Nature truly does give children the most wonderful toys. Each one is unique. Each one smells differently, feels differently; has a different texture, temperature and weight. Each one is a different colour and a myriad of colours within each piece. They move differently when you roll them or throw them and make different sounds when you hold them tightly in your hand, or no sound at all.
Both Reggio and Montessori understand children’s innate drive to investigate and discover. To want to feel things, real things, to see what they do and how they can be manipulated. When Jack was about a year old, I made him a small nature basket. Since then our house has become full of natural materials. Loose materials, just waiting for little people to come and explore, to imagine, to use as they wish.
Pinecones, rocks, sticks, leaves, shells, driftwood. Any treasure really that comes home with us from our walks. For Jack they have become instruments for imaginative play but for Sarah, they still provide endless sensory discovery. She mouths them, runs her fingers over them, rubs them across her cheeks, moves them from one basket to another, throws them, bangs them on the floor, drops them into empty containers…. endless discovery.
I really encourage you to bring natural materials into your home and have them readily accessible to your children. They are such a source of wonderment for children. Natural materials have such potential for scientific discovery, yes, but for so much more. Regular exposure allows children to have a relationship with nature; to feel connected with it. To help them to notice nature, see the trees, feel the rocks under their feet, hear the wind, notice the changing clouds, be apart of it. Not separated; we’re inside, that’s outside. Bring the outside in and make it a part of their everyday life.