Outdoor Classroom: Let's Go Work in the Children's Garden!


We harvested this huge yellow squash and then measured & weighed it!

I have found year after year, that children of all ages genuinely enjoy working in the garden. I believe that kids and dirt go together and I don't mean that in a negative way!

One of the great things about the garden for children is that it offers not only great joy and fun, but also great opportunities to sharpen up on cognitive skills.

You're going to start things with starting seeds and this is one of the all-time favorite activities in any early childhood environment. So, along with the irresistible appeal of the tiny seeds, the dirt, & the water, planting seeds offers children experience with one-to-one correspondence and even pre-reading if you provide them a step-by-step visual of the process.

You can also add a little writing activity when you provide plant labels for the child to write the name (or draw a picture) of the plant that will grow from the seed.

This garden label is for "Parsley"!

All photos taken by Carolyn at Magical Movement Company
Photo taken by Carolyn at the Fountainhead Montessori School Outdoor Classroom in Dublin, CA.

You can read more about my Montessori-style Plant Starting Activity for children at this link: Little kids & Planting the Spring Garden  

Something yet more enticing for children is actually creating the garden beds themselves! You can embellish this fun activity with the addition of stepping stones and these will provide a "control of error" for the children to prevent them stepping on delicate little seedlings. This wonderful activity is full of problem solving and group collaboration experiences. (important skills in all academic areas of development!)

Click here to read more about hauling stepping stones in this post: Time to Dig & Haul in the Children's Garden.

We all know how much young children love water activities and when it comes to the garden, water is a necessity! This becomes a Practical Life activity that has an important "real life" purpose. True to the essence of Montessori Practical Life principles, the step-by-step sequence of this activity provides the young child with important developmental scaffolding. Following a set procedure builds memory as well as concentration skills. In the case of watering the garden, there are many steps!

First the child puts on garden shoes and a water proof apron. I've found over the years that this preparatory step goes a long way towards making this activity successful for the child. It can help prevent the scene of an upset child whose clothes are soaking wet! 

For the garden that is laid out in raised beds, I think you just have to provide a watering hose (as opposed to watering cans) for the children to really care for the plants efficiently. However, watering cans are still important and can always be available for watering individual plants or plants in pots.

 Photo taken at Fountainhead Montessori School Outdoor Classroom, Dublin, CA

Watering with a hose is quite involved and a routine helps the child gain skills in planning, sequencing, and predicting. (More skills important to all academic areas of life!)

There's the unrolling of the hose, the carrying of it to the starting place, and then someone has to turn the water on! Here is collaboration and young children derive so much pleasure doing purposeful work together...they love to partner in caring for the environment. An environment that they have created and keep maintained themselves. 

Since water can be a source of accidents in an early childhood environment, it is absolutely required that all water-related activities are carried out with adult supervision at all times.

Photo taken in the Outdoor Classroom at Fountainhead Montessori Dublin Campus

A wonderful Language Arts activity for the Outdoor Classroom are these Picture Labeling Stakes. Children have fun taking these labels around the Outdoor Classroom and placing the picture label by the correct object!

To create an added challenge, you can have the name of the object written on the back of the picture label stake and the older children can read the "name side" first, then check the picture to find out if they read it correctly. 

I took photos of the actual objects in our environment, laminated them, then attached them to regular plant labels that I purchased at Home Depot. Here's the link: 8 in Plant Labels at Home Depot

I hope you have a little patch of dirt to grow a Children's Garden in your environment. Little children and the garden go together very well...naturally!

My blog is getting read by more and more folks these days. That's exciting to me! If you have a moment, please leave a comment below. I'd love to hear your thoughts!

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