Holding tightly to my mother’s hands, I walked nervously into the school yard. I heard my name being introduced to my teacher and an explanation that I was a shy child. I clutched at my mother’s legs as she tried to leave. I begged her to stay with me. I couldn’t be left there on my own. I was scared. I was going to be sick. She prised herself away from me, told me I would be okay and left.
Woah, what a crazy month December proved to be for our little family. Despite resolving to slow right down and keep it simple, we were indeed swept up in the Christmas mayhem.
We tried in earnest to be mindful of the children; their routines and their sensitivities, but unfortunately we were not always at the top of our respectful parenting game during this period. Occasionally we put our needs and wants ahead of our children’s, ensuring no one’s need or wants were actually met.
We ran into trouble with one particular social event (Christmas lunch, no less) at which our children really struggled to relax and enjoy themselves in a
new environment. With the benefit of hindsight we have devised a plan to help our children cope more confidently when placed in unfamiliar places in unfamiliar circumstances. Continue reading
My child is not afraid to defy authority and I am not afraid to let her.
Ever since she could talk, my daughter has had something to say about the expectations placed upon her. Keen to stamp her independence firmly on every task or undertaking, L (3.5 years) has always ensured that if it involves her, she has a say in it.
Luckily for her, early on in her life we discovered the work of Magda Gerber and chose to adopt the respectful parenting practices that have guided new parents for decades, RIE. This practise has encouraged her freedom of expression and given her the opportunity to voice her opinion on matters big and small, whilst still being guided gently by her parents.
It took 18 months of parenting before I realised I was on a dangerously downward spiralling path with my children, pushing them further away and slowly undermining their sense of confidence in themselves and trust in me. As I read more and more about the RIE philosophy, I made significant changes to my parenting approach to become a more respectful and reflective parent for my children. The changes subsequently seen in our household were instant and considerable. Suddenly parenting made more sense. I began really communicating with the girls and was able to slow down and enjoy so many more moments with them – yep even the hard ones! You can read more about my introduction to RIE here.
I began this blog just over six months ago with the hopes to inspire even just one person to become a more mindful and respectful parent as they take on one of life’s greatest roles. I could never have imagined in my wildest dreams that my little stories would be so well received and that people from all over the world would read them. I have learned so much about myself and my family along the way and feel blessed to be a part of such a supportive community both on the blog and through my Facebook page (Peaceful Parents, Confident Kids) I still continually find such strength and encouragement in talking to people about their own respectful parenting journey through these mediums.
If you are visiting for the first time, thank you for taking the time to pop by. My name is Kate and I am a mother of two beautiful toddlers 13 months apart in age. These two munchkins feature heavily in my posts as they are my inspiration and my guides as I negotiate the twists and turns of the Lucy and Penny roller coaster.
I have put together some of my favourite posts here if you wanted to read a little more about some of our stories.
Caring for Emotions
Confidence and Natural Development
I have parental meltdowns. Not often, but occasionally my emotions just seem get the better of me. It could be that I am tired, stressed, disconnected from the kids or my husband or that I have been pushed to the brink by my spirited children. Either way, I know it shouldn’t happen. I know I have to work harder to keep my emotions in check. I know that each time I lose it with my children, it affects them and it affects our relationship. Continue reading
Lots of photos and not so much writing in this episode of our week in play. We were lucky enough to visit the Ipswich Art Gallery twice this week. There we discovered the Light and Play Exhibition as well as The Wonder of Learning: The Hundred Languages of Children exhibition which detailed the story of Loris Malaguzzi and how the aftermath of World War Two inspired his revolutionary approach to early childhood learning in the Northern Italian City of Reggio Emilia. Each of these exhibitions was so inspiring. I got so much out of the Reggio Emilia exhibit and am now keen to learn a lot more. The Light and Play exhibition drew both girls in immediately and invited them to interact, explore and discover reflections, shadow, projection, magnification and a whole host of other dimensions of light physics. If you live in or around Brisbane I would highly recommend taking your children to see this display. It ends in a couple of weeks and is well worth the trip. Here are a few of the highlights plus a couple of extra things we did during the week.
Back home and we continued to explore the local birds using these laminated cards. Lucy did some matching and recognition with this activity. Throughout the week she was able to identify and name many of our backyard birds.
Pouring remained a favourite activity for Lucy as she got more adept at pouring from a variety of different containers.
This souvenir from the art gallery was a huge hit. Lucy loved seeing shapes form in 3D and I am now thinking of some ways to incorporate this into an art invitation. Any ideas?
