It's now officially the end of summer. Although I do welcome the Autumn I must admit I feel a sense of loss for the Summer and will grieve it's end.
We've had such an amazing time as always. The boys are a joy to be with. Don't get me wrong it's utterly exhausting and challenging but moments with them are never superficial. Our days are rich and deep. The boys are so full of wonder. They play.
I'm writing an article comparing Maria Montessori's approach to Early Years with that of Rudolph Steiner's (known as Waldorf Kindergarten). I've been thinking a lot about the nature of Play, and how Montessori utilises it for learning opportunities, but also thinking of the different ways to play. It's taken me to places I didn't expect!
For one, in the article I'm writing (soon to be published on BabyTodd's website (http://www.babytodd.co.uk/), I explore playing with a set activity or puzzle vs playing with an open ended toy, and then comparing that to playing with nothing in particular, just imagination! The simple idea of "just being" someone else, that enables you to act out being brave when you don't normally feel it, or play at fighting where you wouldn't otherwise be "allowed".
This is where the real adventures and magic happen. Being among a setting where you could be in any century, any location and where anything is possible. The great outdoors offers every opportunity for this.
Trees don't go out of fashion or change their bark design. There's nothing retro about streams, and there are no walls.
The boys and I have spent a LOT of time outdoors and went camping down the road from our home and met deer, frogs, buzzards and saw evidence of badgers. We picked Blackberries and made a fire and read about nature in the tent at bedtime. They put themselves to bed with ease (which I can assure you NEVER happens at home) and they fell asleep straight away!
We also watched the movie Christopher Robin at the cinema. I cried like a baby! Watching this touched me so deeply!
**SPOILER ALERT IF YOU DON'T WISH TO KNOW SKIP TO THE NEXT SET OF ASTERISKS**
The film is about a boy who had an imaginative childhood and played in the woods with his teddybear and other toy friends, who are real. He gets to them via a portal in his own tree which leads to Ashdown Forest where his friends live. As he then goes to boarding school (and loses his father) he has to face "the real world" and basically has his imagination taught out of him. He lives through war and works for a luggage company as an Efficiency Manager. This means having to think about people as mere numbers and costs. Certain events - including having a child who sorely needs play above work - leads him to rediscover the magic of his childhood, and to learn from his friends and child - in the security of their love - how to be brave enough to challenge the reality of work, pressure and deadlines.
**OK YOU'RE SAFE NOW!**
These themes reinforced in me the aspects of Montessori that I was starting to feel a little uncomfortable about (more on that in the next article), but more it affirmed that my children have been my biggest teachers. They push to you the edges you wouldn't have wanted to go, and they test your endurance yes, but as I closed the kitchen over the summer, and played with them outdoors, I have been immersed in their world of imagination. We talked about Fairies on toadstools, went looking for deer and found little window holes in old tree stumps. We left acorns for them.
We went to Ashdown Forest which we are SO lucky to live on the edges of, and went to Pooh Bridge and the little shop Pooh Corner. My eldest wanted to leave presents for Winnie The Pooh and was completely immersed in the fantasy for days. He woke up so excited about every new day and whether we could leave more presents for him. We made him bracelets and paintings using our Tiny Land acrylic substitute paints (available soon).
A few of my mum friends had recently written to their children as the Tooth Fairy, and their children have been so utterly besotted by this, that the mums have had to continue replying..basically they are penpals with their daughters it's hilarious. They can't find a way to stop without breaking their hearts. So on it must go until their children are ready.
When I went camping at night with the boys they weren't scared which surprised me. They were in a world of their choosing. Their imagination (and the fact I was sharing this with them) created a world which was safe, nurturing, and enabled them to be whoever they wanted - anything was possible. It was truly magical. When do we - as adults - do this without children? When did we lose our way?
I believe it's because we are so determined to 'grow up', and be able to do things we are unable to do as children. To go out when we want, to walk or drive by ourselves, to make our own choices, that we want to leave our babyish ways behind us. We feel adults at 16, and want to test ourselves. We stay up beyond midnight and form romantic relationships. We feel we have truly discovered ourselves in our 20's. We bunji jump and travel. We know what we like, what personality type we might be or our hobbies/skills etc. Generally we reject things that don't conform to these.
Then when we are nearer to 30 we start to not only understand ourselves from the perspective of our personalities, but we develop an ability to become more understanding and tollerant .. to change what we perhaps don't like about ourselves. To really become self-aware and to really EVOLVE. How do we evolve? We are inspired. When we are inspired, it gives us energy to change. This energy is based on love. A love of that idea, activity, or design. We want to incoporate it into our lives. We want to be a part of it. That energy is the nature of imaginative play! It's creative thinking. First we think things, then we manifest it through drawing, playdough or role play. Humans are wonderful creators. That illusory world of Winnie The Pooh came first from a man's mind!
That YES we feel as adults is similar to the WOW we feel as children. Children who don't yet know that mushrooms are really the fruit of bacteria. And yet if we are inspired by the wonder of even this fact, we can go further and learn that funghi are more alike to animals than plants and are incredibly unique! We learn best when we are willing, and we are willing when we are inspired.
Inspire a child and you can teach him the world!
Why is Christmas so magical? Because it's the only time where the adults play along. We have a licence to pretend. It's not weird to say a large nocturnal guy with a limited taste in fashion (and possibly diabetes) can manage to sneak down all of our chimneys - despite being invited - in one night.
I wonder if we could all incorporate more magic into our lives by immersing ourselves into our dreams and making them a reality?
There are some philosophers who believe that life itself is an illusion. That the chair that we are sitting on is not real, but something we have created. My own perspective - at least for the moment - is that the chair is real if I can sit on it, and if you and I both see it as a chair, then to all intents and purposes it is a chair.
The same can be said for children's imaginations. If my son and his brother use sticks as swords, and they both 'agree' - non verbally through their play - that they are swords, then they are! You forget that it's a stick completely, until it ceases to be a sword or perhaps it becomes something else. Have you read Stick Man?
So back to Christopher Robin. He lost his way because he stopped believing in magic. And when you stop believing in magic you set limits on yourself. We spend so much time looking for external sources of change. But change is within us! We are the magicians! Portals do open up for us in life, and sometimes take us to unexpected places.
We are creators of our own destiny, which is truly magical. So I invite you all to play today x