Archive of ‘Child Development’ category

Focus on Play

November is a month of thanks and reflection. It is a time to cherish the beautiful simplicity of childhood play. Everyday, I feel thankful to have the honor of being a parent and watching my little one grow and learn. Please join me this month for a photo challenge where we Focus on Play.  I will be featuring some parents that inspire me. To be featured on Instagram, simply use the hashtag #focusonplay and tag me, @Natashabgrogan on Instagram.screen-shot-2016-11-01-at-1-06-35-pm

 Feel free to share with family and friends! I am looking forward to learning and growing with you all as a Facilitator of Play!

The Naturalist

As a child I collected bird’s nests. No, not figurines or coins but bird’s nests that I found while exploring the yard. My mom helped me ensure that I wasn’t bringing in lots of bugs and unneeded germs into the house, but I love that she let me run with my collection. I had an entire bookshelf full of them and could tell people where I found the nests and what birds probably built the nests.

My belief on multiple intelligences is that we are all a blend of these different areas of talent, but people generally have one or two that out-power the others. If you haven’t already, hop back to my post about creativity and intelligences. My intelligence is mostly naturalistic. According to Howard Gardner, ” The core of a naturalist intelligence is the human ability to recognize plants, animals and other parts of the natural environment, like clouds or rocks.”

Richard Louv has done an enormous about of research on the benefits of nature in both children and adults. His book, Last Child in the Woods pulls together some fascinating research on the benefits of nature. He speaks  about a professor at the University of Wisconson that has compiled a list of characteristics of children with a naturalistic intelligence:

  1. Have keen sensory skills, including sight, sounds, smell, taste and touch.
  2. Readily use heightened sensory skills to notice and categorize things from the natural world.
  3. Like to be outside, or outside activities like gardening, nature walks or field trips geared toward observing nature or natural phenomena.
  4. Easily notice patterns from their surroundings- likes, differences, similarities, anomalies.
  5. Are interested in and care about animals or plants.
  6. Notice things in the environment others often miss.
  7. Create, keep, or have collections, scrapbooks, logs or journals about natural objects- these may include written observations, drawings, pictures and photographs.
  8. Are very interested, from an early age, in television shows, videos, books or objects from or about nature, science or animals.
  9. Show heightened awareness of and concern for the environment for endangered species.
  10. Easily learn characteristics, names, categorization, and data about objects or species found in the natural world.



When considering the types of schooling and learning culture you want to set up for your child, I encourage you to look into philosophies that allow children to explore and observe nature. A learning philosophies inspired by Rudolf Steiner, Waldorf, is very nature-infused. The belief is that children learn through spending time outside and with natural objects. Their science curriculums are often very nature infused but the outside world finds a way to seep into all subject areas of this type of education. Charlotte Mason also has a great deal of nature infusion. The philosophy is built on forming habits, but believes that children learn through interacting first hand with nature.




IMG_5259I am often asked what philosophy I am drawn to and the honest answer is that I am a mix of many. I believe that each child is unique and it is my job as a parent to follow their gifts and strengths. For Lydia, I am seeing the naturalist and linguistically intelligence, but my next child may indeed like spending time outside, but may be more musically or logistically  talented. If this is the case, I want to be flexible enough to adapt the exposure and teaching methods to this style of learning. But our home life in general mirrors Waldorf and Charlotte Mason more so that any of the other learning philosophies.


The Intelligence of Creativity

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.’

— Pablo Picasso

IMG_1656My experience as a special education teacher, and through my childhood as a student, has cemented by belief that there are so many ways to be intelligent. Some people excel at math, some excel at understanding turned within literature. Some excel with empathy and intra-personal skills. Some excel at drawing and photography. Some excel at athletics.

Most have multiple forms of intelligence, which can be fostered if given the opportunity. If you are interested in reading more about multiple intelligences, research Howard Gardner.  He breaks these intelligence down into eight categories:








Creativity is a form of intelligence that can be seen through many different talents.

I believe that everyone is creative. I believe that if we foster this creativity and allow ourselves to give into this creativity, we feel a sense of grounding as a human. I also believe there are multiple creative outlets.

IMG_0175My husband is a creative problem solver. He takes in logistical mind and can tap into creative ways to strategies within a company. He is also has great spacial awareness.  He can visualize a map and navigation well. (I’m the type that needs to flip my phone around as I go in order to understand a map! Thank goodness I’m not in charge of navigating big family road trips!)

My dad is very bodily-kinstetically creative and intelligent. He was a tennis coach for many years and was able to teach players how to see their bodies in perspective with the world around them. He is also able to conceptualize a home project and bring it to life with his hands. He has a logical mind as well and can take an idea from start to finish in direct steps.