Ever thought of bringing your outdoor furniture inside and setting up a playground wonderland in your lounge room? No, me neither! This invitation to play was set up for the children by my dear husband whilst I was at work. The children can’t get enough of it but I am looking forward to having my lounge room back 🙂
So another week has past and for us it was one very much dominated by our gallery visits. I am going to leave you with a beautiful poem written by Loris Malaguzzi who has inspired thousands of people world wide to take the time to listen to our children’s need to play, to create, to investigate and to imagine. It is up to us to foster these inherent qualities in our children so that their inquiring minds blossom rather than shrivel. I truly hope that I can rise to the challenge set by Loris!
The Hundred Languages
The child is made of one hundred. The child has a hundred languages a hundred hands a hundred thoughts a hundred ways of thinking of playing, of speaking.
Always a hundred ways of listening of marveling, of loving a hundred joys for singing and understanding a hundred worlds to discover a hundred worlds to invent a hundred worlds to dream.
The child has a hundred languages (and a hundred hundred hundred more) but they steal ninety-nine. The school and the culture separate the head from the body. They tell the child: to think without hands to do without head to listen and not to speak to understand without joy to love and to marvel only at Easter and at Christmas.
They tell the child: to discover the world already there and of the hundred they steal ninety-nine.
They tell the child: that work and play reality and fantasy science and imagination sky and earth reason and dream are things that do not belong together.
And thus they tell the child that the hundred is not there. The child says: No way. The hundred is there.
-Loris Malaguzzi Founder of the Reggio Emilia Approach
Play is such a wonderful thing. Play to a child is like work to an adult. It is serious, it is important and it is highly valued. As parents with ‘real’ jobs and ‘real’ responsibilities it can be easy to overlook just how significant play is to a child. While we go to sleep at night thinking about our busy day ahead, cooking, cleaning, getting to work, completing tasks, meeting deadlines, you can be sure that children have just as many thoughts: what am I going to build? Will I be able to master that skill? What am I going to do if somebody takes my toys? Where am I going to take my dolly for a walk in her pram? And the list goes on.
There is no shortage of research that supports the importance of play for children. It helps develop their learning, their creativity, their problem solving and their perseverance whilst at the same time providing them with a sense of accomplishment, joy and fun. I love watching my children play and noting the different angles at which they approach play objects and tasks. I can genuinely see learning taking place on a daily basis and I love that they are in charge of what they learn, when they learn it, and how they learn it. My second job (after being a mother) is a teacher and it has taken me some time to separate my role as a teacher from that as a mother but I have now become more accepting that my children at ages 1 and 2 years don’t need to be taught explicitly. They have an innate desire to seek out learning experiences and are learning the perfect amount for their individual age and stage. I simply try my best to offer experiences and opportunities for learning, through which I hope that they not only develop the aforementioned qualities but also a love of learning and an inquiring mind.
Having said all that, here are a few snapshots of what the girls got up to this week. We had fewer ‘new’ invitations this week as the girls were happily revisiting ones from last week such as the dirt pit as well as creating their own play experiences 🙂
This fabulous arrangement of plants in a garden outside the church we take the girls to for music, provided them with so much fun and excitement that they happily played for ages; exploring, chasing each other and using problem solving to work out how to get back to each other when they ended up split between the rows.
Who doesn’t love sidewalk chalks? It writes so easily, is vibrant and is so powdery and textural that children are drawn in by them. We love to play on our front footpath in the afternoon. The neighbours children often join us and the kids love meeting and greeting the neighbourhood walkers that stride past our house each afternoon. This week I brought out the sidewalk chalk for them to use to brighten up the footpath. Penny was so taken by them that she settled herself into a comfortable position on the footpath and proceded to draw, place the chalk sticks in and out of the tin, explore the powdery consistency by rubbing her drawings after she had drawn a line.
I came across this little table in a local op shop and immediately thought of the possibilities for the children and with its overly cheap price tag it didn’t take much to convince me to buy it. It was an instant hit and has been used regularly all week as a drawing table, a step to get up on the higher table, a platform to jump off and a table to eat from. I love seeing my daughters bonding, learning to share, cooperating and negotiating over this versatile table.
