For most of us with children, school is out, and it’s time for summer vacation. I’ve been reflecting on the idea of what amazing innocent beings our children are and how they every minute are still discovering their world. It’s our gift to them to nurture their development through our parental guidance, providing them the tools and resources they need to become healthy in the way they relate to others and to the world.
As their teachers, we need to realize that we live in a fast-paced world where it’s hard to find time to really engage in the simplest aspects of life: those that are crucial to the magical realm of children. There are so many stimulants engaging our children these days—from television and movies to the Internet and video games—that it’s like a tidal wave, which as parents we must swim against to keep our children’s world a magical place. We must create a space where imagination is honored and we nourish their bodies, minds, souls and spirits.
I think we all agree that the digital realm has allowed us to move more efficiently throughout many aspects of our lives. We are able to communicate, gather information and create conveniences that were un-imaginable just a few decades ago.
But we must also look at how this affects our children—their ability to think, and not simply what to think but “how” to think. What impact does social media have on young people’s ability to develop and sustain human relationships? How much time are we allowing the interactive excitements to engage our children as opposed to “inner” activities?
In his recent book, “The Shallows,” Nicholas Carr explores how the Internet is changing the way we think. His most insistent point is that the more we rely upon electronic media to mediate our experience of the world, the more we risk permanently altering how our brains function.
With all of this, we must take time to decide what’s important. Through raising my children in the Waldorf Method, I have learned so much about ways to support my children in simple ways. Without the daily routine that the school year provides, and endless summer days, it’s important to find a rhythm that gives our children guidance. At the end of the day, I think we all have experienced our children being happiest with the “toys” of nature: playing on the beach, in the creek, or discovering the critters in a field. Here are some great resources I have found that really support our children’s imagination and connection to the natural world.
Create a Nature Table. Bring in objects of nature to reflect the season we’re experiencing: flowers, plants, shells, crystals, pine cones, rocks, wood, etc. It’s fun, and creates a beautiful space in the home that the children can add to throughout the year.
Consider the “play space” of your little ones. Is it organized or overwhelming? Simplicity is usually best. Try providing simple toys made of natural material—even blocks of wood, rocks, buttons, clothespins, silks. This allows the child’s imagination to create a world of wonders. A costume box full of fabrics will provide hours of entertainment. The natural toys at A Toy Garden and Palumba are the best quality.
Watercolors, beeswax sculpting clay and crayons create a world of creativity. I love those from Mercurius!
Try cooking together. Allow the little ones to chop the veggies. Baking bread is an awesome way to get them involved. They’ll enjoy kneading the dough.
Plant some seeds and watch them grow. We just harvested some beans we planted in early spring. It was exciting for my children to know that the beans were apart of the meal we enjoyed. It’s also a great way for them to see the elements of nature working together, and to appreciate the food we eat. We try to take time before each meal to honor the time it takes to grow the food on our plates. Not to mention the gratitude we have for our lives. There are great suggestions for this in a wonderful book called Making A Family Home.
Playing music—like all artistic activity—engages the entire brain. Consider starting with the recorder. Or, just put on some nice beats and dance together as a family. We get really silly, and I get a great work out!
I’m certainly not an expert parent; I’m just sharing some things that work for me. Children are ever evolving, and go through their own challenging times. We do our best to provide them with our support in creating a world for them to grow.
Hello from Costa Rica, where I’m visiting with my family. What a fabulous place for eco-tourists like us!
Love & Light,