Sensory Impressions and the Young Child: Parent Evening Reflections by Jaimmie Stugard

“The small child s whole body is a sense organ, open to any and every impression. The child is extremely sensitive to the immediate surroundings. A smile, an expression of love, a tender word (unequaled sources of warmth and strength), colors, shapes, arrangement of things, and the positive thoughts of the people in the surroundings—all shape and form the child as do nervousness, senseless acts and outbursts of temper.” 

Dr. Helmut von Kügelgen


Last March, LifeWays’ faculty was honored to host an evening for our parents.   We were grateful for the opportunity to connect and collaborate with parents who we typically see only in passing at pick up and drop off times.  We sought to offer a rich sensory experience for the adults to actively explore, discuss and ponder an aspect of child development that would be interesting and applicable to all parents and caregivers of young children – Sensory Impressions and the Young Child.

Our evening began with delicious snacks and warm tea.  Parents sampled their children’s favorite treats and mingled with each other and their children’s caregivers.  For many, an evening away with other adults was a rare treat.  As we savored the wonderful food and company, we were able to move throughout the space and enjoy beautiful displays arranged with simple, handmade puppets and toys, treasures from nature and beloved picture books.

After some time, the gentle chiming of the glockenspiel called us to our seats for a special presentation by our early childhood colleagues from Tamarack Waldorf School.  The teachers collaborated to present a puppet play of the traditional fairy tale, The Frog Prince.  The room filled with gentle singing and thoughtfully articulated storytelling.  The puppets moved with grace through the simple and beautiful silken story scape as the tale unfolded. The tone of the voices, the movement of the silks and the puppets and the pace of the tale were all gently and skillfully presented with a mindfulness and steadiness that flowed naturally.  When the story was told, and a silk veiled the scene in gentle closure that invited the story to sink in and live on, we sat in reverence and appreciation for what we had just experienced.

Soon, the lights were dimmed, and the television was revealed to offer our second presentation.  This time, a scene from the animated story of The Princess and the Frog illuminated the screen.  We watched in quiet attention as a catchy musical number told the tale of the voodoo enchantment of the frog prince.  The television screen filled with colorful images of neon masks, skulls, fireworks, voodoo dolls, lightening and talismans while the pulsating beat swiftly and cleverly turned lyrical phrases.  The luminous images and music crescendoed until the end of the scene, marking the prince’s transformation.

After both presentations, we began a thoughtful discussion.  We started by sharing reflections and impressions from the fairy tales that were presented.  Parents and caregivers shared their unique perspectives and experiences with admirable authenticity.  We talked openly and honestly about the joys and challenges of raising children in our sensational world.  We also recognized the pervasiveness of strong stimulus in our culture.  Whether we are pumping gas, riding the city bus or out to dinner, chances are there is a screen (or 5) directed our way providing content that we cannot control.  From the aroma of strong detergents at the grocer to the firecrackers going off outside our windows, our senses are constantly bombarded.  While adults may filter out the sensory noise, young children do not have that capacity.  How then, we wondered, can we nourish our young children’s senses?  So many wonderful ideas were shared – from living authentically and being worthy of imitation to spending plenty of time out in nature to providing a simplicity and rhythm in the home.  It was remarkable to witness parents supporting one another and offering insights with wisdom and empathy.

After farewells, the caregivers worked together to tidy up while nibbling on bits of leftover snack.  While we worked, we happily chatted about what a pleasure it is to collaborate with such an inspiring group of parents.  I returned home that evening filled with gratitude for the children in our care and the parents who have honored me with the opportunity to join them on this little piece of their parenting journey.

Jammie Stugard, LifeWays Milwaukee Director and KinderHouse Teacher (Began at LifeWays in 2002)

A lifelong caregiver, Jaimmie has been caring for children since she was a preteen.  She was introduced to LifeWays as a college student, when she was welcomed into the center to complete her student observation.  She was so inspired by LifeWays philosophy and practices that she asked to volunteer.  Before long, she was offered a position as a caregiver.  Many years later, she was honored to step into the role of director when LifeWays Milwaukee’s founder, Mary O’Connell, moved on to work extensively with LifeWays North America, training early childhood educators across the country in LifeWays unique approach to child care.

Below you will find links to some of the articles that were shared at our parent evening:


Here is a link to the film clip that was shared (I recommend viewing it by yourself before deciding if you would like to share it with your children as it is one of the more intense scenes in the film):


In preparation for our parent evening, our faculty studied Louise de Forest’s article, “Transforming our Parent Meetings”:

One of the snacks that was provided was a LifeWays’ favorite – Granola Bars.  We were sure to share the recipe for this delicious treat at our Parent Evening!

Granola Bars

4 ½ cups rolled oats

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2/3 cup butter melted

½ cup honey

1/3 cup brown sugar

2 cups miniature semisweet chocolate chips

2 cups raisins

2 tablespoon cinnamon

1 cup shredded coconut

2 tablespoons maple syrup

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Grease an 11in x 17in baking sheet.
  3. Mix oats, flour, baking soda, brown sugar, chocolate chips, raisins, coconut and cinnamon in a large bowl.
  4. Add melted butter, vanilla, maple syrup and honey to the mixture and combine until mixed well.
  5. Press out mixture on to the baking sheet, spreading out and firmly pressing down on the mixture to ensure the granola bars hold together.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes.
  7. Let cool for 10 minutes before cutting into squares, then allow to cool for another 30 minutes.