A change of seasons brings a whole kaleidoscope of new emotions, feelings, colours, excitement and anticipation. Changes in nature create a unique atmosphere in classrooms and call for new adventures and learning opportunities. However, it also means that our bodies have to adjust as well. In autumn and winter there is less sun exposure, less time spent outdoors, the immune system is not as strong. All these factors bring on challenges of the cold and flu season. Challenge is especially real in places like schools and childcare centres, where children come in close contact with each other. Many parents try their best to keep children at home when they are unwell; however, runny noses and coughs are common in the classroom and impossible to avoid during these times. Children unknowingly spread germs when they touch furniture, materials and toys. I always believed that the best way to battle these difficulties is to be prepared. When energy levels are down, there are multiple ways to use Practical Life activities in the classroom and at home to help children and adults become more resilient and help fight anything that might try to bring them down.
I’ve thought of a few simple solutions that can be easily implemented in the Practical Life area to assist you during the cold and flu season.
First of all, it is essential to present to children relevant Grace and Courtesy lessons on how to:
- use tissues to wipe the nose and dispose of dirty ones properly
- wash hands
- cover mouth when coughing
Hand washing station. Since this method of washing hands in not relevant anymore, hand washing activity is not found in many Montessori classrooms. Nevertheless, it is a great way to emphasise the importance of keeping children’s hands clean. Additionally, this activity has a calming effect on children and encourages them to clean their hands and nails very thoroughly. Plus, old style pitcher and bowl look gorgeous in the classroom setting. If you are not sure where to find a set, I suggest visiting your local opp shop. On the side note, I would recommend placing nail brushes for cleaning nails on the bathroom sinks as well.
Educational Video Publishing shared a great video displaying hand washing activity in practice:
Furniture washing activity. Here is another example of how children can help you to keep your classroom free of germs. Keep in mind that all water activities with soap that are done indoors (in oppose to verandah or porch) have a potential to become very messy and floors become very slippery. So just be prepared.
Sarah Kate Paine shared an excellent video that shows in detail presentation of Montessori table washing activity:
There are bazillion examples of food preparation activity trays with healthy whole food choices that do a fantastic job keeping those little bodies strong and healthy. These are top fruit and vegetables that are rich in nutrients: berries, citrus fruits, kiwi, apples, red grapes, kale, onions, spinach, sweet potatoes and carrots.
Some examples of Practical Life activities that can assist in supporting healthy immunity:
- crushing garlic (obviously you need to warn children not to rub their eyes with garlic juice). Children may like to spread a tiny bit of the crushed garlic on bread and butter. Some children don’t mind a bit of spicy taste in their food.
- juicing mandarins ( I find oranges to be too big for little hands)
- pitting cherries or olives
- making butter
- adding honey to cereal or yoghurt using a honey dipper
- chopping apple, slicing banana, berries
- grating carrot, cucumber
- grating cinnamon to sprinkle on toast with honey (for example)
- scooping watermelon or melon
- making a snack with celery sticks, cream cheese and raises (ants on a log)
- preparing fruit or vegetable salad
- peeling and slicing a boiled egg
And here is your portion of cuteness – An Everyday Story shared their video of a toddler making healthy snack:
Tea pouring activity. Children love sharing a cuppa with their friend and have a small chat. I suggest setting up pouring activity where children can have a cup of tea and invite a friend to join. You will need to prepare tea in a teapot in advance making sure it is warm but not hot. Many herbal teas have wonderful properties and do not contain caffeine, for example, Chamomile Tea, Peppermint Tea, Rooibos Tea.
Caring for a plant. It is hard to imagine a Montessori classroom without plants and flowers. Having plants in the classroom for children to take care of brings many health benefits along with the benefit of teaching children to be gentle and caring towards living things. Having plants:
reduces carbon dioxide levels
reduces levels of certain pollutants, such as benzene and nitrogen dioxide
reduces airborne dust levels
keeps air temperatures down
The following plants are considered safe to have around children: Christmas Cactus, Coleus, Boston Fern, Spider Plant, Jade Plant, African Violets, Miniature rose, Wandering Jew. For more comprehensive list, refer here.
This is a beautiful example, shared by Montt Cott, of a child being deeply engaged in the activity:
Making gummy snacks. This activity is more suitable for the home environment, since preparing gummy snacks requires a fair amount of adult supervision and assistance, especially with young children. However, it is a pretty congenial solution if your children are defiant when it comes to taking vitamins and supplements. We’ve made gummy snacks at home following this recipe, and kids thoroughly enjoyed filling in different shapes of silicone moulds with the mixture.
Proper rest and meditation – aka Silence game – is a wonderful way to strengthen and calm body and mind.
And remember, hugs have amazing healing properties for all human beings 🙂 share them generously when you can!