Four Elements of a Gentle Childhood

Children are born explorers. From newborns with wide-eyed absorption to babies tasting and testing, mastering their hands and developing mobility to toddlers building, destroying, climbing, and mimicking. This curiosity is their early education and as parents and caregivers, we can bolster their confidence and support their explorations through the experiences, environments, and playthings we provide.

Reduce Stimulation
For newborns and small babies, parents can resist the cultural trend toward increased stimulation. When we foster situations that help a baby settle into a quiet alert state, we maximize their chances to be receptive to the world. We use softer sounds, giving them the gift of our voices to welcome them; we filter the light so that their new eyes are not overwhelmed and closed against the sights; we cradle and cuddle them in our arms to provide human motion and smells that comfort them; and we wrap them in soft and natural fibers to treat their skin tenderly. As babies become more settled, then mobile, we can filter the world for them, limiting the flickering light of screens or overly mechanical music. As much as possible, we want to create a space they can safely explore where the boundaries allow them to try out new skills and make their own discoveries.

Foster Natural Experiences
Experiences like stirring mud, watching light through leaves, tasting the snow, or feeling the rain against their cheeks offer the sort of stimulation our budding explorers can learn from. They learn about water and its amazing properties as the splash about in their baths or play with soap bubbles in the sink. Dropping their spoon or tumbling block towers gives them an early lesson in physics.

Widen the Social Circle
As our babies become toddlers and preschoolers, their world and their ability to learn from it continues to expand. We get to watch their individual selves budding with a desire to take it all in. These are the years to find ways to say yes, to widen their circle of possible exploration, to find friends for them to learn from, whether through parallel or cooperative play; humans are social creatures, and a good friend supports our willingness to try new adventures.

Be Patient
These are also the years that parents can get anxious to push their children along. Resist it. As much as possible, let them blossom at their own pace; just like the sun and wind and rain call to the flower, give your child the best circumstances for growth and then let their petals unfurl on their own.

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