Despite being in the middle of winter here, we have been enjoying some unusually warm weather this week. Now, our car used to be my husband’s pride and joy but with the arrival of two children in quick succession not only has the car been relegated from the garage to the driveway to make way for a childrens play room, it has gone from having a weekly clean to a biannual clean!! This week it was bath time for the car and the kids had so much fun helping us do it that I think the poor old car might get some attention a little more often now. The girls love to be helpful and this gave them a fantastic outlet to play in water and bubbles whilst utilising a gross motor skill and feeling authentically useful. The only minor issue we encountered was that Lucy continually wanted to tip the water out to watch it run down the driveway. 🙂
This was one of the few invitations I set up this week. Not only was there limited time to set them up, I found that the girls seemed happy to find their own play ideas especially as the weather was so good and we could get outside. The girls really enjoyed this little pouring activity though. Lucy has just started asking to pour her own milk and drink from a cup without a sippy lid etc. so I wanted to tap into this interest and I thought this might help build her confidence in this area at the same time. She really enjoyed the funnels although it did take her a while to work out what they did. She would pour the water into it and then suddenly realise that it was coming out the bottom into nothing. We went through a few containers of water before she made the connection.
I simplified the invitation for Penny and found that she was initially more interested in the cups themselves and placing them on and off the tray. She had a few attempts at pouring the water into the cup but kept tipping the empty cup up and leaving the full one down. Lots of spilling but I loved watching her brain tick over as she tried to work why it wasn’t working.
So that was a snippet of our week. I hope you had a lovely week with your children and as always I would love to hear from you or answer any questions you may have.
One of my most favourite and rewarding RIE practises centres around the notion that, in play, children are entirely capable of achieving their own goals at their own pace often without the need for demonstration or guidance. My understanding and appreciation of this has developed over time and as I have withdrawn my desire to show the girls what to do with an activity, toy or task, I have witnessed a lovely spike in confidence and countless beaming smiles as they have engaged in play in the way they wish to, without the expectation to do it right!
Although I could probably write a novel of short stories describing examples of how letting my girls discover their own play style has produced inspiring results, I have chosen just a couple of recent examples to share with you.
A few weekends back, my husband and I took our girls (Lucy, 2.4 years and Penny, 1.3 years) to visit their Granny in Brisbane (our nearest capital city). Being from a smaller town, we love taking the girls to see the amazing sights a big city has to offer so it wasn’t long before we had packed our bags and headed off for an excursion to the City’s cultural playground which houses an art gallery, museum, Science Centre and the State Library amongst other things. There is far too much to take in on one day so we settled for just the museum and the State Library on this particular day. Of course the children LOVED the museum with all it’s beautiful animal exhibits and lovely interactive displays but it wasn’t until we got to the Library that I was truly able to see the benefits of letting the children discover their own play.
It just so happened that the Library at the time had a fantastic sound display for children consisting of musical instruments fashioned from ordinary household goods as well as a mini dance floor surrounded by curtains. Among the amazing contraptions the children were invited to interact with was a vacuum cleaner trumpet, a xylophone style instrument made from hanging spoons and forks, a thong-a-phone and a washboard table with drumsticks. The girls were overwhelmed with the choices and possibilities initially. The first thing they discovered was the dance floor. With its flashing lights and cubby like set up, it was always going to be a big attraction. Lucy headed straight onto it, grabbing the head phones from the rack and donning them before ditching them in favour of ‘chasing the lights’ on the floor.
Penny walked tentatively across the floor, ignoring the headphones and the flashing lights and walked straight into the curtains where she played peek-a-boo, hiding in them and running through them for a long period of time. I sat nearby and watched them go. Whilst I did so I watched several other excited children enter the space with their parents in toe. They directed their toddlers to the headphones and popped them on their heads before standing with them and imitating their children’s bopping motion as many of them do.
I have absolutely no problem with this and in fact, pre RIE I was exactly the same, always wanting to show my kids what they are supposed to be doing. As it went on though, I sat there watching as Penny played happily in the curtains, exploring and discovering whilst several family groups came and went. I detected a pattern of behaviour whereby, those children that had been directed to do as the display intended, lasted in the area for less than a minute whilst those who were left to discover for themselves, played for a much longer time.
One particular incident had me feeling quite sorry not just for the child but for the parent too. This little boy, slightly older than Penny but less than two (I’m guessing) entered the dance floor with his parents and saw Penny hiding in the folds of the curtain. Ignoring the lights and headphones (much like Penny) this boy headed straight to another set of hanging curtains that encircled the floor but just before he got his little hand on one, his Dad grabbed his arm and redirected him back to the headphones, fitting them on his head and then bopping in front of him, showing him how to dance. The toddler, understandably was less than impressed and wriggled out of the headphones, throwing himself to the floor in objection when he was prevented from going into the curtains once again. The child was then helped from the floor by his Mum who then directed him out of the play area and out of the library.
