Archive of ‘Child Development’ category

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.

Prescription: Nature

“Let them once get in touch with nature and a habit is formed which will be a source of delight and habit through life.”

— Charlotte Mason

Prior to staying home with our daughter, I owned a company that worked with children with disabilities. Many of these students struggled with attention needs. Some of these attention needs were neurological and often the children were diagnosed with attention deficit disorder or a similar diagnosis. Other times the attention needs were simply a matter of explicit teaching of executive functioning skills, the child’s diet and supplement routine and… their time outside.

I will always remember the day when a beautifully polished mom of three elementary aged children stopped me as I hopping in my car after a long day of academic coaching. I was on the way to a meeting with a psychologist to discuss one of our shared clients whom was recently diagnosed with autism. My stomach was growling and my mind was running. But this mom had a certain level of concern in her voice and said something that stopped me in my tracks.
“Another mom told me that you prescribed their child to outdoor time for their ADHD child. Is that true?”
I remember throwing my heavy bag packed with books, my computer and play-based games in my car, taking a deep breath and taking a big sigh of relief. This is something worth discussing.
“Yes, I may be guilty of that,” I said half laughing, half hoping this conversation was going to be a humorous as I thought it was in my mind.
She readjusted her pearl necklace, nervously shuffled through the gravel parking lot with her heels and said, “Well I just had lunch with her and, I can’t believe I’m saying this, but… it is working”
“You sound surprised?”
“Well, let me just tell you that we have taken our child to three different psychologists, had him in tutoring for two years and we are still not seeing any changes. She told me to ask you to prescribe outdoor time to us too.”
At this point I couldn’t help but laugh. “Prescribe outdoor time” This is not a phrase that I had ever used but I loved it.
“Sure! Let’s meet for some coffee next week and I will write you up a prescription.”
And I did. I wrote up a behavior modification plan surrounded around executive functioning skills, with the main solution being more free time in nature. 
No special educational therapy. No additional tutoring hours, even though I owned a thriving mobile tutoring company. I actually told her to reduce some tutoring hours instead.
I helped her look at their family schedule to find big chunks of time that could be free-play time outside. I looked at their rhythm and helped her think through how they could simplify so time in the backyard was part of their daily flow rather than a luxury on weekends.
 I encouraged time to soak in some vitamin D, feel the earth under them and just be in nature.

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