Waldorf and RIE: A Beautiful Pairing

This post can now be found on Learning Parenthood. Click to continue. 

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Cooking with Toddlers: Chicken Soup

I’d like to introduce my new series. Here I will be sharing easy wholesome recipes that your entire family may like along with tips on how to include small children in on the cooking. Little ones LOVE to help and … Continue reading

Boredom: The Secret to Creativity and Problem Solving.

As a Kindergarten Teacher I often heard the phrase uttered from a little mouth: I’m bored! Now I would think to myself, what is the best way to meet these little ones needs? Boredom may be taken as the essential human condition, to which God, wisdom, or morality are the ultimate answers. Boredom is in fact taken in this sense by virtually all existentialist philosophers. What a great mind space to be in! As adults, we find instant ‘cures’ to our boredom in TV, computers, tablets, and smart phones. It is so easy to quell this discomfort for us. But with children with minds full of creative thought just waiting to bloom, being bored is the empty space to which they can fill with ripe, juicy imagination!

But how does one get from point A to point B? Through work!

~When the children come calling to you for their answers to boredom, we can wait and remain occupied with our own good work. “Yes dear let me finish my sewing, dishes, sweeping, laundry, etc; then we may do something together,” is a perfectly acceptable answer to this. Then take another 10-20 minutes to fully immerse yourself in some good work. More often than not, the children will find something to do on their own; something far more rich and imaginative than our own limited grown-up minds could have thought up. If after that time, they are still in need of your attention, then stop what you are doing and really spend some good quality time with them. Once they have this quality time, then they may feel free to go and spend time to themselves immersed in their own imaginative world.

Here is a great NPR post relating to this topic and including more benefits of play for children.

Finding Peace in One Simple Movement

ImageThis has been a hard week for me. I have felt very raw due to the recent world events and some of my own personal struggles (when it rains it pours, right?). I’m sure many of you feel the same, well,  it is now time for peace.

Here is a simple Eurythmy movement that I practice over and over when I need to feel at peace. ‘Hallelujah’ in movement. I do this 2 – 3 times and then follow with a 5 minute meditation where I gently breath ‘peace’ with every outbreath. Eventually, the peace comes back and washes over you. I hope this helps if you need a good reset of your emotions.

Why RIE?

What is RIE? “The approach is based a view of infants as unique individuals — whole people — and capable ones, too. We aim to treat infants with the same level of respect we would extend to an adult. We … Continue reading

Preserving the Spiritual World for Our Children. (Part One)

429152_4683414595668_1713125482_nWhen our little ones come into the world they see the spiritual world as clear, or perhaps more clear, than they see this world. We live in a culture that all too often denies the possibility of a living, tangible spiritual world; it is my belief that we are all suffering from this. It’s a trend to tell children the ‘truth’ about the world and shut down their dreaminess; we think we are being helpful when we explain nature and spirituality to them…as if we would know a thing. We have lost this sense in our life, we are too educated and do not ponder anymore about what is possible beyond what we know. Often people who believe in God and the Afterlife are seen as delusional; those who let faith guide their lives are seen as naive.

I cannot possibly understand what living in a spiritual-rich world be, as I have long lost this. I can imagine though, about the wonders that my son sees. At night when we pray, he is so responsive and listens to my words to God; I imagine that he can feel the increasing warmth around us and see beautiful changes in the air as we work with the spiritual world. When we dig in the garden he points at the dirt and excitedly exclaims, “WOW!” over and over and I wonder if he sees the spiritual beings working with us as we tend to the earth. On walks he will stop and wave at the little buds of leaves blossoming on the branches or droplets of water on new grass and I wonder what delights he finds in them that would merit a wave. Sometimes he will stop what he is doing and just lay down and gaze at the ceiling, softly singing and babbling; I imagine that he is talking to Angels or God and think of how wonderful that must be. Of course these are all speculations based on my own limited adult imaginations; I bet he sees something far, far more magical.

