Discerning seasons, with their differences and peculiarities, helps children to recognise nature and its characteristics, as well as to understand they are part of a mutable system that continuously changes.
Children are particularly sensitive to the sequence of seasons. With their characteristics and their phenomena, (from the golden leaves of autumn to the fluffy snowflakes of winter, from the blooming flowers of spring to the roasting sunshine of summer) seasons are the perfect inspiration to elaborate with your children the concept of changes.
The subdivision of time in seasons, months and days is a difficult concept to understand, especially for young children, who have not yet grasped the idea of the elapsing time and the concepts of past, present and future.
Therefore, helping your children to note seasonal changes can help them to understand the pass of time and, later, to understand days, months and dates. As it often happens, play is the best way to present these notions, which can be experienced and elaborated in an easy and joyful manner even by small children.
The concept of time and its subdivision in seasons and months
The concept of time is abstract and, for this reason, it is difficult to understand by children, especially in the pre-scholar age. Smaller children hardly realise the passing of time and even less are able to measure it in the same ways adults do.
Time and its perception it such a captivating topic that it does not come to a surprise that many studied and talked about time: Piaget, Fraisse and Paola Reale, among the others.
As with many other things, also time and seasonality are concept that are better understood via direct experience and practical examples.
To introduce the subject of time to children there are different approaches and schools of thought. Montessori and Waldorf are the fastest growing educational systems in the world today and, for this reason, are going to be the main focus of this article.
In 1909, Maria Montessori spent an entire chapter of its first book “The Method of Scientific Pedagogy Applied to the Education of Children in the Children’s Houses” about the “Nature in education” (you can read it here: https://archive.org/details/montessorimethod00montuoft) since she believed that nature is an important element to integrate in her pedagogical vision of school.
Maria Montessori understood the importance of outdoor activities, in contact with nature and outside of traditional classrooms by observing the “kindergarten” (children gardens) of the German pedagogist Friedrich Fröbel, who gave to each child a small garden to cultivate and take care. Through this green space, children could observe the life cycle of plants, sow by the children themselves, and could understand the passing of time, the sequence of seasons, the effect of changes in the weather.
The second school of thought, Waldorf, is based on learning by the listen and observation of natural phenomena such as the sequence of seasons. A typical element of Waldorf pedagogy is the Waldorf season table.
Children do not keep the time with clocks and calendars as adults do. Thus, the Waldorf season table becomes a way to make the children to understand the passing of time, highlighting the characteristics that are typical of each period. The chestnuts of autumn, candle lights and snow in winter, colorful eggs during easter, etc. During an outdoor walk, children can collect items, small treasures, that enrich and renew their nature table and follow the changing seasons.
A tool that supports the education of Montessori and Waldorf children and is ideal for home learning is the perpetual calendar. A perpetual calendar helps children to see which events are coming up, to notice the purpose of each day, the weather condition and the moon phase. It is a great tool to teach the passing of time to a child. Children love to pick the right coin to hang on the right day. As they start to order the days of the month, they become more familiar with numbers too.
Observation is innate in children. Through observation, children learn, sort and classify the surrounding world. With the perpetual calendar, we can help them to get interested into time and season. We can draw on their observation skills, to ask them about the weather: “What is the weather today? Is it sunny? Does it rain?”
This simple activity, that fit also the youngest children, is propaedeutical to understand and learn about seasons. Every morning, after waking up, opening the curtains or raise the blinds and invite your children to discover the weather, pointing at the day on the table. It will help you start a collaborative discussion with your children on which clothes are better suited for the day. These conversations build week on week, constructing memories and conversations around time: “Do you remember wearing your Sandler’s and suncream in summer when it was warm?” Creating cyclical patterns of understanding for children to draw upon.
Afterwords: The passage of time at Christmas (by Dr Hellion)
From the first Sunday before December, we can start to introduce children to the notion of time through the festival period of advent. One of the longest festivals, advent is a space for contemplating and mindfulness that leads upto the new year. Traditionally advent was a time for fasting and slowing down, something that is quite different to our modern busy period on the run upto Christmas day. There are however traditions we can draw upon to mark the passage of time during this ‘slow’ festival and these not only help children, but provide focus for the family.
The first is a Seasonal table, which could be done on a fireplace, windowsill or table side. Drawing together elements that resonate with the season of Christmas. A second is the advent wreath which is traditionally hung on doors, but can provide the base for the four candles of advent which are lit each Sunday on the run upto the 25th. A third is the advent calendar, which we recognise in shop bought trays of little numbered chocolates. There are a variety of other ways of doing advent including those based on books, daily activities, small toys or even the advent sky. A simple cut star hung daily to make a magical sky.
If you would like to follow along and learn more about advent, we are posting each Sunday on the run upto Christmas an advent activity focused on the Waldorf weekly kingdoms. You can find out more here: www.instagram.com/helliontoys
About the author:
hi everyone! I’m Daniela. I’m mother of Sofia and Olivia. I’m an Italian qualified nursery teacher! I did a Montessori course one year ago in Italy. Since then I’m trying to apply the Montessori method in my daily routines. You can see this approach on my Instagram Account at: https://instagram.com/the_cattanis