By Tyler Starbard, Dandelions teacher
As humans we want to feel self-sufficient, meaningful, and helpful. There is satisfaction in looking upon our own work, just as there is reverence in admiring the meaningful work of others. These positive emotions broaden perception, range of thought and build self-esteem. They can turn enduring activities into joy and they can fuel our drive. A job well done is a good reward in its own right, but there’s more.
Children watching adults involved in meaningful work are learning how to be human; they biologically expect to learn by watching (and asking what? and why?)
We can support children to participate in worthwhile efforts by modeling the simple tasks that make up the important things that need to be done each day.
Through observing the care, tribulations, and pleasures associated with the projects we undertake as adults, children are developing functions of their own capacities. As a model it is important to keep in mind that true self esteem comes from feeling genuine competence, not performing for an adult's praise. By demonstrating and developing our own competencies we are laying the foundation for children to live in similar ways. To go about one's business in a meaningful self-directed way is to add to life in present and in future.
Children also attach emotions to events, so if we are joyful in work, they will associate that task with joy.
Soon you'll be turning work into story time for your young ones.
Simple activities to model for children: reading, writing, creating, mending, gardening, bird watching, building, washing dishes, sweeping, folding laundry, weeding, moving rock, brick or lumber...
By Lia Grippo
On the nearest Saturday to May 1st, we gather as a community to put an old tree into the ground. Brilliant ribbons tied to its top make a shelter of sorts, like a large colorful tent. The outer boundary held by parents and loving adults, the small children gather within, bedecked in flowers and spring colors. There they dance, well, walk or skip, in a circle. Some are joyful, some bewildered, some concerned at being there without a parent’s hand to hold.
They circle, at the center of the community, wrapping the aged wood in the beauty of spring and the promise of summer. There, at the center, new life. And we, at the edge watching over it.
Once the children have finished their dancing, the adults step in, holding our ribbons like we would a partner’s hand. The music starts again, and out of the rhythm grows movement. Some traveling sunwise, others moonwise, we begin to weave together a pattern. We laugh as we go, for no reason other than because it is fun!!!! The children watch. They see the adults of their communities, move in unity, joyfully, playfully, again and again, and they know they are a part of something.
Pro-Tip #1 Take a walk or play outside first thing to start the day.
The sunlight will help with circadian rhythms.
Pro-tip #2 Adults often watch children, but children learn through imitation. Instead, allow your children to watch you doing meaningful things around the house. If you are joyful in your work, they will learn that work can be joyful. They take their cues from those older than them. Children watching adults is healthy, which is why we say, they look up to you, it gives them something to imitate.
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Pro-Tip #1 Be sure to take some time each day (at least 5 full minutes) to do absolutely nothing. (Movies, phones,and computer screens do not count as doing nothing.)
Pro-tip #2 Create some time to draw or paint. Do not invite your child to join. Sitting down and beginning is the best invitation. Be ready, they will ask to join you.
Pro-tip #3 Once you and your child are drawing together, they might ask you to draw a picture for them. Resist the invitation and say, "no, thank you, I am doing this drawing now." It's important to model the joy of creativity, while preserving that for your child. Often when adults draw for children, children tend to focus on the outcome of the drawing rather than the joy of freely creating and they might give up trying it on their own.
By Natalia Pareja and Erin Boehme
Garden bouquets are fancy and simple.
Simply take note of the beauty blooming around you, express your gratitude for the flowers and the plants with your children. Mention how wonderful it would be to have flowers in the house for dinner or tea.
Give your child a small basket or bucket, model for them how to pick a flower with a long stem so it can get a drink of water from a vase. Ask the plants for permission to share their blossoms. Remember reciprocity helps. Possible ways to exchange are gifting the plant a song, spoken work of gratitude, one of your hairs, or by tending the plant in it's home.
Have a vase or jar ready for them to put each little flower into and tell them to make sure the stems are in the water so the flowers can get a drink.
Little ones will spend a long time picking, singing and making wonderous bouquets of flowers for your home.
Put the arrangement(s) on the dinner table or out for tea time. Honor the care your child has taken to make your home beautiful, by saying "thank you for making our home beautiful" rather than praise like "good job". It's important to name and validate a worthy job done well.
When children know they have made a meaningful contribution to the family, they will begin to look for ways to do it more often. You might find they are more capable of making meaningful contributions than you ever imagined.
By C.J. Cintas, Cattails teacher
Expressing gratitude has been proven
to boost one’s emotional and physical health.
Sometimes it’s difficult to really express, feel or think about what you are grateful for.
Here's a little trick:
Find something that can fill with pieces of folded paper. It can be a jar, pockets, a bowl, a box, a vase...anything that can collect 10-20 pieces of folded paper. Place your vessel in an area that you frequent in your home. My sister likes to keep hers in her kitchen.
Begin filling the vessel
Fill it with written words, with pictures you and your children have drawn, maybe a puzzle piece, or nature find. Put anything in there that will remind you of the thing or time you are grateful for.
Set a daily time to pick something out
I suggest you do it at meal times because it is often a time when everyone is gathered. Have each person choose an item without looking. How exciting, a surprise of thanks!