I have lost this sense long, long ago; possibly in my adolescent years. I remember being dreamy and being severely scolded for this by my teachers. I have now spent the better part of ten years trying to grasp onto what’s left and bring back a semblance of what I had as a young child. Now I am also finding myself in the task of preserving this for my son. He now lives fully in this world but everyday takes one step further from it. When he leaves his early childhood behind, this will change and he will naturally WANT to enter the real world more fully, but I can do my best to keep the outside world from taking this from him before he is ready. The longer I can preserve his spiritual foundation, the better it will serve him in his adult life.

I am not suggesting that it is the job of teachers and parents to educate their children on religion and to offer prayer in schools because these are HUGE debates right now. I am also not suggesting that you ‘make believe’  that you see fairies, the easter bunny or santa; THAT is a lie because you don’t see them and it will be false to them. I am thinking of how we need to let children dream into this world while they still can; dream into nature, dream into the spiritual and dream into the imagination; places we can no longer see with our limited adult eyes. In school there would be little children that would play with ‘fairies’ or imaginary friends and older children would tell them that they are lying or that those things aren’t ‘real,’ no doubt heard from parents or teachers. My simple response would be that it was real for them even though we can’t see it and we must respect this. Some people have lost the sight for the magical and the spiritual and in a world full of pain and heartache, don’t you think we ought to protect these gifts that our children bring to us? We often think that we need to teach our children what is real and not real, true and false, right and wrong; but perhaps if we listen and watch, we will see that they know far more than us.

This is part one or a two-part post. In the next post I will go more into how to preserve this spiritual world.

Walks and Toddlers: 5 reasons to walk with your toddler and 7 tips to make it work.

photoDid you know that physically, a toddler can walk about a mile? It’s true! I’ve even seen small children walk more than this. It may come a a surprise to some that walking is one of the best activities for children. Why?

1. Walking increases endurance. If you can build up the endurance for physical activity, your toddler will be better able to play longer and have more tolerance for difficult situations that arise.

2. Long walks make for better sleep. By reducing stress, expelling extra energy and getting some good fresh air, your toddler may just surprise you with longer naps and better nighttime sleep.

3. Makes hungry bellies! Once your digestive fire is going from all of the exercise, a toddler might willingly devour a whole plate of cucumbers or kale! Mine will!

4. Helps build and improves the rhythmic system (heart, lungs, blood flow). (Stay tuned for a whole post just on this topic based on the work of Rudolf Steiner)

5. Concentrated quality time. Children love to pay close attention to hidden things nature and delight in the joy found on the earth; they LOVE when we share this with them.

 

Now, that probably sounds great but I bet some are wondering how on earth to make that happen. Toddlers wander and get tired, they fuss and stop for hours to look at a rock. Well there are some simple rules I follow when walking toddlers. Safety is important to me and I also like to relax on my walks. Following these tricks that I’ve learned over my teaching years help make our walks a safe and fun experience.

1. NEVER walk where you would not want them to wander. Their body will remember the pattern. So if you climb a big hill one day or go into the bushes to pick berries the next, expect to do it every single day. Where you walk is sort of like a crayon path that they will want to go, so mark your path well. If you are very, very careful about this the first 5 walks, then it will make things much easier and much SAFER for your future walks.

2. Create ‘stopping points’. Toddlers love to run off but if you can enforce a very clear expectation that they can only run to a certain point, they will stay in your sight. On your first walk, communicate very clearly the place that they must stop and wait for you and then make them stop here every single time you are out. Walk to that spot with them and then SIT THERE with them for a few minutes. Name it something fun like ‘the sitting rock’, ‘the butterfly bush’ or ‘the great big tree.’ Check out nature and chat about the clouds. Then make a big deal when its time to go again.

3. NO PHONES! Walking with your children is like concentrated quality time every bit if attention you give to them and to your beautiful surroundings will triple to inside play. (Possibly an exaggeration, but this point must be stressed) They do not want you on the phone either so will most likely create mischief to get your attention back. ;)

4. Go slow. Like turtle speed slow. If you have an hour long to walk then expect half a mile, total! When your children are more used to walking you will be able to go further.

5. Walk daily, gradually increasing the distanceStart by walking to the end of the block, then a little more, and a little more every day. In the beginning don’t go far as you may end up carrying your toddler home; 30 pounds is not fun to carry for 1/2 a mile.

