a gentle play environment

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A reader asked me how it is we are able to live with 3 boys & no tv...

 

How do we manage that, get anything done, keep our marriage healthy, keep them from asking for the tv, keep them from making me crazy?  

 

These are such great questions, & I suppose if we had let them watch tv all along, then it would be very hard for me to keep them away from it.  Don't get me wrong, I love my cooking shows, & they've seen them.  Both their uncle & grandfather are NFL coaches, so they've seen some games.  And we're hardly saints - a lot of their environment has more to do with our aesthetic then an inner discipline on our parts.

 

But the reality is, It's Easy.

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Keeping a calm play environment has gone such a long way in keeping the boys engaged for long periods of time.  By making sure their toys are orderly & beautifully displayed, they've always had ready inspiration & easy access to their things.  

Making sure that their toys are of natural materials gives them a full spectrum of sensory input that can't be found in plastic, factory-made toys.  These toys smell good, feel good against the skin & reflect a something familiar from Spirit that really resonates with them.  They know that most of their toys are wood, from trees, that the wool is from sheep & the cottons from plants.  They love to feel the different weights of these toys that comes from their realness & I think it helps them find their own place in our home.  

The toys are simple, without too much detail, so they are very open-ended.  Any block can be an iron one moment, a car the next, & an airtraffic-control tower after that.  So the play can go uninterrupted for long periods without toys being cast aside or arguments over whether or not they're being played with "correctly."

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By providing toys that reflect real life, they can imitate the loving they see in the home.  There's vegetables for them to cook, bread to bake, things to weigh & sell, dolls to care for, wood to polish, laundry to do, dishes to wash.  By keeping digital media out of our daily space, they aren't sheltered from Real Work.  When Mahal was 3 he dictated a story called, "I Love Hard Work!"  We were so surprised & delighted by how much he had picked up & how he truly did, love hard work.  He was aware of so much work, & there was great respect in his words: "I love moving Logs! LOGS!  Logs for the fire!"

We do have some hardcore music & dancing, but it's done on it's own time.   For the most part they hear & join in with singing that carries them through the day that reflects the activities at hand ~ "This is the way we sweep the floor," & "Na-Night, Mt. Washington..."  The singing also helps me to do a bit less boy wrangling: the songs says we're folding, so they're folding.

It all sounds so ideal, & I suppose it is.  AND my 9 month-old is a happy but slightly stress-inducing screamer, my 3 year-old is rough love itself & my 7 year-old has been doing the 7 year-old spaz thing, too.  Just like your kids.  But there's a lot we do that allows for no tv.

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One thing is, we let them be bored.  Before we can be creative, we've got to be bored, right?
We limit sugar, & only organic.  A stressed digestive system makes for stressed out kids.  We keep them away from food coloring & we limit their gluten, for the same reasons.  We try to keep them fed with 3 meals & 2 snacks.  But simple, for our own sanity.  They eat the same things over & over.

We get their spines adjusted at the chiropractor regularly.  'Cause when those little necks, backs & bums get bumped around, kids get sick & the act all out of sorts, but don't know why.  It's amazing to see how relieved they are after an adjustment, every time.  While they have a pediatrician, they never see him.  They don't need to with their spines cared for, & homeopathics (side-effect-free, all natural remedies).  So we usually don't have to deal with the impacts of antibiotics or other chemicals that stress their systems.  (We're not against them, just don't need 'em)

We are very, very lucky that they're healthy & that we have resources to keep them fed & be with them in these ways.  Not everyone can, & sometimes, we can't.  So we live in community.  Parents need support.

We keep a regular rhythm.  Rudolf Steiner said, "Rhythm replaces strength."  In our case we've found that to be true.  When we're too lazy to be great parents, the established routines carry us through.  We don't have to make it up every time.  The boys really appreciate it.  When we wake, we mumble, "Hear Comes the Sun," by the Beatles.  We say a verse that feeds them

The Morning Sun so Great & Bright
It Warms the World with all it's Might
It make the Dark Earth Green & Fair
It Tends each Thing with Ceaseless Care
Oh, May each Deed throughout the day
Everything I Do & Say
Be Bold & Strong & True,
Oh Golden Sun Like You!

After a week of hearing a verse, they usually say it with me.  We makes sure they get their outside time in.  And this looks similar to their inside time: We work & they do their own thing, coming in & out to help us or off imitating our own work.  

Everyday their play includes something they've recently seen or heard from a story.  So they have their own mailbags, bags of gravel for construction work, chalk for making airports & landing strips, art supplies for making all of it.  

And D takes them to a field to knock out some serious football.  Mama doesn't usually participate.  But it really helps, too.

And most importantly for us, we take it slow.  We don't overschedule the kids, we try to have playdates at our place as often as possible to limit rushing & we let them move at a child's pace.

If this Waldorf-inspired lifestyle sounds interesting to you, there's tons of resources online that support it.  

My favorite books for Early Childhood are: Heaven on Earth, You Are Your Child's First Teacher, & Beyond the Rainbow Bridge.

Rudolf Steiner College is an Overflowing Wellspring of Good Stuff.

There's no need to spend a ton on toys, the book Toy Making with Children is Excellent.  For older Children they have a series, "Fall," "Spring," etc, on the Children's Nature Center in Germany.  They are pricey books, but worth their weight in gold.


Curriculum: Preschool Age - Little Acorn Learning.  PreK-High School - Oak Meadow, & Live Education.  They all supply everything you need, Stories, Activities, Verses, Songs, Fingerplays, Nature Crafts, Music, & Academics.

Thanks for asking.  Every family does it so different, but there's lots of treasure in those links.  This lifestyle has really been a blessing that's held us through the ups & downs of family life.  It's been a lovely foundation for our homeschooling.  I hope it makes a difference for you, to.