by Miss Jaimmie
It’s the time of year when the fresh spring air inspires us to refresh our homes and gardens and spend more time out in nature. After spending a lovely day outdoors in the amazingly orderly wilderness, I am compelled to follow Nature’s lead when sprucing up the indoor living spaces, both at home and at our home away from home, LifeWays.
When I was a very young girl, we had a mature lilac bush in our back yard. The branches arched nearly to the ground, creating a little fortress between its trunk and its blooming branches. I spent many spring days playing under its blossoms with my dolls and little bits of stones, leaves, grass and dandelions – whatever was handy. It was a fragrant, beautiful place of solitude to play while my brothers and their band of boys ran amok in the yard. I was on the perimeter of their rowdy games, yet completely sheltered and serene.
Though we lived in the working- class suburbs just outside the city limits, I had very little access to truly natural environments growing up. The nearby playgrounds were covered with pavement and the parks were heavily landscaped. Looking back, I find it interesting that I gravitated toward the lilac tree and immersed myself in this piece of nature. As an adult, I treasure the experience that working and playing on a nature preserve provides for the children in my care as well as myself.
Early childhood education expert, Anita Olds encourages us to provide children with experiences in nature. She asserts that, “The basic elements of nature - air, fire, earth, and water - are in motion. Whereas the built environment is rigid and immovable, the natural environment is always in flux. And it is nature’s rhythmic patterns of change, akin to our own physiological rhythms, which account for the sense of calm we experience in natural settings.” The subtle and gradual changes that nature undergoes creates a rich, balanced learning environment full of opportunities for movement and stillness, for quiet and noise, for exuberance and concentration.
Indoors, I like to take my cues from nature when arranging spaces for working, playing and living. At LifeWays, we favor subtle colors and materials that are inspired by nature and strive for simplicity and beauty when choosing toys and decorations. It is easy to become overstimulated when you are living, working and playing in a full, vivacious community or home. Natural materials such as silk, wool, wood, stone, cotton and living plants nourish the senses. The secluded cozy corner of the suite is reminiscent of the lilac bush in the yard- a sanctuary veiled in silks where a child be in their own little world even while the outer world buzzes with activity around them. The daily rhythm mimics nature’s balance and rhythms, allowing times and places for quiet solitude and joyful togetherness. We balance spending time outdoors playing in nature and participating in more domestic activities such as baking bread, sweeping, eating and resting.Of course, a well-loved living space can accumulate clutter and cobwebs even when we tidy throughout the day. It is refreshing to open the windows on those first spring days, clear the cobwebs, dust the neglected corners and remove some of the excess stuff from our space. Ill-fitting clothes and forgotten toys are sorted into boxes labeled Hand Me Downs, Yard Sale and Donate. Mattresses are flipped and the little ones crawl under their beds to dig out lone socks, books and stuffed animals that are hiding under the dust bunnies. At LifeWays, the remnants of the lost and found basket are donated, books are mended and muddy, extra mittens are washed. The play yard becomes more inviting and the children are inspired by the good work that we do together at our Spring Festival. And, I see the wisdom in the words of Shea Darian, “Order our lives to make room for the largeness of our love."
Young children love to help with housework, so why not let them pitch in! Here’s some ideas for including your little ones in Spring Cleaning:
*Let them spot wash the floor with a sponge and some natural, non-toxic cleaner. This is a favorite activity in my home and at LifeWays. I must confess, I haven’t washed a floor in years!
*Washing tables, counters and chairs
*Washing the stones and shells from the nature table (a favorite in our house!)
*Really anything involving soapy water will have them mesmerized!
*Sorting through their things. I like to keep a box handy when we clean the kids’ rooms so they can help choose things to give away or sell in a yard sale. Of course, I override some of their choices. (Sometimes the loud superhero toy from Christmas needs to go into the box and the hand-made lovey needs to come back out!)
*Laundry. Even 2 year olds can help load the washer and dryer. By 3 or 4, they are pretty good at folding, too! Toddlers love to help hang the clothes to dry by handing me clothes pins.
*Weeding. Pulling garlic mustard is a favorite in KinderHouse. I just start my work and they join in, I never even have to ask!
“In an age when there are so many untruths for young children to sort through, work provides them with a connection to the world around them based on truth and service.”