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The Sun is in My Heart, It Warms Me with Its Power, It Wakens Life and Love, in Bird and Beast and Flower….

WWGD? A friend recently wrote on my Facebook page, “Would love some of your SP summer advice for sanity.” You know you can’t say anything to me without my taking it to heart! So here goes…..

I know so many wonderful parents and I have seen the sights of fruitful summers in all of your pictures on my Facebook page – family outings, camping, romping with cousins, neighborhood games, losing a tooth…. The children I know are having some memorable experiences this summer.

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We are all fully engaged in summer and yet school is right around the corner and we are starting to think about that. Some of us will be sad to let summer go with all of our outdoor experiences with family and friends, while others of us have stated that we look forward to having some break time from the children now. It might be fruitful to sit down and plan a few more special experiences with your children. Soon they will be donning the new backpack and shoes for their first day of school this year!

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What I want to talk about on these pages are some of the essential experiences, the ones that make us feel alive and connected – connected with each other and to nature. These are the experiences that live deeply within us for our lifetimes, and they often have to do with one of the 4 elements – fire, air, water, earth.

18534590-little-boy-cooking-a-marshmallow-over-a-campfire-at-nightWhen I was a child, we burned our trash outside each evening in our ash pits. I suppose it is a good thing for the environment that we don’t do that anymore, but as children, we became very intimate with the amazing element of fire. We watched it burn bright, change colors and cook our marshmallows. We had an awe inspiring experience on a daily basis. Make sure your child gets to see a bonfire, campfire, or outdoor stove fire at night and stand or sit and watch it. As it burns down, tell your children a story about some amazing adventure. The exciting story told by you, and the experience of a blazing fire, will live on with them for years.

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One of the best ways to allow a child to experience air is on a big swing. Push them as “high as the sky” and allow them to feel the rhythmic swinging, their hair flying back in the wind.  Hike up to a windy cliff and stand, just looking, not talking. If they talk to you, put your finger to your lips for a minute, just gazing.  Then say, “I just had to look out at the view and feel the wind blowing by.” They will want to try it too. Fly a kite, run with a little windmill in hand. Children usually get upset when the wind is blowing hard, but a soothing wind can be grounding.

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Of course we all know how children LOVE water! Children are so incredibly happy with a bucket of water, and if they can use the hose, they are in heaven. Water and earth together (mud) make exceptional playthings. If your child is uncomfortable in a pool, hold them and bounce them in the soothing water. Sensitive children, except for the smell they initially may complain about, find the pool at Glenwood Springs, or other hot springs, especially soothing. For the hearty, try to give them experiences in creeks (hunting for frogs) and lakes (good to feel the rocks on your toes and a fish swimming by)! Our local lakes have some decent beaches.

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One of my best memories as a child was times when it rained.  Unless it was thundering and lightening, when the raindrops came down, we immediately ran outside to run around the yard to get soaked. To this day, I remember the vitality I felt during these experiences. The other day it was raining hard, and my daughter and I decided to walk to the store. We got soaked, with faces shiny and wet,  big smiles glowing, and all the while our groceries were safely packed away in my cart. Don’t always run for cover in the rain – run outside with open arms to be refreshed!

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When I was in the classroom, the rain brought liveliness to our days. The round kindergarten where I taught had windows all around. The raindrops would draw us outside where we would sit under the eaves and blow bubbles. I bought a lantern for these times as well, and we would make a mad dash out to this little cabin on the property where I would light the lantern and quietly and slowly tell a nature story. It was so fun! Then we would notice that the rain was slowing down, then sputtering, misting, and finally we would go out and see where puddles had gathered and sail little pieces of wood and leaves in the water.

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Our connection with the earth element is so essential. We all know how good we feel when we walk, the soles of our feet coming down to greet the earth – even better to take off our shoes and feel the soft grass, the sand or mud between our toes. Lie down on a grassy hill and roll down with your child. You can even hold them against your chest and slowly roll down. You will see that you can protect them from getting too much of your weight. It is such an essential and enlivening experience as you roll down together, Mother Nature (and you) providing the thrill that is even better than an amusement park ride.

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I can often hear my two little neighbors, who are about 2 and 5 playing in their backyard. They have a lovely shaded yard, with a little sand, a garden and a tier to climb on, but they have nothing extravagant to play with – no swing set, climbing equipment, etc. They are never bored. As I left the yard yesterday, the older girl had to show me what her bucket held. “See,” she said, “I got these seeds from over there and I put them in water.” I did not question her much, just acknowledging her deed with “I see.” They are outside a great deal and all of these little “experiments” in the backyard provide them hours of fun. One day I heard the baby say, “Oh ouch” as she was carefully touching the rose thorns, and reiterated “ouch” each time she touched one. I always think that these parents are so wise to realize that these bright children are only becoming brighter with all their hands-on science experiments. They don’t have them sitting down all day working on lessons. To every thing there is a season…

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That said, most children like to “play school” a little bit in the summer and that can be fun in small doses. Letting the children take turns being teacher, providing writing and art materials can bring hours of fun on a stormy day and help the child review the skills learned over the year. Summer time needs to be different than school time. As the warm rays of summer flow out, so should the children’s imaginations. I hope you take time to enjoy the beautiful world that we live in with your children during these final days of summer. It will bond you closer and give them deep experiences of all kinds.

See you at school soon!

IMG_0417Brianna of little o photographyMy dear friend, Briana Doby, of little o photography, Mama to two children ages 6 and 8 and two brand new twin sons, often provides me with lots of wonderful photos to use in my blog. More of them will be coming soon. Mamas of four children (two of them brand new) can be a little busy.   Brianna is a professional photographer, but some of these photos were taken in my classroom. She just quietly slips in, making friends with the children, chatting with them, showing them her camera, waiting for “those” special moments, and the ultimate outcome is precious pictures of relaxed and happy children. Look at her website, little o photography for more information.

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