Simplicity Offers Creativity and Breathing
Each year I learn anew how simplicity offers the space and time for creativity and breathing for the children and myself too.
On Monday we began our week venturing around the Cats Trail Loop. When out on the trail we brought only what we needed. There are no toys packed to entertain, there are the same trail snacks and warm rice we have every Monday and off we roam. First we cross the diminishing brook , and discover a giant fallen pine tree, then climb into the forest to Grandfather tree. Immediately the children reinforce the roof of an old fort, chop away at a fallen tree and play train on the see saw made from a branch stuck in the crotch of a tree. Sticks, blades of grass, pine cones become the toys. We eat when we are hungry,.. no one fusses over the snack choices, because they are always the same, predictable and simple. As we walk along the trail the children see mushrooms, mosses, fairy houses they built last year and holes made from an animal. They ask, “Who lives there?” They are satisfied and left to their own wonder by my reply, “I wonder?” I keep it simple, no lengthy explanations.
We travel over 6 bridges along our journey to the Outpost for our warm snack. I know this because the children have decided to keep a tally of every bridge they cross. When we reach the Outpost, clay is rediscovered in the stream and some children help to set out the bowls, and everyone eats an entire bowl or two because of all the work they have done. The play ensues and the creativity begins. The clay is shaped and pounded into a pancake, the children use the gravel on the creek side to scrub their hands and they work together to find sticks. So SIMPLE! I notice how the children breath in a different way when their lives are simplified to this degree. They receive what they need and are left free to let the bubbling up of their own imagination to be set free. They come to be comfortable place in their bodies out of purpose and joy.They learn about the world around them and their peers through their own discovery.
Tuesday was our first Birthday Celebration. Our gifts are simple and creative. A beautiful drawing from each child bound together in a birthday book. The children share in helping to tell the birthday story and there is one piece of maple cake for all! So simple, but just what a child of this age needs. No extravagant affair… just simple joys on this special day. Earlier some children helped to dig potatoes while others set the fire for soup. A few children expressed they did not like soup, with the help of chopping the vegetables and the enthusiasm of others, sure enough all but one child enjoyed the warm soup in their bellies. We did not offer other choices,.. keeping it simple.
Wednesday, after feeding the chickens we hiked, rolled and played on our way to the hedgerow, where there is a hollow tree and a tall tree stump that the children love to climb up and jump off at a height almost as tall as me! This is near where we had our adventure with bees. I was reminded again after we returned to the school house, that even with bee stings the simple remedy is the best; baking soda and the calm of a quiet space was all it took for the two to feel safe again. The others returning to the play yard to play were immersed in their play in no time. By keeping them in their steady rhythm it lets them breath.
Today we visited the orchard and vineyard for the first time, enjoying the sweet and sour and sometimes crunchy experience of the Concord grapes. We enjoyed the simple pleasure of catching rain drops on our nose and in our mouths and looking at the the raindrops on the surface of the pond as we ate our trail snack. The children were mesmerized by the Town Workers, digging out the ditches beside the pond and could have watched for hours. We came back to knead our dough and play inside for the first time as the heaviest rains fell. Having the two class spaces inside simplifies everything for the children; fewer children in one space, a smaller table to share our snack and less toys. As a result the play was beautiful, as was the snack and rest!
I am always looking at places to pair back and simplify, … I see daily how this serves the children. You might want to try this at home, whether it is simplifying the lunch packing by having the same thing each day of the week or simplifying bedtime by telling one short story , or fewer social engagements, and no structured activities in addition to their full days at school. I know that when we keep it simple it makes us less haggard and offers more opportunity for the JOY!
With Warmth and Light,
Photos Credits: Jen Zahorchak of JVD Photography