Monday, March 10, 2014

Follow the Leader

Robin Nest Discovered 2013
There is one thing I've learned over the years, and it is to let your kids lead.  They are expert at this game if we just give them the chance.  Kids are natural game players, and have you ever met a more formidable force than a determined toddler?  I find myself asking myself, "WHY NOT?", quite a lot.  The key is to not only ask yourself the question, but to evaluate your reasons for 'not'.  Are they valid?

For instance, I was doing dishes this evening, and Annabella wanted to help.  Well, any experienced mom knows just how helpful a just turned three year old is with the task of washing dishes.  She also knows the value in facilitating the experience for the child.  So, instead of rejecting her completely, I asked her to move her stool over so I could stand at the sink without acquiring a crazy backache.  Then, I let her watch for a while.  Of course, that didn't last long.  She repeatedly asked to help.  So, I had her go get some of her play dishes that she wanted to wash and set them on the counter.  When I finished my dishes I refilled the sink with warm water, not the scalding stuff I was using, and some bubbles.  I gave her a sponge, and she had fun for a good hour or so.  Then, the resident four year old joined in the fun.  Once the eight year old got involved it started to fall apart a little, but it ended well.  Does it really matter that my floor got wet?  Of course not.  It's one step closer to clean than it was this morning!

Making a train in
the dining room.
There are so many things our kids love to do, and their timing isn't always perfect, but I have been making a concerted effort to really be aware if their request can be honored as opposed to just dismissing it immediately as not doable.  Is there really a good reason, I mean a really good reason, the kids cannot build a fort in the family room?  What about that sleepover they want to do with each other tonight?  Why not?  They want to paint.  Why isn't it a good time for that?  Is there someway their spontaneity can be honored?  If not completely, can there be a compromise made?

When children have the freedom to explore in a way that comes natural to them they are more likely to be happy, independent, and creative problem solvers.  They learn tenacity and gain confidence in themselves.  Teamwork is involved as well as compassion and empathy.

In our home we have taken a slight bend in the road and shifted our focus, for the time being, from primarily academics to a greater concentration on emotions and feelings.  We made (not so for me) calming bottles the other day and learned about anger.  The kids love the bottles and have developed a number of creative uses for them aside from their intended purpose.  If I had to do it over again there are a few things we would do differently, so it was a learning experience for me as well.

All this freedom to explore is preparing the young ones in my home for a summer of exploration.  This will be the girls' second summer here, and there is so much right in our own yard to discover.  I cannot wait to create special areas with them on our property for different activities.  The possibilities are limited only by our creativity.  There is so much that can be done.

Some ideas that intrigue me are:

  • Plant a sunflower house.
  • Blaze a trail.
  • Create an outdoor reading area.
  • Build a performance stage.
  • Create an outdoor music area.
  • Establish a water and sand play area.
  • Build a fort.
  • Build a tree house.
  • Plant a garden
  • Establish a natural water exploration area.
  • Create bird feeding areas.
  • Make a digging area.
Who knows which ones of these will happen this summer, but dreaming and planning is fun.  Without first exploring the ideas, how could they come to fruition.  The kids and I are in the beginning stages of planning and preparing for our garden.  The next step will be to explore the above ideas together, and determine which ones are most appealing to us and make a plan to make them happen.  It will be a little easier to plan and explore these ideas once the snow melts.  (It's so deep right now that I can't even walk through it.) Then we can get outside and survey our property to determine the best locations and maybe even come up with more ideas.

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