It is hard to stay inside when the gentle rays of the May sun beckon us to come out and play. Never mind that those extra tasks on our to-do lists for cold winter days were never completed. The calls of the unsorted photographs, that unfinished sweater, the uncleaned closet in the back hall grow faint and can easily be ignored until next winter.
We and our children have been summoned outside to work in the yard, play catch, pick dandelions, and most of all move freely. As grown-ups we are called to walk, jog, and hike. The children are called to run, hop, jump, skip, spin, twirl, and tumble. How delightful to be able to move unencumbered by snowsuits, jackets, woolen hats, and all the rest! The little ones are mitten-free and can now use those fingers to pick tiny violet blossoms, sift sand from one hand to the other, and reach for the polka-dotted ladybug on a nearby leaf. The toddler can now sit on a swing and be pushed up and down; make mud pies and stir soups made of sand, leaves, sticks, and blossoms; and roll down grassy hills like a roly-poly rice ball.
After the winter, young children relish immersing themselves in nature, hungry to learn about the world, to experience the elements — earth, air, water, and the warmth of the sun. They come into the house wet, dirty, and happy. Some even want to become acquainted with the earth with every bit of themselves so proceed to strip and roll in the mud, sand, or soft green grass. You need not be embarrassed; it is natural, and besides, it means less laundry.
As the children begin to explore the world outdoors, they are experiencing the growing skills and capacities of their bodies. Sometimes for parents, this can be scary. “Don’t go too high.” “Wait for me.” “Take my hand.” Yes, these warnings are sometimes necessary for the young child’s safety. However, often these statements serve rather to address our fears as parents.
It is up to us as parents and caregivers to assess when precautions are necessary for the safety of the child and when it is about our ease. For the most part, as children turn towards four years of age, they know their bodies well enough to be able to assess their own concerns and limitations.
If playing High Water, Low Water with a jump rope, children will be able to tell how high the rope needs to be held to within an inch of their skill level. They will rarely climb up higher than they can get down. It is a matter of observing your child, and trusting when you can, and assisting when it is needed. Let them walk a balance beam unassisted; after all, a serious injury from 6 inches off the ground is unlikely. Let them explore the capacities of their limbs as well as the world. This is how they learn!
For us as adults, it is not just our bodies that the sun summons. The warmth and sunshine of spring extend a welcoming invitation to our hearts and souls to enter deeply into the world of nature, to be nourished, filled by its beauty and wonder — the songs of the orioles and cardinals as they call forth the flowers and search for their mates, the delicate hues of apple blossoms and the bold faces of the pansies, the fragrance of peonies. Our inner beings long for color, shape, and the experience of the transformation of the natural world. It is a time to breathe deeply and inhale the gifts that Mother Nature offers to us. Though it may seem a trite expression, it is important to “take time to smell the roses.” Hidden among the petals are peace and serenity as well. What a feast a New England spring offers each of us!
Suggestions for springtime activities for young children are not necessary. Just open the door and they will discover the world outside on their own. If you are gardening with your young child, planting radishes can be very satisfying. Unlike carrots and other food crops, radishes can take as little as 4 weeks from sowing to harvesting.
Tira-Lira-Lira in the spring
Orioles and robins sweetly sing
From the leafy branches
You can hear
Tira-Lira-Lira ringing clear.
As the parent of a young child, you no doubt look for a little inspiration from time to time.
Our experienced Parent & Child teachers offer their insights, reflections, and suggestions in "The Young Child."
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