February 2, 2020
Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated. – Confuscius
Research shows that it is only possible for humans to engage, to learn, to create new neuropathways in the brain when they are in a relaxed state. We will not take in new information, retain, and integrate it when we are anxious or nervous. We need an environment that is supportive, warm, and calm. One would hope that our childcare and preschool programs would provide this sense of calm, but all too often they do not.
LifeWays training graduate, Amy Gerassimoff shared some thoughts in our online course “Building a Strong Foundation” about how she has simplified the day in her preschool classroom:
“It was obvious after working with children in the city the last few years that everyone is SO rushed. Children are being expected to carry out such long days with so many activities and way too much adult social awareness. The kids are overwhelmed and exhausted; often complaining they’re tired. Knowing this, I went into this year trying to give them the opportunity to just be.
I simplified everything, lengthened all of our transition times, and instead of panicking and rushing when they started to get a bit squirrely, I decided to help them learn how to breathe and slow down again. We do fun breathing exercises, and when a child tells me they are feeling overwhelmed I warmly invite them to just take life easy today (inspired by our good friends, Frog and Toad.) Our playtime is long and I try to remove myself from it as much as possible. The tasks we do, such as chopping, are done joyfully by me but not forced on them. I ask for helpers if they feel called to it. I make myself available, but not invasive, to their exploration. We take long morning tea times to ease into the day, which has now become our favorite time. We often linger longer than scheduled at the table, enjoying conversation with each other. We do this at lunch time also, and now we have a full half hour of lunch where the expectation is that we aren’t jumping up to get to the next thing. Instead we wait for our friends to finish and tell stories. Lunch is followed by a mellow digestion time where they sit on woolies and look at picture books or do a quiet activity like sewing cards while I calmly clean up (they are welcome to help too).
Our transition times I’ve also extended, giving them double the amount of time to work on learning how to get their outdoor gear on. I don’t rush them, and I try to not intervene so they can do their good work. At the end we all check together that we’ve remembered everything (hats, mittens, coats zippered, boots on, slippers put away) Even that feels like a moment to pause and reflect and not run out the door. I’ve noticed a huge shift in everything we do. The kids tell me they love me daily and they also have bonded with each other. They often play together, including everyone, which I don’t think I’ve experienced before this year. It feels very peaceful. In that sense, I feel like we’ve established a very healthy sense of life for our whole class this year. Not that I can control their busy lives — but I feel good knowing they get to breathe for at least a few hours of their long days.”
One LifeWays mama was recently reflecting on how grateful she is that her children had the opportunity to experience this gift of simplicity. Her daughter is in her last year at LifeWays Early Childhood Center in Milwaukee, WI. Kristin shared, “We’re preparing to wrap up our ‘daycare’ experience this spring and I’m just so thankful for the wonderful souls that have helped to care for our children. It’s been so much more than just ‘care’: People who have shown our children and our family empathy and love. People who are worthy of being imitated, because they believe that every person is valuable, gifted with purpose and worthy of respect – regardless of age.” These are gifts that come with time, simplicity and a focus on relationship. Listen in as Kristin’s daughter serenades her at bedtime with a sweet song she learned at LifeWays:
“Oh where do you come from, you little flakes of snow?
Falling, falling, softly falling to the earth below.
On the trees and on the bushes, on the mountains afar,
Tell me snowflakes do you come from where the angels are?”
Are simpler days something you and the children would benefit from?
Join us for our online course “Living Arts: Cornerstones of Care” to learn how the Living Arts of practical activity, nurturing care, creative exploration and social awareness can help you find joy, delight and more breathing room in your life with young children. Click here for more information.
The course begins on Wednesday, February 5th. Won’t you join us?