I need to climb trees

During the last few weeks Poppy’s need to climb high has dominated every walk and every adventure outside. It may be because the playgrounds have been shut during the Lockdown. It may be because the family adventures have taken her to local woods during the recent hot weather. It may be because her sensitive period for movement (Montessori, 1949) has reached this particular stage.

Need to move

Montessori writes about the importance of movement in children’s development. She describes the innate urgency to move and develop a full range of skills which enable us to function effectively. This is only possible is the young child is given the space and time to move

“Watching a child makes it obvious that the development of his mind comes through her movements”

(Montessori, 1949:131)

To achieve this significant milestone in her development, she needed to practice, persevere, be brave and feel sufficiently safe to want to take the risk. She needed to trust herself.

So how did the adults support and facilitate this complex knowledge of herself?

“I have done it on my own – I am standing on the tree without help! I am being trusted to manage it”

The joy of achieving the first climb is continuing and we are actively looking for places where tree climbing with limited adult support may be possible for her, but it requires a journey away from home.  Poppy’s need for physical exercise is demonstrated daily and at home she has been practising head stands – initially on her low bed, lifting her legs against the wall  and then yesterday Poppy performed her first hand stand with the help of her trampoline.  All alone and without any adult help she managed it!  And repeated the exercise  at least twenty times – practising, persevering  and rejoicing in our admiration for her newly found skill. Her inspiration has come from one of the older children at the childminders who is very competent at head stands and cart wheels.  Poppy is inspired and wants to be like her. 

Admiration and inspiration prompts action

I saw this inspiration at the playground on the weekend when, Poppy was the youngest child in a group of 5 girls.  The older ones initially played with a doll and allowed Poppy to have a  go, but it is difficult for all of them to play with one doll.  Very quickly a couple of the older girls used the climbing frames for all sorts of acrobatics.  Poppy watched very carefully and as soon as they left she tried to copy what they did  and kept asking how to achieve what they managed, being hampered by her size.  Her legs could only reach the level of the two rings on which she was hanging – she will need to wait a little longer and grow to be able to do a somersault or swing upside down.  I wonder how long it will take?

And whilst we often recognise how much children learn from each other in the classroom we often forget that the same inspiration to learn can happen anywhere.  Once again I was reminded of the value of learning outdoors, of the enormous benefits to children’s emotional develop brought by outdoor achievements, which often necessitate risk and courage from the child.

I am so grateful for our daughter’s parenting.  From very young age, every time Poppy did something risky she would say to  her “Does your body feel safe?”  And now Poppy tells us:  “It is not safe – I need help”  and I trust her risk assessment skills and know she will ask for help when needed.

I rejoice in Poppy’s courage and applaud her bravery!

Montessori M. (1988[1949]) The Absorbent Mind Oxford: Clio Press

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