These were my wonderful mum’s pearls of wisdom, and how right she was. She was talking about a picture of a magnificent specimen of Ceanothus, with pillowy mounds of undulating vibrant blue flowers, snapped on my walk back from school. This reminded me of the awe, wonder and pattern to be found everywhere in nature, from the regal candelabra flowers on the horse chestnut, to the fibonnachi sequence found in pineapples, pine cones and flowers, or the delicate tapering fronds of soft lilac petals on the wisteria, draping lace-like over the fence. Speaking of lace, when looking at a fragment of dead coral, my mum also
reflected on how this must have been the inspiration behind lace, its intricate repeating pattern just like a priceless piece of antique lace. In fact inspirations from nature are all around us, from car seats to lighting, buildings to play equipmnet.
Like nature itself, children’s brains are programmed to seek out pattern to help make sense of their world. Not just pattern in the literal sense, differentiating between spots, stripes and checks, but also in terms of decoding the potential links between objects and events. We now understand that it is only through repeated exposure to a wealth of sensory-rich objects and environments that infants build up a large enough bank of rules about objects, such as dogs have four legs and a tail and a ball is round, to develop categories, (a complex neural filing system), in the brain. With enough rules and categories formed, they can then move onto making judgements based on the similarity between two or more things, rather than starting at the beginning each time they encounter an object. Using the analogy of dogs, with time and plenty of opportunities to encounter and experience different dogs, an infant will understand that all dogs share common characteristics and yet are unique. When encountering a dog breed which they are not familiar with, say a Dalmatian, given sufficient experiences their starting point will be this dog is spotty rather than what is this thing?
And this is where again we discover how wonderful nature is. Not just are children hardwired to explore and spot details in the environment all around them, but the ever changing outdoor environment, its flora, fauna and natural treasures offer infinite opportunities for exploration and discovery, perfect for captivating children’s interest. And so closes the circle as nature has perfected an environment which enraptures children and the human body and brain designed to capitalise on this, that is, if we adults allow it!
Think of guttering and drainpipes and I hazard a guess that you’ll be picturing something like this. Am I right? But functional things like guttering do not have to be hidden or dull. Playful approaches to guttering are not new, evident on a wealth of historical buildings if we take the time to look up.1 [...]
Do you ever feel ‘decisioned-out’? When it feels impossible deciding even simple things like whether to have a pasta or rice salad, or watch Masterchef or Bake Off? Don’t get me wrong, choice is great, but too much choice can leave us floundering and confused. Picture a vegetarian in a vegetarian restaurant with not a hint of vegetable lasagne and [...]
As a Play Therapist working with vulnerable children I am always incredibly heartened by the appearance of symbols of food in children’s play. Representative of nurture, whether ice cream or soup, sausages or mash, food can signify a child’s sense of worth or desire to nurture others. So important is food to our wellbeing that feeding a child, whatever their [...]
If you’ve ever been told ‘A bad workman blames his tools’ then you’ve probably felt the smarting blow and indignation of this oft chimed proverb. Whether on the giving or receiving end, like all sayings which easily trip off the tongue, truth and lies blend into one. In our blame-dominated culture it’s all too easy to attribute our failings to [...]
Think of Christmas without its sights, sounds, smells and tastes and the magical festivities would certainly lack lustre. Christmas is all about the senses, from the spectacle of presents under a scented tree, the sound of ripping paper and carols playing in the background to the heady aromas of chocolate, spices and zesty fruit. All these sensations and more [...]
Deck the Hall with Boughs of Holly this ChristmasOne of the things I most enjoy about decorating the house for Christmas is finding all the handmade creations my children have made over the years, the obligatory Angel with woollen hair and doily dress, colourful clay, leaf or handprints made at nursery and hand-stitched felt mini-stockings, which proudly adorn the tree.Each [...]
Full S.T.E.A.M ahead for STEMIf you have children of primary and secondary age then you’ve probably been hearing a lot about STEM. It’s the latest buzz approach to getting children (and dare I say it, adults) excited about the world of science. What’s really refreshing is the move away from geeky science silos and integration with other core subjects that [...]
November is a funny time of year, offering neither the balminess of an Indian summer, nor the crisp cold days and ink black nights of deepest winter. Falling between holidays, back to school and Christmas it can feel a bit of an anti-climax. So how do you shift those winter blues and make the most of quality family time? [...]
Firework MagicThere was a time when you could probably have asked British children of a certain age what November makes them think of and fireworks, November 5th and Guy Fawkes Night would be sure to feature. For children now, the hype of Halloween and use of fireworks all year round has blurred the distinction between this and other days. [...]