Archive of ‘Child Development’ category

Playful, Natural, Nourishing

I originally typed this letter up to share with the families in my play school, but thought that I would post my reflections here as well.

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Since you are entrusting me with a piece of your week and your child’s development, I wanted to take a moment to share my heart with you.

My husband and I have talked at length about what we want to do to help our children learn and grow. We keep coming back to the same three words. 

Playful. 

Natural.

Nourishing. 

Playful. Children learn through play. It’s their most important work. We intend to allow our children time to play throughout their childhood. 

Natural. We feel that we are grounded by nature and seasons. Fresh air is good for the soul. Following a child’s natural strengths is one of the greatest gifts we can offer. 

Nourishing. Our bodies, souls and minds need consistent and constant nourishing. Our food is eaten with intention around our family table. We believe that literature and family stories should mindfully fill our days. 

As a mom, my heart is telling me to lean into the movement of embracing the simplicity of childhood. To us, this means that we are very intentional about what enters our home, including toys and learning resources. We minimize screen time and try to fill our media intake with people that inspire and encourage us. We say no to opportunities and experiences daily in order to keep simplicity in our lives. 

This all being said, we do believe in intentionally teaching children. Our daughter’s gift is language. She devours books, is an adventurous talker and is curious about how letters and words work. It’s just her gift. And, as I mentioned, following our childrens’ lead on their natural gifts is one of our home pillars. 

But want to hear the truth? I haven’t fully embraced the letter component part of this gift to the capacity that I could yet. I love researching and find learning about learning methodology fascinating. We tend to lean towards Charlotte Mason and Waldorf style with a strong dose of child led learning. Charlotte Mason and Rudolf Steiner felt very strongly about not starting academics and formal learning until the child is at least six. Their reasoning is strong and in general, I think there are many years for teaching more formally as the child’s brain develops and matures. I’ve mulled over this, pondered how these thoughts mix with my formal teacher training, pushed myself to think about my own childhood education and came up with this word. 

Trust. 

I am choosing to trust my instincts. While I don’t plan to do any formal schooling for a few more years, we do intend to plan out or days a bit in the fall. We will be using The Peaceful Preschool as a very loose guide to our days. I am so thankful for the community that this curriculum has created as well as the Wild+Free community for their guidance. I will gently introduce the letters of the alphabet, week by week, with weeks crossed out for review and child led interests. We will be picking and choosing what activities we do from this beautiful curriculum, saving the more advanced and formal lessons for the next couple years. 

I also trusted my instincts on something else that begins in the fall. I have started Roots+Wings Playschool, a cooperative learning group that is designed for toddler and preschool families. It is organized like a mom and me call and is centered around literacy and sensory rich experiences. My intention is to homeschool our children, but this once a week, plus weekly field trip, is a great balance to this style of educating. It gives us a chance to learn alongside other families and connects us to new experiences. 

Not to mention it’s playful, natural and nourishing. 

Wherever you are on this parenting journey, I encourage you to trust yourself.  Be your child’s roots and wings and lean into the beautiful community of people around you. And since your reading this, please know that I am beyond grateful to have you in my community. Truly, thank you. 

Fall Rhythm

If you have been following me for awhile, you know that I am all about rhythm. I am also all about summer, which always throws off rhythm because of all the extras that we do. So as much as I am an “endless summer type of person, I am also eager to fall into our fall flow this month.

A few little tidbits about our fall rhythm:

  • A friend and I run a Mom and Me style co-op, Roots+Wings Playschool 2 days a week
  • I will work 1 half day a week from home and an hour or so here and there
  • We will be loosely following The Peaceful Preschool which I describe more here.

~7:00 Morning Rhythm

Lyd and I often get a little outdoor time with the dogs before breakfast, even if it is just for ten minutes

Breakfast- We eat a variation of eggs for breakfast everyday.

We read books and do a very gentle morning time during breakfast if my husband isn’t home or decides to start working early.

I make our daily smoothie while I make breakfast so that it is ready to go whenever people want to drink it.

Habits- wash hands, brush teeth

Free play outside

~9:30 Morning Adventure

This is the time in our day that is a bit more structured. 

Mondays- Library Outing (and sometime the park, hike and coffee shop)

Tuesdays- “Mom Mom” time. Lydia spends time with my mom while I work.

Wednesdays- Roots+Wings Playschool

Thursdays- Home Day or Nature Outing

Fridays- Playdate or Roots+Wings Field Trip

~ 12:00 Lunch, Nap

After our outing, we come back for lunch. Lunchtime is when we chat and read our library books. Then, its right to nap time.

~ 2:30 Afternoon Rhythm

We very rarely leave the house after nap time. I hold this time close to my heart. We free play,  usually outside, often with some invitations to play based on our theme. This is when we will be doing most of the Peaceful Preschool activities.  We also do most of our chores during this time. Some Wednesdays we plan to do a cousin playdate.

