Category: Parents

The Moments of the Day

The Moments of the Day

the reading tent-Photograph © Colleen Watson-Turner

Remembering the Moments of the Day

This activity is one that helps children, teenagers, and adults look at their life as being made up of a wealth of moments and experiences. Rather than asking, “How was your day?” (e.g. at school, a friend’s house, at work, at home, during holidays), ask more specific questions without pressuring anyone to respond. Good questions:

  • have a range of possible answers
  • help to avoid black and white thinking
  • develop awareness of the variety of activities, feelings, and moods that make up a day
  • end with, “Now it’s your turn to ask me/ everyone a question about my/ their day.

Parents could use this activity at mealtimes, as part of bed time routines, or when their child or teenager gets home from some event. At mealtimes, you could go around the table and have everyone present describe something about their day in response to your question. Teachers can use it to end the school day. In both cases, give everyone a turn that wants to answer but make it clear that they can pass on any question.

Once you’ve done this activity a few times, give family or class members a turn to think of and ask the questions. Reciprocity is a good type of relationship to model. It affirms that everyone, every age, is valued and has valuable ideas. Most of us have experienced the way that children and teenagers enjoy turning the tables on adults. Everyone needs to feel they have power and can affect outcomes. Encouraging them to ask questions that causes laughter often strengthen bonds. Shared laughter promotes feelings of belonging.

The person asking the question can give one example if needed to get people started.

Some questions you can use to get everyone thinking about their day, and to give children and teenagers ideas they might use when it’s their turn, could include ones like the following:

  • enjoying the autumn leaves

    Did you laugh today? Can you remember what made you laugh?

  • Did anyone hear a bird sing today?
  • How many things (other than people) do you remember touching today? Can you list them?
  • Were you mad at anyone or anything today? What happened that made you mad? Did you stay mad for a long time? Are you still mad? What does that feel like?
  • What was the best thing that happened today? If you can’t think of something that felt really good, then how about telling us one thing that was sort of good, or okay.
  • What worries did you have today? Did anyone help you with something you were worried about? Did you help someone with a worry they had?
  • Did anyone have some moments of feeling calm and peaceful today?
  • Did anyone experience or witness something today that seemed unfair? Did you hear, read, or witness injustice today towards a person, many people, an animal or many animals?
  • Did you create anything today that was unique, original, not like that of anyone else?
  • How much time were you outside today? Can you remember some of the things you did outside?
learning to swim
  • Were you kind to anyone today? Was anyone kind to you?
  • Did you look at the sky today? What did you see?
  • Can you estimate how much of your day was spent moving around in anyway that you would call exercise? or how much of your day you were sitting?
Present, Awake, Alive

Present, Awake, Alive

a bit scary, but exciting

Our responsibility to children is to give them full experiences of the present. Alice Yardley, Senses and Sensibility, p.15.

Children of all ages benefit from living in the present moment. Many children and teenagers live programmed lives with little time just to be, to imagine, to explore and enjoy sensory experiences of all the elements. Many young people experience most of their interactions second hand through electronic media. I feel sad when I think about how this limits their opportunities to be more fully alive in body, mind, imagination, heart, and spirit.

What a blessing it was for my sisters and I that we lived on the outskirts of a small city in a neighbourhood with unpaved streets and little traffic. Making drains with the spring runoff of melting snow provided endless amusement –running one “river” into another, building dams with stones, floating small sticks and papers or silver foil boats all sparked our creativity and imaginations. When we were camping, we all enjoyed stargazing and watching the flames of the nightly campfire.

A yard or neighbourhood can also be a fertile environment for the imagination. It can offer opportunities to observe insects, notice butterflies, listen for birds, pick dandelions to make chains or bracelets, appreciate the tenacity of plants, watch clouds, or simply daydream. Conservation areas near your home or school can be good places to observe, ponder, or sit quietly, unwind, and experience moments of calm.

explorers on a hike, © Photograph by Colleen Watson-Turner

Even if you live in a city apartment, I hope it would be possible for you to go camping, visit a family farm or acreage, or, if you are First Nations or Métis, visit your ancestral reserve to encourage young people to:

  • explore,
  • collect,
  • climb a tree,
  • play games
Mom, I remember that first swing, the roughness of the rope, and the feeling of creating a breeze
  • read a book under a tree
  • find a quiet spot to draw or dream
  • build with blocks of snow, fallen branches, or the space within a circle of bushes to create a home or fort,
  • imagine worlds and create their place in the story imagined
  • notice diversity, pattern, delicacy, and uniqueness of familiar life forms and organisms they haven’t seen before
  • develop their sense of beauty
  • observe insect behaviour, (e.g., appreciating the industry of spiders or ants)
  • watch and listen for birds and other sounds of animals,(e.g., in relation to mating behaviours)
  • notice nests, webs, and cocoons without harming them
  • follow trails made by deer
  • find clues to who else lives in that place

(and always, of course, within boundaries of respect for that environment).

Through these experiences we are also providing young people a means to happiness that is sturdy and available despite the ups and downs of life.  And, the more we can engage our own curiosity and sense of awe and wonder, the more likely we are to live in the present moment with imagination, senses, and heart more fully engaged. The natural world is a good place to contemplate the wonders of symmetry.

“There are geometric equations hidden within the promise of a flower bud . . . The same equation dictates the swirls at the tip of your fingers and the arrangement of stars in the Milky Way” Ken Druse, Planthropology.

What influences young people most profoundly is the way the adults they depend on behave towards their surroundings. It is rewarding to keep our own senses alive, our minds curious and open to being amazed. Then, when we guard the unstructured time of children and teenagers, and give a few suggestions for what they might do outdoors within our slightly-broadened parameters of safety, we are providing them time to imagine, dream, create, use all their senses, cooperate with others, and test their powers. In short, live a more meaningful life.

Do children notice when we are fully present to them?

Do they notice when we are not?

Do we notice the difference between being fully present and being somewhere else in our thoughts, body, and spirit?

Outside!

Outside!

The Rock Pile Investigations
The Rock Pile Investigations

[Children’s] curiosity is to make connections, to realize the larger picture, to become able in the physical environment our lives depend on. Sarah Stein, Noah’s Children: Restoring the Ecology of Childhood.

There are many reasons why children need to be outside. The world outside, when it is familiar to children, expands their concept of home. It supports them to be at home in the world in a larger way. Kids need to be outside because it is a natural place to be. The outdoors is as much a part of their context as the indoors. It has fewer boundaries, is less confining and offers more to explore. In a sense, we were born outdoors.

Nature also gives children and teenagers a larger, often stronger, identity. It offers many opportunities to find out who you are away from the tv, the computer, and other technology and hopefully, opportunities to be free of adult supervision that is overly restricting. Rather they can learn to be someone within relationships to trees, birds, nests, ponds and sky. Many psychologists believe that this time in green spaces is essential to children’s mental and physical health.

Not all outdoor spaces are alike. The best have some biological diversity or large spaces to explore, away from heavy traffic. Ungroomed or “wild” areas have more to offer –they feed the imagination. You can support kids to explore who makes a home in that context or use their imaginations to create small world, huts, and games.

Studying a Flower
Studying a Flower courtesy JEK

The outdoors offers sensory richness and often asks for closer observation (for example, asking, “What are all the colours you can see in your stone?”) Children of all ages can learn to make finer discernments and develop a larger sense of the possibilities that exist in the world to be appreciated. Aesthetic sensibilities can be developed from forms of beauty that can only be found outside. We can point out how we enjoy the sight of light shining through dry grasses but also ask what they find beautiful – trying to expand and not limit their sense of the beautiful or the sublime.

It would also be a kindness if young people were encouraged to be outdoors when they are trying to overcome a hurt or solve a problem. I have found that some places have qualities that nurture my spirit –what might be called a spiritual presence. Encouraging children and teenagers to find their place where solitude and safety can offer them moments of being at peace can be as simple as telling your own stories of such experiences. My own attraction to being alone outdoors came both from the experiences my parents provided and from characters in favourite books describing a place outdoors they felt was meant for them. Perhaps suggesting they go for a walk by themselves might give your children or students back the sense that they can overcome or live with a problem in their lives. Supporting a child or teenager’s life in these ways may start with our own pleasure in being outdoors to explore or to be quiet, still, and content.

Are you at home in the natural world?