Read or sing or tell the story out loud
At the basis of words are rhythms and vibrations that have an impact on your environment. Read or share the gratitude so everyone knows what it is. You never know you might just be grateful for the same thing.
Enjoy and repeat
Continue to replenish your gratitude vessel with offerings of gratitude as they come along.
If you give gratitude to water with a bowl to be kept full. It’s said to have a Genie living in it.
House plants need watering?
Pro-tip#1 Set them all together in a place tat can get wet. Set out a large bowl, pot, or bucket with water. Put out a small measuring cup or other vessel for transferring water. Be sure to use a small pouring vessel or this will be over immediately. Invite your child to give the plants a big drink.
When a child asks a "big" question
Break it down and try to figure out what it is that is really being asked. Let them ask the next questions, rather than feeling the need to tell them everything you know about the subject.
By Natalia Pareja, Acorns teacher
Setting the stage for play can be as simple as hanging up a blanket.
If you hang it straight up and down, you have a home theater.
The children love to act out the stories they have heard over and over again. You may take the role of the narrator, but if you’d rather, play the audio recording of one of our stories while they act it out.
If children are familiar enough with the story, this could be a good time for them to direct their own and put on a play- I am sure they can find a talented cast of actors among their toys (or willing adults).
If you let it hang on two sides- a home or a fort!
The allowance of solitude and undirected play is important for children, these spaces provide that.
Simple additions, such as a log to sit on, a small table, a chair, even an upside-down box, give life to this home.
With a little love, you will be surprised at how these simple homes invite independent and imaginative play.
By Lia Grippo
Play is part of our human genius and serves a wide variety of necessary functions. Play is the primary means of learning how to be a part of the world, without which parts of our humanity become stunted.
Children will play with all of the themes that are present in their lives. They will, and must, play with everything, even (and especially) difficult and confusing topics. Watching children play out uncomfortable themes imaginatively, can be painful, and in an effort to protect our children (or ourselves) we might try to redirect or stop such play. However, play is a safe place for children to experience the world around them, for in play, they are able to control how much fear and/or discomfort they will tackle at once. They control the content of their imaginations and therefore can dose themselves appropriate to their needs.
Play is where we humans learn to regulate our fear response, where we learn what is and isn’t really dangerous. When we play with that which might frighten us, we practice what we might do in response, we learn how to avoid under responding and over responding to all manner of situations. This is no trivial undertaking. Play is powerful.
In our current situation, our children’s opportunities for play with others are curtailed and we as parents find ourselves in the role of supporting play, amongst all of our other responsibilities. In order to do this, we must pay attention to their play. This doesn’t mean we watch them all day long. Quite the contrary. We need only tune our ears, and maybe our peripheral vision, into their play now and again. In fact, staring at our children while they play can sometimes have a disruptive effect.
~Notice the theme of their play.~Notice what props they might use.
~Are there times of the day when your child plays in a physically active way?
~Are there times of the day when your child plays close to the ground in a quieter way?
~Are there times when they can’t seem to figure out what to do with themselves?
When to play with our children and when not to?
A few notes on playing with our children. Often I find that adults (mom’s especially) don’t enjoy playing with our children as much as we think we should. This is normal and typical. In fact, the young child is looking to adults to imitate adult life, which can of course be playful, but tends to be a different type of play than that of the young child. Far less often are parents interested, of their own accord, to engage in “let’s pretend” play. However, now more than ever, our children don’t have the other children for playmates that they rely on.
There are some basic foundations to real play. The first of which, is that playmates must want to play. If one isn’t genuinely having fun and playing because they want to it isn’t actually play. Keep that in mind and play with your child when you genuinely want to and enjoy it. You are not obligated to “play.” That would be an oxymoron. However, when you find yourself feeling genuinely playful, by all means, play with your child.
The second foundation of real play is that anyone is free to quit at any time. This is what makes play the best vehicle for learning empathy, compromise, self regulation and a host of other pro-social skills. If your playmates can quit the game at any time, then it becomes imperative that we notice when they are happy or unhappy in the play. If your playmates are unhappy they will stop playing. Therefore, we learn to observe, and adapt creatively.
When parents play imaginative games with children we often follow their rules without inserting our own wishes or ideas into the play. Before long, we might find that our children become demanding or domineering in their play with us. This is always a sign that we adults have not been engaging in genuine play. When you aren’t enjoying the play, it is best to stop playing and return when you really want to. Keeping play authentic is healthy modeling for children.
Pro-tip#1 Take a few minutes after the children are asleep. Set up a simple playscape with a few items. You can lay out a couple of cloth napkins, with a stuffed animal and an empty box, for example.
Leave it to be found in the morning.
You might find yourself enjoying the imaginative play as well.
Pro-tip #2 - Do you have a space inside or outside your home to set up some cushion to jump down onto? Setting up a place for young children to jump can help organize their nervous system as the joints (especially the hip joints) need lots of feedback.
Where can your children jump off from and safely land?
At Wild Roots we are working to support families throughout this difficult time. If you find this content helpful, and have the means, please consider making a donation to help keep our school afloat. Thank you!
Wild Roots staff authors include Erin Boehme, Lia Grippo, CJ Cintas, Anne McCarthy, Tyler Starbard, Jenn Sepulveda, Heather Young, Amalia Smith Hale, Natalia Pareja...