6. Sit still and observe. When you stop and play, don’t hover over your children, let them explore. When you stay in one place, you will be a strong foundation for them and they will be more free to explore knowing where their home base is. They love it when we quietly watch them in reverence; take joy in their discovery of the nature that surrounds  them, you will be surprised what they see that you may have overlooked.

7. Trust your toddler, they are smarter than most people realize. If they tumble or get stuck, resist the urge to rush over and help them; often they will fuss for a second and then become delighted in a bug or rock that they have found on the ground in front of them. Don’t help them climb trees and hills; it is safer if they can climb it themselves as they will learn how to manage the tree (you can help them get down though) They will feel that you trust them to take on the challenge instead of nervous that they can’t do it on their own.

BONUS 8. DON’T EAT FROM PLANTS! If you will be so lucky as to walk deep in nature, learn about the animal droppings and plants in your area that may be unsafe to touch or eat. You could also learn about what is safe to eat from the wild, but I don’t think I would let children under 6 eat straight from wild plants as the younger ones will do it to ALL plants and not know the difference. For little ones you could always pick plants that you want to eat at home, like blackberries or fiddle heads. Remember that they do what they see you do, if you eat a blackberry from a plant, they may feel inclined to eat nightshade berries, just like mommy. Be safe and resist the urge.

I hope that this is all helpful for you. Please let me know the tricks and tips that you use when walking with your children.

My Son’s Middle Name is Danger: Allowing Risky Behavior for Little Ones.

IMG_1690Today I read this post by Anna from Mama’s in the Making and it got my blood boiling because I have been in this situation and passionately agree with her points! She clearly states the many positives of letting you little ones take risks; specifically busy toddlers. Boy do I know about busy toddlers as my son is quite the little ‘problem solver’ (that is a nice way of saying ‘complete trouble maker’). In our own house this is fine because we have an environment where he has freedom to play and ‘problem solve’ as much as he wants. It’s when we go to other’s houses or public play areas that the real problem comes.

I was recently in a situation where I was around some overprotective adults who were constantly on his heals for every little slip and fall. I kept quite for a long time until I completely lost it and literally ran in tears. As a mother who takes great pride in my ability to stay calm when my son face plants in the dirt and stands back up laughing, I felt completely belittled. I carefully observe every little move my son makes, evaluating when he needs help, watching him gracefully move in a way most 16 month old children don’t. I see him develope his gross motor skills and sense of physical sense awareness and feel such pride for him. There are many mistakes I have made thus far in my short stint with parenting, but his natural physical development is one thing I have always tried to protect.

In this post Anna says it perfectly: “Risks are part of the game. As soon as babies begin to move around freely they start taking risks. They roll over one side without knowing what will happen when they are on the other side – on their belly. Their head is still heavy and difficult to control, and usually the first rolling over is followed by a bang on the floor or surface underneath. A crucial moment. Do I jump in and support him, place blankets and mattresses everywhere so he won‘t hurt? Or do I let him learn the Art of Falling?” When my son was 4 months old I had to train myself to wait…wait…wait, and then help.There were many hard moments when he would cry when his arm was stuck or he was stuck in a corner. Then came the moments when he would pull up on furniture and fall backwards (onto the pillows I would provide for extra support, so that he COULD fall). Not only does this help with thier motor skills and physical capability, it improves attention span to let them be! Janet Lansbury says: “give babies the opportunity to continue what they are doing, learn more about what interests them, develop longer attention spans and become independent self-learners.”

IMG_4828Our children are going to make mistakes and fall and fail. We can start now by learning to give space and let them find thier own way in life: “Learning to assess risk is learning to judge reality; it is learning what we can and cannot do; it is, above all, learning what to do in a situation when we don’t know what to do. This is a great skill, one that is useful in just about everything we can think of. Knowing how to look at dangerous situations and figuring out what to do to stay safe is definitely something we want our children to learn. Knowing when it is worth making that extra step to the other side might be one of the things that will determine how they fare in life. Essentially, knowing how to take risks means also knowing how to stay safe… most of the time. After all – sometimes risking in life is exactly what allows us to go where we need to go, and maybe find our own path.”

