Monthly Archives: August 2015

free to be

Once again The Parenting Place’s Children’s Festival has come and gone – yet the glow of the morning’s activities lingers in my mind.

So many folks commented about how peaceful it all felt.  How could that be with so many children present?

The answer, I believe, is that the children were busy -with real materials, intentional as they worked at their play, exploring  with freedom of choice and deep concentration.

Free to be.

I watched an older toddler, probably around two and a half years of age, digging in the dried corn bin in the “farm” area. She filled her measuring cup with the corn, picked up a plastic egg, realized she had to take it apart first, so put down the measuring cup, took the egg apart, picked the measuring cup back up and,  with such “tongue-biting” care,  filled just the right amount of corn into the egg, and then snapped it up tight.

Satisfaction!

There was no concern for who was watching. (In fact I was the only one and she did not know that.)  She needed no audience, no “look Mommy, look Daddy”, no “watch me”.

In fact, an audience would have broken the spell.

This satisfaction was totally hers to own.

And so, she then opened up the egg, dumped out the corn and began the process again.

This engagement was not limited to the very young child.  There were plenty of older children creating freely at the Art Factory; letting their imaginations take hold at the Soap Factory, the Mud Kitchen and Construction Site; pretending at Dinosaur Island and the “Campground”; building at Cars and Ramps.

Free to be.

Adults stationed at different activities asked me  “what should we do when the children come?”  I told them, “the children will know” and they did.

At a time in our lives when technology seems to be the answer, the means in which to make our children smarter, quicker, more in touch with their world around them, I wonder – really?

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super heroes

Little boys karate chop bubbles in the air – two other little guys arrive at Play Shoppe suited up in their super hero outfits creatively crafted from cardboard – a little girl arrives one morning, looking lovely in her fancy “gown”; “I’m a princess” she told us, “a superhero princess” – a trio of preschoolers, two boys and a girl, in their dramatic play, yell “Quick, the hospital ‘s under attack!” as they rush to save the day.

All of these children are protecting themselves from imaginary, playful villains yet  sometimes the fears are real and require the strength and protection of super heroes – like their parents.

The shooting episode on the south side of La Crosse on Friday was a devastating tragedy for the families of both boys and a frightening and anxious time throughout the neighborhoods and city.

A day like Friday doesn’t go unnoticed or unheard by most children.

Children are eager listeners – especially when we are talking to others. Even if your family did not live near the violence , your child, the eager listener, may have overheard talk of the shootings this past week on  local TV news coverage, conversation between parents, exchanges between the neighbors, store clerks, even other children. They have a sixth sense when adults are anxious and upset.

And as is the way with children, their biggest concern is “Am I safe?  Will I get shot?  Will my mom and dad get shot?  Who will take care of me?”

As parents we need to be vigilant about our children’s exposure to the conversations and media that happens when a community is rocked by a shocking incident such as this.

If your child has questions about what happened,  or you know he or she has overheard or seen images of the shootings, finding out what they already know or think happened will clarify just what you need to share with them – to assure them they are safe. Keep it simple and don’t give more information than they need.

Just as significant for children is adults being mindful of any stereotyping of individuals by race or economic status as “those people” – the ones we should fear.

And as we come together, sincerely and with generous hearts, we can hope that the problems that lead to senseless loss of young lives can be addressed, and we can all be a part of the solution.  By being good neighbors, strong super heroes ourselves, we can try and support each other and the children in our care and our community.

And we can appreciate that when our children are playing at their own kind of super heroes, they are also coping with their individual real or imagined fears, trying to make sense out of their world, finding the strength that lets them feel in control, that makes them feel brave, that makes them feel competent, and makes them feel safe.

Super Powers. We can all use a little of that.

 

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Joy

I’m around lots of special little children at The Parenting Place but there’s something different about actually having a baby in one’s home – an almost one-year-old little guy who came to visit for a week.

A child of this age has a lot to teach us if we let them.  The paradox is these lessons are all things we most likely once knew and practiced when we were very young.  But then we grew up – and now as the adults that we are, we read books and articles and attend conferences and pay money to try and relearn how to be the way we naturally were as toddlers.

For it’s all about being totally enthralled by the ordinary – every object, sound, sensation,touch – and how to stay and absorb the moment. The world is there – right now, for a toddler to observe – to enjoy, to soak up, to be thrilled by.  And that boundless enthusiasm and joy is very contagious.

It’s free and available for our very own senses to see, to feel, to revive.

Anyone lucky enough to have the chance to spend some time with an almost one-year-old can learn to appreciate this renewed wonder – by watching, by doing.

This past week the joy was mine.  It’s the kind of joy that makes stiff knees and achy backs go unnoticed.

It’s the joy of life.

Thank you, Theo.

The place to witness some of this very joy and focus in children is coming up soon – The Parenting Place Children’s Festival – where play happens – Saturday, August 25th at Myrick Park from 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM.  Tickets are $4.00 each;  3 for $10; $5. each the day of the event.  They’re on sale now at The Parenting Place and  The People’s Coop. Join us for this special morning and help us to continue our free parent education and support programs.

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It’s true

I like my twist on the often heard quote, “It takes a village to raise a child”.

How about “It takes a Play Shoppe to raise a child”?.

Yes!

Because it is definitely during our weekly Friday Play Shoppe that I witness such communal interaction.

Emotions are shared, children included and embraced by others, parents supported.  Both children’s good behaviors and misbehaviors  are understood and appreciated. Misunderstandings between children are readily helped and negotiated, sometimes by the “happening-to-be-standing-next-to-them” adult. Suggestions are offered, sharing encouraged, occasionally ultimatums handed down, agreements accepted, harmony restored – a morning of caring, a morning of joyfulness, a morning of growth.

It is on Friday afternoons, after all is quiet and picked up, that I take the time to think back and reflect on the morning’s Play Shoppe goings-on – the conversations parents share with each other and with me, the exchanges and togetherness of the children, the imagination and poetry of their play.

And I believe it really is true.

It does take a Play Shoppe to raise a child.

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