The Cottage Garden

 

 

 

 

...a unique garden where your children will blossom...


THE PLAYROOM I have artistically created a space, in two rooms of our house, in which young children can unfold their individualities — their gifts and uniqueness — and begin the long process of socialization.

The space created for the young child is very important, as I believe that the room is the curriculum. I have created a safe, aesthetically pleasing environment where everything has a place. When I planned the room I sat in it and thought about things such as how the children would get the dishes to the table, and, after washing them, what the easiest route would be back to the dish shelf. In the Playroom, I wanted to have little areas such as the house area, the block area and the barnyard area. Although anything and everything can be moved around during playtime, there is order and calmness created for the children when the room is set up with their play in mind.

The toys need to be reachable and easily put away by the children. The baskets of cloth, felted fruit, wooden eggs etc., always go back to the same basket on the same shelf. This enables the children to truly help in putting away the toys at clean-up time.

THE NATURE TABLE • A focal point of the room is the nature table. This is a shelf in the room where I bring something of the natural world inside — a reflection of what is happening in Mother Nature. 

In the autumn, Prince Autumn is personified as a felt puppet. He may come first in a story and bring his buckets of paint with which he colors the leaves. He then finds a place of honor on the nature table for the duration of the season. Then King Winter, Mrs. Thaw, Lady Spring and Mother Earth all come in their time with little creatures, stones, nuts, leaves and flowers to help the children learn about the natural world in a developmentally appropriate way.

Rhythm, repetition and reverence, along with imitation and imagination are some of the key words you will hear from me. I would like to explain a bit of what I mean by these words.

 

The Cottage Garden will nurture and protect the children’s healthy development by providing outdoor play and indoor playthings with a connection to the natural world. I believe there should be truth in the objects that surround them, a rock has qualities of heaviness and of coldness, but a plastic rock does not provide these living qualities — it provides an untruth.

Children need to find right relationships to the natural world. We need to protect them and preserve the integrity and the dignity of their moral unfolding in the real world. In The Cottage Garden they will have some soft toys and some wooden objects with different textures of smoothness and roughness. They will have wool, silk, and cotton to touch and to play with. Giving them things in their surroundings that are filled with life and love, such as handmade toys or grandma’s old scarf, is very meaningful for them. If I make a toy in front of the children it is guaranteed that they will play with it more. If they help to make something  — even by watching — or set the table, or help to cook the meal, they will be more interested and enthusiastic and will much more likely play with it or eat it!

Children need opportunities to develop both large and small motor skills. They need to have the space for rolling and climbing outdoors. Clapping and jumping games not only aid with language and pre-reading skills but also help them in developing the ability to sit still and listen. Indoors, a 3 yr old  “helps me sew” by pulling the needle for me.

We all try to find balance in our lives. As adults we do this through thinking and processing our thoughts. I believe the basis for this capacity lies in the physical realm of movement, of doing. In balancing on a rock or a log, in standing on one foot, children begin to find their outer balance. This accomplishment then moves inward, to an inner balance, which, over time, helps them in developing discernment and making judgments. 

Although we do teach the children, I believe that they are truly our teachers and help bring us, all of us, a little closer to the too long forgotten realms of nature, spirit and imagination.

Our philosophy and teaching are inspired by the work of Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Waldorf Education. For more information on Rudolf Steiner and his philosophy please see my Links page.

Celia Riahi - April 6th, 2008


The Cottage Garden • Celia Riahi • 135 Cottage Street • Amherst, MA 01002 • 413.348.6035celia@thecottagegarden.org