We are outside in almost any weather. We enjoy the vibrant, crisp days of fall; the variety of snow in winter;
the rains and mud in the spring; and the warmth and water play of early summer.
The following reflects our COVID fall/spring rhythm. In the colder parts of winter,
we either begin indoors before heading outside; or come in earlier to share our meals indoors.
During COVID, the indoor/outdoor rhythm may remain more flexible as we constantly
re-evaluate the safety of indoor time, based on community caseloads and a variety of other criteria.
We do maintain HEPA air purifiers in the indoor program space (and open windows when feasible) for our inside time together.
8:30-8:45 Arrival. Children and adults are greeted and welcomed. Parents/guardians develop their own little “good morning” rhythm as they clean their child’s hands at the outdoor wash station and help their children gently settle into their day.
Outdoor Play. Children are invited to play in our beautiful outdoor classroom as we slowly transition into our day. The outdoor play garden, which abuts the Larch Hill conservation area, is dotted with our namesake Maple trees. The hillside provides ample space for climbing and running and rolling down.
Morning Snack. Children sit down with song and a candle to light our morning meal. In warmer weather we munch on raw fruits and/or veggies; as the weather begins to cool, our morning snack shifts to hot grains such as cinnamon apple oatmeal with maple syrup or millet peach cobbler porridge to warm our hands and bellies.
Outdoor Play. After snack, it's back to the important work of play again! The outdoor toys encourage creative and imaginative play. The nooks and crannies built into the flowering shrubs in the yard; a fully-stocked sand/mud kitchen for baking creative muddy treats; tools for digging and raking; a collection of carefully selected sticks for “fishing” and tree blocks for building; trucks for driving over mountainous terrain in the sand and mud; and a few carts for transporting treasured materials all provide endless fodder for the budding imagination.
On some days, we might engage in seasonal crafts such as dipping maple leaves in beeswax, scooping seeds from pumpkins, cutting dough into shapes for gingerbread cookies, making head wreaths from forsythia boughs, and more. These seasonal activities strengthen our connection with the natural world and help young children in forming a larger-scale sense of time by connecting them with the cycles of the seasons.
Tidy up. Every sand scoop, mud kitchen bowl, or tree block has a place in the outdoor play space. With song to aid the transition, the children soon learn that tidying is as joyful as any other part of the day.
Circle time. We sing our way to our circle as we gradually gather together on the grass. Our circle time incorporates a variety of seasonal songs and poems to further deepen the sense of connection with the seasons.
Walk in the Woods. The Maple Hill Play Garden borders the Larch Hill Conservation Lands. In the fall as the children are adjusting we venture through the Conservation to the nearby "Stick House" built in the woods by other children. As the year progresses and we find ourselves more deeply settling into our rhythm, we gradually expand our horizons to explore the neighboring fields and lanes of Old Friends Farm (where we sometimes run into Farmer Robert or Farmer Hans: riding on tractors, harvesting veggies, or fixing potholes) and the longer trails and boardwalks that the Larch Hill lands offer.
Washing up/Setting the table. Upon our return from the woods, we head over to the outdoor wash station. We then wash hands to a special song and set the table in preparation for our meal. The older children love helping the younger ones as we sing our way to lunch!
Lunch. Lunches are a variety of hot, organic, home-made hearty grains, legumes, and/or vegetable soups (though we occasionally make homemade whole wheat rolls together or a pumpkin muffin treat as well!). We tell stories and sing as we share our outdoor meal together.
Nap. After lunch, morning children are picked up and full-day children head inside. We remove our outdoor clothing, taking care to put each piece in its special place.
The children play as shades are slowly drawn, cozy resting spaces are arranged, and the aroma of lavender oil and soft light of the salt lamp set the mood for sleep. The children wind down with bellies full as we invite them into their special resting spaces. We then sing them quietly off into dreamland.
This past autumn, in the time of COVID, we enjoyed outdoor napping in the dry fall weather. The children loved snuggling down into their warm winter sleeping bags, cozy and warm, listening to the squirrels chirping and birds calling; and watching as the breezes in the trees and slowly falling leaves lulled them to sleep.
Afternoon free play. The rhythm of our afternoons is unhurried and dependent on the sleep needs of the particular group of children. Children generally sleep as long as needed. As the children slowly wake, we invite them over for snuggles (if they wish). They then may play quietly indoors or outdoors, depending on the waking time and time of year, until afternoon pickup.