~4:30 Food Prep, Relax Time, Dinner

By this time, Lyd has had a full two or so hours of play. I prep dinner, often with a sous chef. If she is exhausted and I am not able to sit and read with her at this time, I allow her to watch something on my computer while I prep dinner. (Her first 18 months we allowed very very little media time. She now watches about 2.5 hours a week, usually 2-3 times a week for about 30 minutes.)

Dinner. One of my favorite times a day. We chat, we eat, we have a glass of wine. We laugh at the fact that we thought we would finish the glass of wine without chasing our daughter around the house…

~6:00 Family Play, Bedtime Routine

After dinner, we tag team cleaning up. Then, weather permitting, head outside. We try to get the extra wiggles out at this time and often end with swinging. Then its bath, books, and bed.

 

Happy 2nd Birthday, Lydia Grace

“A love of Nature, implanted so early that it will seem to them hereafter to have been born in them, will enrich their lives with pure interests, absorbing pursuits, health, and good humour” — Charlotte Mason, Volume 1

On the week of your second birthday, I was brought to tears as you splashed around the lake. You see, you have taught me to cherish these little moments.

 

The delight that you find with each splash, the fascination of the leaves floating away, the gritty sensation of the mud sand in your hands and the pure satisfaction of a cold slice of watermelon on a summer day….

You get life.

You get that the simple pleasures of spending time with family in nature is what it is all about.

So I pray that you will always remember these little adventures, if not the actual memories, than the feeling of comfort and happiness that being out in the sunshine made you feel.

And I pray that if you ever get lost in life, remember that nature is your home. I am your home. And we both are here for you.

Happy second birthday, sweet Lydia Grace.


Observing Play in Nature

In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt. -Margaret Atwood

Observing children is beautiful.

When people ask, “What are you passionate about?” My honest answer would be, “Watching children play.”  However, there is a slightly creepy connotation to wording a passion that way stops me and I often spit out some more socially excepted verbiage like, “spending time in nature, play-based learning or even something broad like mindful parenting”. Ok, nobody really even asks what people’s passions are .. but they should!

But truly, observing play is such an incredible thing. It is like watching a series of mini miracles happen before your eyes.

Each movement leads to more development. Each word used connects to a bigger picture of the world. Each experience of free-play forms a unique little human.

Free-play in nature, in particular, sparks immense joy in children. And as parent, the opportunity to understand who your child is as a person during these moments outside is incredible. If children experience nature on a daily basis as a young child, they are in peace when they are outside. I have found as an educator, of children with behavioral and social needs, and as a parent that time outside releases something in them and you can see the true spirit of who they are.

One of my favorite lines in a book, Buddhism for Mothers of Young Children, is, “Who is my child in this moment?” This question is something that I try to ask myself multiple times a day. The practice of reflection and honoring their growth and true self has helped me connect and learn my daughter’s personality.

Charlotte Mason, a mindful educator of the 19th century, spoke beautifully about observing children. In her book, The Outdoor Life of Children, she said,  “This is all play to the children, but the mother is doing invaluable work; she is training their power of observation and expression, increasing their vocabulary and their range of ideas by giving them the name and the uses of an object at the right moment-” Her perspective is that it is the parent, or the educator, needs to be there for the children to observe their learning. They need to allow time for free-play but also be near for reflection and discussion. The balance that she creates is wonderful and requires such a conciois effort. This balance is also discussed in Simplicity Parenting by Kim Payne. The line, “When we talk over and under and around a child- when we talk too much- there’s less space for their thoughts, for what they have to say” really stands out to me. Allowing the child to be deeply engrossed in play is a mindful practice. When do you speak and explain? When do you observe silently? When do you document? And when do you simply watch? These are questions only you can answer and reasonably change given the child and the situation.

But what do you observe? Everything.

How do their hands grasp the shovel?  

How they move around the root that they fell over yesterday? 

What new words are they saying when they sing a song to themselves?

What new skills are they learning when you introduce water to their bucket?

Do their eyes sparkle when they see a butterfly floating by?

Do they search the same area of the yard for the ant they saw last week?

When do they check in with you? When do they desire physical contact? When is eye-contact reassuring enough? 

When do they realize they have walked to another area of the woods and you are out of sight? 

Take a week to be mindful of your observations. You may even want to use a notebook to write them down after you walk back inside or when your child is engrossed in play. Notice the changes. Notice the patterns. And notice the incredible gift of playing in nature that you have given them. Remember that this is a practice and something to work on daily. You will notice that as you observe, you will become better at seeing small changes in your child’s development.

I would love to hear your observations if you are willing to share. Feel free to email me, Natasha@playfulbydesign.com, comment or message me on Instagram.

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