Many of you wonderful moms are asking, “What should I be looking for with natural learning?” “How do I tell if it is working?”
My first response is that natural learning is all about nurturing the imagination. As you observe your kids, make some notes of what they are really doing. When they are playing in the sandbox, they are not simply scooping shovels of sand – rather they are making pies, playing store, constructing a city, or making a swimming pool for their pet. Sticks or blocks quickly become boats when a water puddle is nearby and weeds from the garden become the much-needed medicine for a sick stuffed kangaroo.
When our children are younger (up to at least age 8 or 9) they are building a strong foundation in imagination. If you will give them the gift of doing this, they won’t have to pay for a psychiatrist later in life!
Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.” I would add that imagination sparks the desire to search out knowledge. So it all works out in the end!
We need not make it complicated – I really mean it when I say, “It’s just what we do, we learn!” Let’s walk through a few hours of natural learning that I enjoyed with my grand kids today.
I happened to have a giant Jenga game that we made for our daughter’s wedding. It was sitting in a box in the garage so we grabbed it and started stacking.
This quickly led to laying all of the blocks end to end to make a road for our cars, which then brought the idea of getting our train track out so that we could have bridges and tunnels.
The day also included some water color painting with a little instruction from Youtube, a couple of temper tantrums from little brother, and then we were off on an animal safari with big brother hiding the animals while little brother counted to fifty. The counting to fifty consisted of counting to eleven 3 times and then counting to seven 2 times. This technically is only 47 but no one seemed to mind. I still think it counts for math class since we did it multiple times!
Now maybe you’re thinking, “But I don’t have a giant Jenga or a plastic elephant or a stuffed green snake.” That’s OK because we didn’t have a hippo or a rhino. We used a stuffed dog and a turtle! It’s also OK because chances are you won’t be doing an African safari, you’ll be doing something that your kids have conjured up in their own minds! Remember this is about imagination and lots and lots of fun! It’s not supposed to look a certain way because you’re making it up as you go.
“So,” you question, “what did we learn today?”
Are you ready? We learned that…
Elephants can hide in really hard places; you have to have a steady hand when you play Jenga; white sauce is better than pink sauce when dipping french fries; you have to run when the sprinklers turn on; big brothers can count to fifty but little brothers can only count to eleven; it’s fun to paint ice cream cones with water colors but it makes you hungry; you can go over a bridge but under a tunnel; giant Jenga blocks also work well as roads and dominoes; and finally….grandmas are almost as good as moms, but not quite!