Now, admittedly, I do not know any of the circumstances of this family which could have led to the decisions they made that day but I couldn’t help but wonder whether their need to provide their son with as many of life’s experiences as possible had made them overlook their child’s basic desire to explore and investigate in his own way, developing his own chosen experiences along the way.
Once Penny had left the dance area to delve deeper into the other delights on offer, I watched in fascination as she carefully considered her options. I repositioned myself so I was central to both her and Lucy and enjoyed several moments watching both girls move from object to object, gathering in information from each before they would eventually settle on the one that would resonate with them the most.
From my position I had a great vantage point for viewing the washboard table drum designed so children would run a drumstick along the board and tap the hanging metal plates like cymbals. The effect was lovely but as I sat I was amazed that not just some but all children who chose to climb onto the stool and partake in a little noise making were shown what to do by their parents. I’m not talking just little toddlers either; there were children there that would have had to be 5 or 6 who were not trusted to explore and play independently. Parents all over could not resist showing the children how to run the drumstick over the corrugated surface to make a sound. I pondered whether they might have discovered how to use it for themselves if given a little time. Interesting to note here was that the average lasting time at this particular display was less than 30 seconds.
After a little bit, Penny approached the this table and put her hands on the stool trying once to pull herself up before realising it was a little too high for her. So instead, she reached up and grabbed the drumstick. She then started hitting it on the stool, making little tapping noises. She then noticed that there was a little decorative hole cut out of the middle of the seat of the stool. She put her fingers of her free hand into it before peering in to have a look where it led. She then poked the drumstick into the hole carefully until it was almost all the way in and then removed it. She repeated this experiment about a dozen times before accidently (it seemed) dropping the drumstick into the hole. She peeked anxiously in after it and spotted it down on the floor. This started a whole new period of discovery for her whereby she would drop the stick in the hole then bend down and retrieve it before repeating over and over.
Her intense concentration was only broken by another child who came over to join in the game, peering into the hole after Penny had dropped the stick through. The girl’s mother was close behind and was careful not to let her daughter take the stick from Penny. Penny was finished though and happily offered up the stick to the girl who tried to poke the stick in the hole like Penny was doing but was promptly picked up and sat on the stool by her Mum and shown how to run the drumstick up and down the wash board.
If I could have sent a subliminal message to all those parents that day it would have been to do some research into RIE. Whilst I know that there are many many lovely parents and styles of parenting which are far removed from RIE and which still produce beautiful children, I know that the joy and satisfaction I experience in allowing my children to play at their own level and to have ownership over their play has got to be greater than having to constantly redirect children to play ‘properly’.
Another experience happened here at home, just the other day. It was a cold and rainy day, one not really conducive to letting the kids run around outside. I decided to set up some sticky collage play for Lucy whilst Penny slept. Whilst she was ‘cooking’ in her ‘kitchen’ I discretely stuck some contact paper upside down on her art table. I added some containers of collage material including cut up paper, material, buttons, confetti stars and puff balls and left it all there for her to discover. I had seen this activity set up on an internet site and thought it would be a great one for Lucy who has a short fuse and can get quite frustrated when trying to use glue with loose parts for normal collage work. I had certain expectations (based on the site) and thought this might be an activity that would keep her engaged for a significant amount of time. (Just as a side note, Lucy is not really renowned for her attention skills, I believe, as a result of being ‘entertained’ a lot through her first 18 months of life, prior to my discovery of RIE.) So this is how things unfolded.
Lucy discovered the invitation to play.
She then discovered that this pile was not all stuck to the contact so she grabbed handfuls of the loose parts from the pile and dropped them over the edge of the table, watching them as they floated to the floor.
It took all my strength not to leap in and stop her doing this; to redirect her back to the task I had so carefully prepared for her. But to her, at her age and stage, this was play, this was experimentation, discovery and fun all in one. It didn’t look how I expected it to but she didn’t know that, I hadn’t told her and she was very happy and proud of her achievement.
I believe the RIE road is such a rewarding one and I love to reflect on experiences such as this and feel that overwhelming sense of gratefulness that I am able to now enjoy such moments in parenting rather than stress that my children are not on the right track or experiencing the right things. I would love to hear some other stories like this from parents who have experienced the same thing. Feel free to post in the comments below.