My mom has an amazing naturalistic intelligence. She creates gorgeous gardens and flower pieces. She can also decipher what makes a landscape beautiful or express how nature can ease your mind. She uses this creative talent in the kitchen as well- taking plants and meats and transforming them into delicious meals to enjoy as a family.

As parents, one of the greatest gifts we can give our children is to help them understand and believe in their creative intelligence. 

I have tried to expose Lydia to life experiences that help nourish these intelligences. While I mostly focus on the natural world, we began finger painting when she was very young. She loves the sensory experience of painting. It always starts off calm, her gracefully sticking her finger in the paint. Within a minute, it turns into a full on sensory experience of mushing, splattering, squishing, crinkling, giggling and me preventing her from eating her art.


Painting with their feet is a wonderful way to add sensory input into their day. You can sing “jumping songs”, help them walk across their arts and who doesn’t love little baby foot print art?


Tummy time art was one of our favorites. Sometimes I just played her on a blanket or threw a towel over a Boppy pillow. My personal favorite was my husband’s idea of putting her on our corn hole board to prop her up. As you can see, she thought this idea was pretty awesome.


As she is getting older, I can see her artwork change. Yes, it still looks like a jumbled mess of colors, but it you look closely, you can see the movement of her hands differing from her original masterpieces. 


We are blessed with friends that love to get dirty too! One of my favorite things to do is to host painting play dates. Also, if you are a naturally inclined mama, check out Alexandra’s Instagram feed for some inspiration. ( Also, stay tuned for my new recipes for natural paint.  I use all different paints- homemade and some awesome natural ones that you can buy. I’m now trying to stay clear of the regular store bought paint do to the toxins. )


Above all else, I challenge you to allow yourself the freedom to create. Allow your children to be creative, even if it means spending the ten extra minutes to clean up the mess. 


Learning Philosophies


As a parent and educator, I am often asked what my plan is for schooling for my little girl. It is always a perplexing question for me because the term “school” has become an interesting term in my mind. I believe in learning, but I like to look at it as an all the time event, not as a decision to make at a particular age. But the answer people are looking for is what type of school I will be sending Lydia to. As of now, the answer to that is that I don’t plan to send Lydia to formal school anytime soon. I plan to expose her to learning experiences throughout the week through museums, library time, play groups, nature walk, traveling and at-home exploring. I plan to allow her to play and learn through make-believe and building.


I plan to let her run wild outside and see what her body can do. I plan to have her come home and reflect through journaling and narration. I plan to take her to museums and look at art, then come home and create her own masterpieces. I plan to have her go to story time at the library, then come home with a pile of books to read. I plan to take her on trips to learn a world not in our backyard, then come home to reflect on this new adventure.

IMG_5240But formal school? I am still up in the air on this. I want to learn about her learning style ad see the flow of our family. I want to see what is available at the time. I want to be flexible with our decision. The short answer is, I plan to homeschool. The long answer is probably something you don’t have time for. I have beautiful big plans for our family, just like all parents do.  My suggestion for all parents when they go to look into schooling and home learning is to learn all of the different philosophies of learning and see what fits with their family philosophy.


As of now, we are a bit eclectic. I pull for Waldorf and Charlotte Mason mostly. I am learning more about Reggio and find it very inspiring as well.

I complied a very basic list of education philosophies.



  • Windows of learning opportunities
  • Un-interrupted “work time”
  • Multi-age groupings in classroom
  • Focus on sensory experience
  • Learning in a prepared environment
  • Greatly encourages independence
  • Belief that children like to do “real work”
  • Specifically designed materials for learning purposes
  • Specific play/work areas


Charlotte Mason:

  • Encourages “living books” and meaningful literature
  • Lessons are short (10-15 minutes)
  • Focuses on habits
  • Daily and weekly nature walks
  • Nature notebooks
  • Art appreciation, artist studies
  • Narration of what child has learned



  • Academics aren’t taught until around 7 years
  • Make-believe play for large parts of the day
  • Story-telling is part of the day
  • Great amount of found materials in classroom/home
  • Predicable structure, focus on rhythm
  • Group learning and collaborative projects
  • Balance of “heart, hand and mind” education
  • Art infused in all subjects
  • Nature-based environment
  • Technology/electronics very limited



  • Project based approach
  • Interest based learning
  • Documentation of learning through photos and written work
  • Collaborative learning
  • Open spaces
  • Environment is considered the third teacher
  • Loose parts play

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