June 2011 - Posts
up in the entryway are the children's footwear, protection for various seasons
and weather: rubber boots, sneakers and sturdy hikers. Now that summer has arrived, it is the
sandals that are most often in service and they can be found in a happy pile by
the door while the boots and shoes stand neatly against the wall.
winter long we have made sure that our children's feet were properly shod and
now it is time to discard even the sandals. There is nothing more pleasurable that the squish of damp
sand between the toes while walking along the beach.
friend told me about a hike she had taken recently with her two grandsons. It had rained the day before and they
came upon a muddy patch in the trail that could not be avoided. To the children's surprise, she
suggested that they take off their sandals and one of them was enticed to do
so. The feel of mud underfoot and
between the toes is so different that that of the sand on the beach.
feet give us important information about our surroundings, especially what is
below us. They need to be educated
through a variety of movement and tactile experiences. I remember the first time my grandson
sat on a carpet of green grass.
The green pokey spears startled him! His parents were amused by this at
first but then realized that he actually needed reassurance. After a few days, sitting on the grass
became a familiar and enjoyable experience for him.
new touch experience adds to the child's capacity for sensory discrimination,
becoming the basis for sorting and organizing their experiences and, later on,
their thoughts. This is why we
have many different natural materials in a Waldorf early childhood setting. Through our hands and feet we also learn
about the different qualities in the material world and, in responding to these
sensory experiences, cultivate different qualities in our own being.
feet delight in gathering different textural experiences. In addition to grass, warm flat rocks,
tiny tumbling pebbles and flakey wood shavings are different surfaces that
might already be in your yard.
Cool moss and ground covers, such as creeping thyme, further expand the
kinds of qualities that your child could experience. Check out your yard to make sure it is safe, although
learning how to navigate uneven surfaces and take care are also important
aspects of the education of little feet.
Don't forget about the well-loved tradition of running through the
sprinkler on the hottest days.
is only one of the senses that are stimulated during barefoot excursions. Movement and balance are also involved
when the child is exploring the earth's many textures and surface features. In recent years, educational
researchers have recognized the critical foundation that these early sensory
experiences have for late learning capacities. Natural textures also help
stimulate the child's sense of life, the fourth of these foundational senses.
send the kids out in to the yard barefooted on warm sunny days and maybe even
on warm rainy days as well. Watching them may even inspire you to kick off your
own shoes and feel the mud squishing up between your toes!
Now that our
supermarkets and co-ops are chock full of fresh food all year long, it is hard
to imagine the joy with which families used to look forward to summer and the
return of seasonal fruits and vegetables . That is, until you taste a piece of fruit grown locally and
sun-ripened to perfection! From
the first scent, often more flowery that fruit-like, these fruits are a feast
for the senses. Warm in the hand,
soft to the touch, its true flavor explodes on the tongue. Of few fruits is this more true than of
the lovely June strawberry. We are
lucky here in the Northwest to have excellent local farms, organic and
conventional, and an outing to go strawberry picking is a perfect way to mark
the happy abandon of the ‘schools out" season of the family year.
One June, in this
mood, I loaded my two daughters, aged 9 and 11, a good friend of theirs, my
mother (recently relocated from Michigan), a bag of sandwiches and a thermos of
ice tea into the car and set out for the sweet fields of Carnation. There was something about swinging into
the dusty parking lot beside the u-pick farm that brought me back to my own
Michigan childhood, and we were all pretty excited even before the lady in the
apron gave us our buckets. The
kids, big fans of outdoor edibles, darted right out of the car and into the
Once you begin
strawberry picking it can be hard to stop. The berries hide themselves cunningly in the shade of the
broad leaves of the plant. Gently
lift a delicate stalk and maybe you will see a cluster of the bright red
heart-shaped fruits winking up at you.
No one minds if the kids eat a few along the way as long as their
buckets keep filling up. As we
picked, we chatted and the conversation soared and swooped from hamsters to
Hogwarts to homemade jam, and as I remember, we even sang a little. Before the sun got too high we were
done, heavily laden and sun-kissed.
Strawberries grow close to the ground and so we were tired too - tired
in the best possible way - and had a new respect for the folks who work hard to
bring food to our tables, and to the earth that gives to us this food.
Somewhere along the
course of the morning a promise had been extracted to seek out the nearest body
of water and to jump in it as soon as our buckets were full. There was a river running through a park down the road a
piece that looked appealingly cool.
We floated along, showing off like porpoises while my mother sat in the
shade and clapped. Washed clean of
the dust of the fields, we gobbled our sandwiches and headed home, to try our
hands at a latticed crust strawberry pie!
Now that my own
children are no longer small, I have started to have a real craving for
babies. I miss their soft sweet
skin and their dimpled feet and hands, for instance, and the joy of seeing them
smile. One day I will be an
immoderately doting grandmother, but not for many years yet I hope. Part of this lovely longing was
satisfied recently by the charming film Babies, created by the French directors Thomas Balmes and
Alain Chabat, and released last year.
