30 October 2019 - 10:42am

Have you noticed the young child is drawn to the tiny ant, that the child’s attention is caught by the delicate new bud or shoot just starting to emerge? The child has a close connection to nature and in the 3 to 6 Montessori classroom this interest is further stimulated through the leaf cabinet. This is a cabinet containing different leaf shapes. Three sets of cards (one with a filled in leaf shape, one with a thick outline and one with a thin outline) are also used with the shapes from the cabinet.

The child experiences the different leaf shapes by tracing around the inset and then the frame with a stick. This allows the child to follow the outline of the leaf shape and also indirectly prepares the child for holding a pencil for later writing. Matching to the cards gradually leads the child to a more abstract representation of the shape.

The work with the cabinet begins around the age of four but as always the knowledge, skills and interests of the individual child are taken into account when deciding the appropriate time to introduce this material. The child’s interest and work in the area of botany is sparked with this material and encourages the child to do their own exploration and discovery.

The child extends this work by comparing and matching the leaf shapes with plants within the inside or outside environment. The leaf shape can be held next to the leaf on the plant or by collecting leaves that have fallen to the ground and bringing them back to the cabinet.

The interest of the child is also extended through access to resource books: information books, fact and fiction, stories, songs and poems. Language cards, labels, artwork, science experiments, discovering where plants come from, experiencing the life cycle of a plant from seed to harvest... We can see the child can take many different paths. We need to offer the world to our children and take time to see the natural world in a new fresh way through the eyes of our children. Stop to smell the flowers. Take time to marvel at the wonders of nature, the colours, shapes, smells, sounds and textures.