Open-ended play empowers the child. Natural Materials empower the play.

At The Mulberry Tree, we use natural materials like wood, cloth, paper, wax, clay, paint, and wire. Instead of plastic toys and gimmick toys, we choose materials that lend themselves to discovery and wonder.

Nature frames our day. Children harvest vegetables and fruits from the garden. Nature inspires our science and art projects. Plants and plant parts are frequent elements of projects (for example, grapevine wreaths). We have lots of opportunity to play in the dirt! Experts such as Jack Gilbert, Faculty Director of the Microbiome Center at the University of Chicago and author of “Dirt is Good”, note an abundance of research that indicates that early exposure to garden soil can benefit a child’s immune system for his entire life.

Healthy food choices are fundamental to our relationship with nature. Children grow, harvest, and prepare wholesome, organic foods throughout the year. They participate in conservation including hot composting and vermiculture. Teachers model healthy food choices. Our snacks are organic, unprocessed, and sugar-free.

The play yard is available throughout the day and can be seen from most interior spaces. It offers:

• a vegetable garden
• compost bins
• a vermiculture (worm) bin
• space for gross motor play
• supplies for imaginative play
• a dirt table
• a mud kitchen
• blocks for outdoor constructive play
• a water/sensory table 

Materials support a child’s active learning. Play with unit blocks reveals mathematical concepts long before the child is ready for formal math instruction. Use of oil pastels with watercolors reveal chemical interactions your child can see and understand. Musical instruments are high quality and pitch accurate to preserve a child’s natural musical aptitude. Crayons and chalk, as opposed to markers, develop hand strength during art activities.


We believe that what you won’t find in the school is as important as what you do find. 

At The Mulberry Tree, you will not find:

• Technology – we use natural materials to optimize early childhood learning 
• Gimmick toys – we believe in ‘elemental’ and homemade toys
• Pesticide-laden foods – We believe wholesome, organic foods are the best for developing bodies
• Intrusive teaching – we cultivate self-direction in the child.



Elemental toys/supplies such as blocks, puppets, magnifying glasses, and crayons give a child full ownership of the play. As the child explores the potential of the material, knowledge and creativity increase. Engagement increases in tandem. 

Gimmick toys, especially toys with electric sounds, flashing lights, or artificial scents, give children practice as consumers rather than creators. A child who experiences a gimmick toy over time becomes inured to the stimulation and requires new, more stimulating toys to stay engaged.

Looking to nature as the source of love, joy, and wonder

Quality materials support child-directed learning. They help a child learn without the distraction of artificial stimulation. Loving care completes the setting, allowing the child to flourish as the person she was born to be.