A very entertaining documentary, Babies gives the viewer a peek into the lives of four
infants from birth to one year of age as they are carried and cared for, eat,
crawl and generally explore the world around them. The thing that makes this film so unique is that the worlds
they explore, are very different, as the
four babies are born in four quite distinct parts of the globe; in
Tokyo, Japan; in Opuwo Namibia; in San Francisco, USA; and in Bayachandmani,
Though Babies is a French film, and is filmed on location in three
continents, the film has no subtitles. This is because there is no dialogue to
speak of. Neither is it needed,
because, of course, babies can't talk! What they can do is touch, taste, feel, smell, and
babble, coo and cry. What we the
viewers see and hear are roughly 80 minutes culled from hundreds of hours of
film, following these four through their first glimpses of their ‘brave new
world'. The experience is
intriguing, touching and often funny! We see them experience first tastes of
food and frustrations and freedom as the youngsters, eyes wide, imitate what
they see around them and negotiate their surroundings. With what joy they first
stand and take their first wobbly steps! The parents, forming a warm circle in the periphery,
fade into a blur of hands and encouraging voices and let the babies take the
Though the babies are
certainly irresistible, the film never becomes merely cute or cloyingly
sweet. With an insightful eye,
Chabat has created a study of human nature at its, well, most naked. I was struck immediately by the presence of these very young children, their unique
personalities, their innate humor and cleverness, which reminded me that babies
come to us with SO much, and are anything but blank slates. Babies is also a clear picture of the universality of human
experience as all four children go through very similar phases of growth,
though the growing happens in settings that are starkly different, a high rise
apartment on one hand and a mud and wattle hut on the other. I tip my hat to the directors for
showing the beauty and utility of both, again without too much
sentimentality. In the end the
funniest part for me was that the youngsters in Tokyo and San Francisco with
their all their baby gear, their shelves of toys and infant yoga classes,
seemed happiest sitting on the floor playing with their toes. The little ones in Mongolia and Namibia
who get by with much less stuff and fuss, but are plopped right in the middle
of the adult world of work and weather and livestock, seem to be coming up
pretty well too, cheerful, sturdy and capable. I guess the final message for me was, relax and love
these little people who, remarkably, find their way into our lives. Let them grow in their time. The kids are all right.
Babies is now available on DVD . Treat yourself. You won't be disappointed.
host a Dolly Tea party" I mentioned to my four year old.
Dolly Tea party?" she asked.
yes! How about you invite your
favorite dolls and we'll host an event.
What do you think we'll need?" I asked her.
she said, "we need a tea pot. Let
me go find my tea pot".
so full of excitement for the next hour, running busily around gathering all
the things we would need to host the tea. It was a great way to conduct a
treasure hunt, as one by one she appeared with a tablecloth, napkins, teacups,
cups for water, a teapot and a serving tray. Next came deciding on what to serve. I was really touched by
her interest, her joy and her satisfaction in setting-up the table and then her
dolls and fuzzy friends. She invited both of her siblings and, of course, their
favorite dollies came along too. It was the social event of the doll's season
and all of the kids enjoyed it together.
recommend a Dolly Tea party in your home.
For our great-grandmothers, laundry was an all-day
affair. Every article of clothing
and all the household linens were washed, rinsed, wrung out and hung up by
hand. By contrast, we can toss a
load in the washing machine and then into the dryer any old time and multi-task
while the machines work away.
Few of us would relish having
to wash all our clothing by hand if we had a choice, but we may have lost
something precious when we gave up the clothesline. Instead of hunching over a
machine in the dim, dank basement, imagine a fresh June morning: dappled light
coming through the tree branches, birds warbling and chirping overhead, the
odor of damp grass mixed with lilac, dew sparkling on a spider's web.
Here is what you will need: a basket to ferry the wet laundry outside, a length of
sturdy line and some clothespins.
(The sun, air, bird song and scents are already provided.) You can string the line between trees
or set two posts in the yard. I
found a great umbrella-shaped clothes dryer online, which can hold two loads of
laundry. I also found a nifty
clothespin hamper at a garage sale, but a cloth sack hung over a hanger will do
just as well.
what you will get for your effort:
will become much more aware of the weather and the way the sun moves in your
will pay attention, ever so briefly, to each article of clothing; hanging them
artistically or logically rather than lumping them into and out of the machines.
kids will want to help. What could
be more fun than prying open those pinchy things!
children will entertain themselves in the yard while you hang up or take down
electric bill will be lower.
kids will learn some new skills and better understand how we take care of our
will notice a difference when you put on clothing dried out-of-doors.
will smell fresh.
If the thought of setting up a line and hanging out loads
and loads of laundry is too daunting, just wash out the napkins and placemats
and hang them up on the front porch.
Once the children have seen it done, they will be able to do it
themselves. Set them up with a tub of soapy water and a washboard. (Look for
washboards and other laundry supplies at your local Ace Hardware store.) Then
bring out a bucket of fresh water for rinsing. Show them how to wring as much
water out as possible before hanging articles up on the line. This is a great warm weather activity,
and you may find yourself looking for more things for your eager helpers to
If you need
more inspiration here's a wonderful website dedicated to the art of laundry: