being born out of eggs, going through all the stages! Your child might want to photograph or draw the chrysalis. An older child might like to write a booklet about the stages of the butterfly. Or that moment of being in wonder may be all they needed.
Research: If your child now has lots of questions about butterflies, you might do some research and see what kind of butterfly might come out of that particular chrysalis. Rather than get sucked into research on your phone, make it interactive for them. Investigate books at the library about butterflies and moths, or to plan a visit to the nearest butterfly house. If you know someone who is a butterfly enthusiast, plan an “ask the expert” date with them and your child. Even better, set this bucket aside, and watch it every day!