The importance that educators play in the mental health of our students has always been a topic priority. Upon return to schools, how might this impact our learners? How might educators rethink their approach to the daily rhythms and flow of our days? How will we create a classroom learning environment which continues to foster a calm, safe, educational space for children to explore?
In the coming weeks, I invite you to join me on social media using #justletmeplaytrentuaq @justletmeplayedu to explore resources, ask questions, and begin to work together to create a plan for mindfulness in our classrooms going forward. I would like to address at this point, the importance of free play, rhythm and routine, and outdoor play in nature.
Continue to take this seriously and limit your contact with others. Even if those others are family, be aware about their gatherings and interactions with others. We need to do to flatten the curve according to health experts. Please do continue to listen to the experts and practice social distancing and proper self isolation (which means limiting the people with whom you interact with and those they would interact with as well - including but not limited to those who have travelled within the last 14 days). Stay at home with your children (if possible). A big and grand thank you to all those working along the front lines for us during this time i.e health care professionals, emergency services, stores and services deemed necessary. Thank you sincerely.
From an educational standpoint, there is not a need for parents to worry about being a homeschooler, or a Pinerest Guru, education comes in many forms, this is the exact reason why Waldrof Education and nature schooling is so important and resonates with me. Be with your children intentionally, keep them not on a academic routine but a daily rhythm, this will ensure in this time of chaos that something reminds stable.
Mental Health & Development & Family Play Considerations
1. Encourage independent play using open ended materials around the house such as play silks, tea sets, play kitchens, sand play, water play, sensory bags/bottles, dress up, small world play with figurines, climbing domes and piklers etc...
2. Less is more when it comes to toys - be creative and allow them to explore with paint, water and sand (the bath tub is a great place for this too). Do a clean sweep and rotate materials every other day or so to maintain interest. When more is available, behaviours and focus seem to run free (the other way)! Model to your children that toys are part of the home and cared for. If the space is clutter free, tidy up for the child is easier and they are able to understand how the room/house is kept. This will keep some sanity!
3. Exercise! Drink lots of water. Ride your bike. Walk in the forest (practicing social distance and safety rules) - avoid parks where play structures are touched and not cleaned... enjoy the calm and be active together. There is a reason why education trends are going back to the basis of nature play and free authentic play theories ..
**** ( for those to consider, please after you have served your isolation period if you have travelled or have been in contact with the virus, as per W.H.O)
4. Do engage your children to help prepare healthy snacks and meals. Make bread or muffins together to freeze, season tomato sauce, make sandwiches, continue to foster healthy eating habits for the family.
5. Pretend play - allow them to create their own world of play and not play "for them" . This will be amazing to watch while you might take pictures documenting their learning during this time in history. It will be nice to share that during this time, your child was happily engage in their world of fairies and gnomes :)
6. Take their play seriously. Understanding that child's play is work , is showing respect to them as a capable learner and person. Respecting that they are engaged in their work is important. This is the change to stop, listen and observe. Give them your undivided attention by taking an interest in them and their learning/wonders. Schedule but be flexible to avoid added stress. Try to limit screen time for the family.
7. Handwork & Crafting - Time to model, teach or create some handmade articles for the home or for play. At my time at Waldorf, parents all took part in making all the classroom toys and materials. This is where I learned about my love for needle felting! Take a peek at my fairy tale wool needle felted St. Patty's Day rainbow gnome! Children at a young age benefit from seeing their parents enageged in focused in a project.
8. Puppet Plays, oral story telling and plays for the family! Upcycle by making a play stand, puppet theatre with boxes and materials around the house.
9. Bring materials outside or change their location to spark new interest. If you have a backyard, bring the paint or water table out to explore!
10. Get moving! Dance parties for the whole family to encourage movement! You can also YouTube yoga for the kids or new dances to practice!