If a child has been able in his play to give up his whole living being to the world around him, he will be able, in the serious tasks of later life, to devote himself with confidence to the service of the world. – Rudolf Steiner.
Deep, uninterrupted play is a child’s work; how a child discovers, and comes to understand herself and her world. When is child is absorbed in imaginative play, she is developing as a full human being; head, hand and heart.
In order for play to be effective and nourishing for children, children must remain present; to the input of experience, their senses, and their creative expression. It is our job, as parents and teachers to create environments that are responsive to a child’s rhythms, cycles, and developmental needs.
In his book, Simplicity Parenting, Kim John Payne explains that the pace of our modern world is way out of balance with the rhythms and space that children require. He points out that too much stuff, too many choices, and too little time takes a toll on children in a way that has led to grave consequences – anxiety, behavior problems and even developmental disorders.
Payne even makes it into a kind of formula. Quirk (a child’s natural state) + Stress = Disorder. He states that stress can push children along an established behavioral spectrum towards turmoil. He notes ‘when you simplify on a number of levels, back they come.’ He’s even proven through a number of studies that it seems to work. “68% of children whose parents and teachers adhered to a [simplicity] protocol in his studies went from clinically dysfunctional to clinically functional within four months.”
Consultant, trainer, and counselor Payne has spent many years helping families simplify. Simplicity, he argues, is the essence that allows a child to live and function in a healthy, well-balanced and resilient way. In Simplicity Parenting, Payne outlines four areas that need attention; environment, rhythm, schedules, and filtering out the adult world.
Through simplifying a child’s environment with a drastic reduction of ‘stuff’; increasing the rhythm of daily activities and home life; creating balanced and spacious schedules for children with plenty of downtime; and filtering out the adult world by limiting exposure to the stress of adulthood, technology, television and unconscious dialogue, parents can create the space and freedom that children need to flourish.
Payne’s book is an echo of slow movements everywhere; slow food, slow travel, slow clothing and slow planet initiatives have been calling for us to slow down, be present, pay attention, and most of all enjoy the moment. Children naturally know this already. It’s our job to help them do it – mostly by simply getting out of the way.
Simplicity Parenting is a unique and thoughtful look at the impact the dizzying pace of modern life has on children, and what we might do about it.
Meet the Author: On October 20th, 2010 Shining Mountain Waldorf School will be hosting a lecture for the public, entitled “Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier and More Secure Kids”, facilitated by Kim John Payne, M. Ed. Tickets are available online at http://www.smwaldorf.org/kimpayneevent.asp. Please note that Shining Mountain Waldorf School is offering a special discount to teachers and students.
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