Monthly Archives: November 2013

facing the wind – together

Sunday afternoon was a blustery very cold day, yet with bright sunshine and a cloudless blue sky.  Hearty parents and their children bundled up to decorate the Parenting Place’s annual holiday tree for the Rotary Lights display at Riverside Park.

In between tree decorating, eating cookies, drinking hot chocolate, and exploring neighboring trees, we played a game geared toward energizing and keeping us warm

It was called the Snowball Feud.  We used a very large fallen branch we found to separate our two teams.  About sixty crumpled up balls of paper towels were our snowballs.  The rules were that there would be an exact number of “snowballs” for each team.   Then … the action could begin – each team scrambling to pick up and throw the snowballs onto the other team’s turf.  In three minutes or so, the team with the least snowballs left would be the victors.

That scenario, however, did not include the very strong winds.  The team facing the wind did not even have a chance.  All the paper snowballs were automatically blowing back to them.  That’s when 8-year-old Sophie came up with a great solution.

” Come on over to our side and let’s fight the wind together.”

A video should have been in order here.  Adults and children, ranging from two to eight years old, laughing, yelling, wildly bending and picking up paper snowballs in a furious attempt to beat the wind.  The faster we threw, the faster they came back at us.

The force of the wind was powerful and awesome – a formidable  opponent.

At last we called a truce and carefully picked up all our snowballs to discard.  We were definitely warmed up – by the physical exertion, the shared laughter, excitement and silliness of it all.

And as for the wind – what better way than this to face it, to “take it on” to experience its  power, its strength and its playfulness.

May you all have a very lovely, playful Thanksgiving Day!

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loving kindness

Long Ridge School is a small private school that I taught at in Stamford, Connecticut for five years during the early eighties.  During this past year, they celebrated their 75th year anniversary.  The original founder of the school opened it as a preschool in her own home, using an enclosed porch as the first classroom. The school philosophy was based on respect for each child as an individual and reflected loving kindness to all.

This still small school has grown in numbers, buildings, beautiful outdoor environment, staff and expertise over these 75 years.  Yet the mission upon which the school was founded has remained the same.

Recently the school underwent the lengthy re-accreditation by the Connecticut Association of Independent Schools. Upon finishing,the committee’s report stated, “It is a daring aspiration for a school to embody the notion of “loving kindness”.  We were surprised and delighted to find that Long Ridge School can truly make the claim that this is not just aspiration but a fair description of daily reality.  We loved Long Ridge School.”

Most parents, I believe, hold this same daring aspiration – to raise their children everyday with loving kindness and to see each one of them as the individuals they are. It isn’t always easy though, but if we notice, if we listen, if we look for connections , our children provide the way.

A mom shared a story with me at Play Shoppe on Friday.  That morning, in exasperation, this mom had told her two and a half year old daughter who was not cooperating, “You are going to make me lose it!”

Without missing a beat, her daughter responded kindly, “I will help you find it, Mommy”.

And isn’t that what children do for us?  They help us discover the strength, the power, the understanding, the love, and the compassion – even on our hardest days.

Loving kindness – our children will help us find it.

Thank you, Long Ridge School for being another place along my way that gave me loving kindness and an appreciation and understanding of its power.

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Just a hint …

One of the most frequent remarks I hear from parents is that their children don’t seem to be able to know how to entertain themselves and play at home.  They wander, they whine, they beg, they plead, usually for some type of screen time to soothe their restless souls.

Yet with the recently renewed strong statement from the Academy of Pediatrics advising less than two hours of entertainment screen time – including any and all types of screens – it is more important than ever to find an alternative.

First, I suggest taking a good look at what there is for your child to play with.  Are materials accessible for them to independently choose?  It can be most helpful to isolate an object. For instance,  when your child gets up from his nap, let him discover a suggestion, an invitation to play – by merely placing a toy/materials in a place where she does not expect to find them.

Have your child discover a few trucks and cars parked under the coffee table, a cardboard box for a garage nearby.

Then, watch what happens – and how it develops.

There are endless examples like this just waiting amongst your child’s toys – or even in your kitchen.

At Play Shoppe  on this past Friday, a doctor’s office appeared.  There was the examining table, a doctor’s kit with the assorted gadgets, some cotton balls, some band- aides, a pad and pen and some chairs set up with dolls and teddy bears waiting their turn. I find adding one “real” item (something that isn’t usually considered a toy – in this case, the cotton balls and the band- aides or the cardboard box garage above) ups the attraction.

The rest was up to the children. It didn’t take too long for some of them to notice this set up – you could sense the immediate interest when they came upon it.  Was there a doctor in the house?  For sure.

Recently we’ve had a Farmer’s Market and a business office- set-up –   mere suggestions – just the basics to tempt the children’s  creativity and urge to play (work) at interpreting and assimilating the world around them.

Try this at home.  Once the children are in bed, take five minutes to create just a hint of a scene  – to pull them into dramatic play when they awake.  Let them come upon it by themselves and then watch where it goes.

It’s easier than battling the request for screen time and far more meaningful.  This will not only help with immediate demands of the moment, but will instill a way to play in your child that can grow into  a strong sense of personal initiative and satisfaction.

Just a hint … try it and see.

Consider the upcoming workshop at The Parenting Place, Holiday Clues – Thursday, December 5th – 9:30 AM – 11:00 AM in La Crosse.  We’ll talk about how to make this holiday season more meaningful and less stressful, avoiding meltdowns, creating your own traditions,  and choosing the kinds of gifts for your children that will offer genuine satisfaction and engagement.  Registration is required; limited childcare is available.  Call 784-8125 to register or for more information.

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As I sit sorting warm sweaters and old jackets,  favorite hats with a hole here and there, thanks to Tootsie,   I realize – it’s blog day – and I’d better get busy on it.

So – while I’m on the subject –  have all of you already pulled out your winter clothes?   Because it’s time.  It’s time to start wearing warm jackets and cozy hats and gloves.  It’s time – to be ready.

The fresh, cold and sometimes gray days of November are upon us.

I always look at November as a prelude to what’s ahead.  I like the starkness that November brings.  I love to see the architecture of the trees, bared from their leaves.  I like the hardness of the fading green ground under my feet, before the snow arrives. The air is cold but pure and invigorating, and I don’t mind it making my nose drip or my cheeks red. I love a late afternoon November sky that warns of snow, if only a few flakes.

For children, for all of us, it is this prelude, this anticipation that can be fun to meet and greet head on.

When we intentionally embrace November days, go out and explore, walk the neighborhood, run, chase, pick a fall bouquet, walk in the early morning fog, have a rainy-day umbrella walk, notice the shiny colorful wet leaves  – the bonuses are many;  healthy children with rosy cheeks, relaxed and tired, good appetites,  full of the fresh early winter air, with warm memories to store.

“If we let them, children can reintroduce us to the world.” Dr. Bruce Perry

That’s a good way to think about it.  If we let them … it’s up to us to take the opportunities so readily available that can introduce them and reintroduce us to many adventures – like November.

Happy November to all.

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