Audra writes: What if playgrounds were natural landscapes where children explore their outdoor surroundings and create their own play structures? What if children’s crafts were inspired by nature and made from natural materials? Can you imagine a world where the forest is a child’s classroom? What if a child’s curiosity was fueled by the world around them, unhindered by media and marketing? What would it look like? I am lucky. I don’t have to wonder! My children attend a Waldorf school and the area where I live in Austin has many different childcare and school options. My family is fortunate. Many children in our country do not experience the outdoors daily.
Children and Nature
Emily writes: As a child, I had certain places I loved to explore in nature. My most special place was at the top of a willow tree in my parents' front yard. The branches were hollow in some places, and I would keep my treasures there. The bending leaves made a great fort. I even invented a name for myself. For many summers, I was Leaf Girl. My sister had her own tree and was known as Flower Girl. It is these types of relationship to place that I see happen at LifeWays daily.
Lynn Coalson writes: Greetings from sunny Northeast Florida, home to Seaside Playgarden, a LifeWays Representative Program, and the first in Florida. The Seaside Playgarden, located just two blocks from the Atlantic Ocean, is a perfect place for children to explore, grow and create. We focus on the whole child: head, heart and hands and offer 2-, 3-, and 5-day programs for children ages 2-1/2 to 6 years of age, weekly Parent/Child Classes and Playgroup twice a month.
Our programs encompass the nurturing arts, domestic arts, the development of deep relationships, social and emotional development, imagination and creativity, and a life-affirming connection with nature...all through Warmth, Rhythm, and Respect. We are very excited to begin our new Forest Kindergarten program, the first in the Southeast USA!
I remember the crisp autumn day the well-dressed early childhood professor from a nearby university came to spend the morning with LifeWays’ preschoolers. She was impressed with the way the children played outdoors, climbing trees, balancing on fallen logs, gathering acorns and telling stories with them, as comfortable and relaxed in their outdoor forest environment as most modern children are in their own living rooms.
Most of you know Suzanne Down, who teaches storytelling and language development in all the LifeWays trainings and is Director of the Training in Boulder. If you don’t receive her monthly Story Newsletter from Juniper Tree Puppets, sign up for it here –it’s free, and a great resource.
Faith writes: When I first started working with toddlers, I also happened to read Nokken by Helle Heckmann, who tells about how she spends hours outside each day with the children in her play program, regardless of the weather. I was completely inspired! I wanted to spend hours outside each day with the children, too! I had fond, fond memories from my own childhood of sitting in a field, face-to-face with Queen Anne’s Lace flowers. I don’t remember if there were any adults around or not. There must have been, but I don’t remember them. I also remember sitting in the garden behind our shed and examining the intricate Columbine flowers that grew there. I remember the feeling of having all the time in the world, with nothing else to be done but to sit with the flowers—this was the feeling I wanted the children in my care to have.
A series of islands lie scattered in an arc across the immensity of the mid-Pacific Ocean, the largest and furthest south of them is Hawaii Island, or as it is often referred to, ‘The Big Island.’
We recently spent a glorious morning at the farm with some of the children and parents from Tree School, a parent cooperative preschool based at Milwaukee’s Urban Ecology Center.
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