Next time when I am in danger of fighting and running in tears in frustration, I will try to simply say: “I trust my child, please trust me.”

What are your thoughts? I would love to discuss this with Mom’s who have a different perspective.

Indoor Activities on Rainy Days? NO WAY!

I search the web with the terms “rainy day” and “toddler” and about 100 sites pop up that are all about indoor activities and play spaces to stay holed up indoors. Craziness! There are so many really wonderful things that happen on rainy days! Sure the sun is great, but you have to worry about the heat and exposure. In the rain, just put on a few layers of wool or fleece with some great rain gear and boots and you are all set! This is also a great opportunity to reverently watch your children discover the beauty of nature and experience the full spectrum of Mother Natures and God’s creations.

So, I have complied here 10 great things that your toddler will love to do OUTDOORS on blustery, rainy days!

1. Splash in puddles! Seriously, can you imagine anything better for a child than a great big pool of water to run through!

2. Play in the rivers that run from the drains. Such great problem solving skills are gained by rerouting and altering the flow of water. In our yard we have the perfect drain that flows a river down our entire yard.

3. Play with MUD. Worried about dirt? Fear not, it’s actually much safer to play in fresh mud in cool weathers than standing water in warm weather.

4. Watch the wind in the trees. Seems simple I know, but my boy will stand and watch wind in the bushes and trees for do long.

5. Watch the rain fall. Children are the best at meditating in nature, right? :)

6. Feel the rain on their little face.

7. Go for walks.

8. Experience cold and discomfort. I’m serious about this one, it’s a good thing to learn to adjust to uncomfortable things, to learn what temperature means. Though younger children, like babies and toddlers, cannot tell you if they are feeling cold, so be sure to check them often to make sure they are not too cold to be outside and be sure to have the proper gear.

9. Get healthy! Being outside is so great for your health, as long as you are so dry (rain gear) and warm (woolen underclothes).

10. Lastly, this is for after, drink warm mint tea while taking a warm bubble bath to warm up from outside. Follow this up with some cozy Mommy cuddles and you will have the perfect blustery day.

The Joy of Work in Early Childhood

I am so excited to be writing this post! My child has officially entered this stage and I couldn’t be happier! We spend so much time together because my son will come up to me just to imitate my actions. “Do you want to help mommy,” I will ask and then hand him his own copy of what ever I am doing. He will sit and work with me until he eventually wanders off into something else.

Work is his play and play is his work! What I mean by that statement is that when children work with you, this is play for them as well as great quality time with mom or dad. When they play this is the work that will develop their growing motor skills and mental capacities. I highly recommend reading Freya Jaffke’s book, Work and Play in Early Childhood for more wonderful information and tools on this concept. Freja Jaffke was born in 1937. She worked at Reutlingen kindergarten in Germany for many years and now lectures throughout the world in teacher training colleges. She provides tried and tested advice on this important stage of development.

On this great Parenting Passageway Post on chores, Carrie writes “I remark here that rhythm in the practical work of the home and working TOGETHER in joy is what lays the foundation of wholly independent work… IMITATION is also another way to help children learn about chores when they are young.” Here, she lists a great number of chores that can be done with your children, including (for your toddler) “wipe tables and counters with damp sponge, wash vegetables or tear lettuce, help provide water and food for pets, help clean up after play and meals, water plants outside, pick up toys and books, throw things out for you, help clean up spills and messes…” and many more on the post!

Your little ones LOVE to help you and love the time with you in this way because all they want is to learn to do what we do as adults. So here is the amazing thing: you CAN get your housework done with small children in the house! Don’t wait until they go to nap because then they miss all of the fun! Do your work around them and they will come to you to help. Include them. “Do you want to help mommy wipe the counter? Here’s a rag for you!” “Do you want to help mommy fold laundry? Sit on my lap and we will do it together!”

I am so enjoying this part of my sons development and everyday I think of all of the fun housework we can do together. For those of you that do not love housework, you may think I’m nuts. But if you try housework with your little one, you may find that there is a level of enjoyment that you never thought possible.

What are your thoughts on housework with your child? What are your plans for implementing chores with your young family members?