Maria Montessori believed that children needed to spend time in the outdoor world, “to understand and appreciate the order, harmony, and beauty in nature.”
When they play outdoors, children can experience embodied learning and use their senses to feel, smell, and listen to a different set of inputs than what they experience in their own playroom.
Some of the same principles will help parents prepare an outdoor learning space that invites a child to experiment and self-correct.
Indoors, we provide children with a low shelf and a curated selection of toys with which they can work independently. Outdoors, we do the same.
The “mud kitchen” is a popular prepared environment among Monti Kids families who want to invite their children to literally get their hands dirty.
Mud Kitchens for a Montessori Outdoor Space
Pallets and crates, rubber tubs, bowls, and pitchers are the types of items that can be turned into an activity center for pouring, mixing, and sorting water, rocks, dirt, and leaves.
Scooping and pouring help build fine motor skills. These actions can be practiced with spoons, shovels, pitchers, and tubs. Children will experience different weights and sensations when they work with water versus sand or found objects like sticks.
Spending time in an outdoor “mud kitchen” can be similar to a sensory table. Try adding different materials, such as bubble solution or plastic animals for washing in the sink.
Remember that toddlers love to exert maximum effort. If you find that you are doing a task that they might enjoy, such as filling a bucket of water to bring to the play area, invite them to help. They won’t mind if they have to make several trips with a heavy bucket!