By Annika Voynow, Assistant Head of Inly School
The sensory appeal of each new season seems designed for toddlers—with new smells, colors, and sounds. In the autumn, the feel of crunchy leaves, the taste of a crisp apple, and the color, roundness, and weight of a perfect pumpkin. And then, in the winter, comes the snow and Inly Toddler teachers help the students get right into it—piling snow on the playground, making that first snowman, examining an icicle.
Inside, the toddlers can continue to experience winter in a tactile and tangible way. There are snowflake projects on the art table, snowmen to build out of felt, and a water table with snow and ice to touch, sculpt, and explore. Toddlers love to play with snow and ice and in Toddler House, this is part of an array of hands-on experiences. They scoop the snow and sink their small hands into the cold slush. They observe the color, the smell, the chill of the ice on their fingers. They watch as snow turns to slush and then to water. What’s the same? What’s different? Where did the snow go? In the same way that they run their fingers along the sand paper letter forms to learn their shapes, they touch and squish the snow to learn the feel, smell, and shape of winter. Side by side, they practice helping their friends and waiting for a turn to sink a small hand in the cold snow. They learn new words and experience the discoveries of young scientists.
The smallest of our School community are in a period that Dr. Montessori referred to as the “unconscious absorbent mind.” They absorb new ideas and information amazingly quickly and seemingly with little effort. They are driven to explore and touch everything that is new. As parents and teachers, we present them with many new things to handle so they can teach themselves.
The time of the unconscious absorbent mind is fleeting and special, and at Inly we celebrate it with Toddler House—an environment build for our smallest students, with furniture, books, and materials that allow them to explore independence and build relationships with their peers, while experiencing the world around them. The moments to explore and take in new words, ideas, and experiences are all around us everyday. In the Toddler House at Inly, each new season’s beauty and lessons are not to be missed.