Ahh, spring in Wisconsin!
Every year I forget how slow spring is in coming. I let myself hope for an early one and I’m disappointed every year. Having grown up in sunny southern Africa, the idea of spring is still foreign to me, even though I’ve lived in Wisconsin for 21 years! Warmth is still so important for the children at this time of year. With the weather being as unpredictable as it is, the importance of being adequately dressed cannot be over-stressed.
In Kinderhouse, we try to offer the children as many warming and nurturing activities as we can. The living arts curriculum can warm our inner lives as our clothing warms our physical bodies. Living arts bring us a sense of homeliness. Folding laundry; brushing hair; creating gifts and playing to our hearts’ content are all activities reminiscent of home life. On Thursday mornings, we shape bread rolls from the dough that Ms. Jane makes with her children. The Kinderhouse children sit at the table and roll the warm dough between their hands. They do this over and over, roll after roll until all the dough is used up. They usually work quietly and the movement of their hands is meditative. When we’ve finished, they “wake up” and are ready to jump back into their play. I feel that this sort of focused activity does so much for the development of the children’s ability to see a task to completion. This ability is something that needs to slowly take shape within the child, not something that should be forced before the child is ready. Children come into their abilities at their own pace. Some children are able to turn out roll after roll. Others sit with the same piece of dough and knead it over and over again, and then hand me a misshapen mass which I gladly accept. In time, they too will produce a roll.
Creating gifts with the children for their families has been such a joy this year. Most recently, we wet-felted eggs to put into nests. The children were a bit unsure about the process of manipulating wool between their hands until it felted into eggs, but they persevered and the results were amazing. Elliot took such pleasure in this that he said happily, “Ms. Rhoda, why do we always do such fun things?” Isaac was an enthusiastic felter and produced 10 eggs! Antonia was unsure about the texture of the wool in her hand, but she continued to explore with it and finally became comfortable in her task. The process of making a gift for loved ones is so heart-warming for both the giver and the recipient. The children take such pride in their work. For me, the process of creating is so much more important than the end-product. There is a lot to be learned in sitting down to work through a task, figuring out how to do it and enjoying oneself. While they worked, the children talked to one another, telling each other about past and present injuries, and creating impossible scenarios in which these injuries took place! It struck me how well these 3 and 4 year-olds can hold themselves and complete their work without having to touch their neighbors or fall out of their chairs. This is something that the play-based learning curriculum found at LifeWays gives to the children. In their work and play, they are learning to manage themselves as they interact with their peers.
I am grateful for the opportunity to work with the Kinderhouse children at LifeWays. We’ve had a terrific year and I have been the better for it. I have enjoyed my time with the children immensely, and as our time together draws to a close, I would like to thank you all the Kinderhouse parents for allowing me this time to spend with your children.