Anthropapa had the day off today, so he and SillyBilly took the bus into the city for a big boy adventure. Plans included possibly taking the subway, going to the Met to see the Egyptian stuff, and playing at the adjacent Ancient Playground.
So I decided to take the rare chance and go to the nearby Waldorf toy store, Meadowlark. It’s in a tiny red barn, far too small and full of nicely displayed toys to risk taking two kids single-handedly. Napoleona had a fine time checking things out, and ended up sitting in one spot playing with puzzles while I puttered around. Bless you, my little phlegmatic one! I was even able to sneak out a birthday present for her.
But the highlight of our morning, and the reason for this post, was our walk to the store. We are very lucky to live in an area that while fairly densely populated, also supports a healthy variety of wildlife and opportunities for nature experiences. Though our walk was about 1/2 mile, we experienced all this:
- slipping on the slidy ice
- prickly holly leaves
- a small flock of cedar waxwings
- ice rimming the brook
- the first robin sighting of the spring!
- some of the first green leaves of the season–how do they push through the still frozen soil?
- the stump where an enormous mulberry tree fell down last autumn
- huge rhododendron buds just waiting to open
- gray squirrels busily trying to find the last of their winter caches
- handfuls of sticks
- an enormous crow squawking from the top of a tall tree, silhouetted against the bright blue sky
In the anthroposophical view of human development, the young child under age seven learns primarily through physical activity and imitation. Though it’s been a difficult winter for outside play (little snow but lots of cold windy days), we’ve been taking little walks to see what can be seen in the forest around us. In this way the kids are still able to be outside even if they can’t do their favorite things like digging or water play. The other day they had a blast trying to use their toy hammers to break a huge mound of icy snow piled up by a snow plow, finding the one patch of mud to get themselves filthy (!) and climbing on boulders.
Today’s moment of imitation came after our walk. I got out the bird book to make sure those were indeed cedar waxwings we saw. A few moments later, Napoleona was sitting by me with 3 or 4 stuffed animals, paging through the book and teaching her little friends all about the birds. Nothing nicer than hearing her say “Look little puppy, a bald eagle!!”
Recently I’ve been mulling over the idea of homeschooling the kids using Waldorf methods. Since they’re both at home anyway I’m already de facto homeschooling them, and it couldn’t be easier using Waldorf ideas. Early childhood is about will forces and imitation: last night before bed I got the kids to help me clean their room by saying that we would be birds making our nests. I started picking things up and before I knew it they were both grabbing baskets to fill with all the toys on the floor, making wooden block nests, toy car nests, etc. Napoleona even went so far as to take a wooden bowl, fill it with bits of ribbon and cloth for softness (I had been telling them about how birds will use things like string, snakeskins, or even plastic to line their nests), and then proceed to sit on the bowl until her stuffed animal “hatched”!
To me, that was a beautiful moment of imitation and creative play. I hope to follow that up with finding a real birds’ nest for them to see.