Young children, by their very nature, are highly sensitive to routine. Once we observe just how important it is for them to be able to predict events in their daily lives, to adhere to traditions and rituals, and to anticipate what awaits in their immediate future, we can support this appreciation for order and consistency in many small but effective ways.
The fact remains, however, that significant life transitions may be difficult for some children to navigate without carefully planned preparation on the part of the adult.
During late August and early September, when the first days of school signal a new chapter in a child’s life, many families find themselves experiencing some level of anxiety rather than the joy they were expecting.
Nature provides an ideal environment for decompressing when tensions begin to build.
Once the last days of summer cast their rays on the horizon, it is in everyone’s interest to spend as much time as possible in the great outdoors, and not in the checkout line for school supplies.
For pre-k or kindergarten age students, you will possibly have an opportunity to visit the classroom before the first day of school. Perhaps you can see whether there is a nature table, or a science area? This could provide the motivation to take a walk in the woods, or by the beach, in order to gather some interesting objects for sharing later on.
Does the classroom schedule accommodate time for a show-and-tell experience each week? Even though many traditional classrooms do not discourage toys or trinkets being brought as objects to share, every teacher I have ever worked with has voiced a preference for highlighting treasures such as rocks, shells, leaves or other natural artifacts during this group activity.
Contrary to what you might imagine, your child will not need to hear the topic of school discussed every day during August. In the past, I have found that some well-meaning parents try to evoke a level of enthusiasm that, to a perceptive young person, reveals an underlying level of nervousness on the part of Mom or Dad. Far better to make a casual reference to the upcoming reality, and to engage in as much time as possible focusing on the present rather than the future.
Be fully present when you explore the outdoors with your child. Adapt a slow walking pace, and be mindful of small details such as tide pools, anthills, animal tracks or the feel of pine needles under your feet. Describe what you experience, and be open to listening to your child discuss anything they wish to. During a quiet walk, it is easier to divulge hopes and dreams as well as worries.
Walk in all weathers, and appreciate the natural wonders enhanced by the wind and the rain as well as the sun. Sing songs about what you see. Read books about what you notice.
These are the days in which you make memories which will be brought beyond the next great milestone, and into the next phase of life.
About the Author
Susan Shea, after more than twenty years in a Montessori learning environment, has taken time out of the classroom to develop a new series of nature-themed readers for young families who enjoy the outdoors and appreciate the value of literacy. Find out more about these beautiful hardcover books at www.phoneticplanet.com, where you can also explore other nature-themed learning resources.
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