Preserve the awe and wonder of early childhood
Today I want you to think about the awe and wonder that children naturally experience in the early years. Early childhood can be a magical time if we preserve this feeling! When children delight in discovering and experiencing they are developing a capacity for learning.
I want to share a wonderful passage with you from Creativity in Education by René Querido:
“In the Waldorf schools, we recognize that all children are born with capacities for wonder, gratitude, and responsibility. Through the curriculum, these capacities are nurtured along with academic development. In this way, we teach both the heart and the mind of the child…..If you don’t have a sense of wonder, you really can’t learn anything, you can only memorize.”
For children under seven, it is less important to understand concepts in an analytical way than to feel and experience the world as beautiful, whole (true), and good. When we use analytical language with young children we pull them into an adult way of thinking and experiencing and this can dampen the natural joy and wonder that they feel.
The first key to preserving awe and wonder is to allow for silence. Let there be some breathing space in your day when your preschooler has a chance to just experience and be in her body. Let there be plenty of room for her own imagination to roll.
The second key is to leave many questions open-ended. Your child is full of curiosity and will ask plenty of questions. But he also has many amazingly wonderful ideas! It is such a gift to allow him to to feel the possibilities. When you respond to questions with “I wonder…” or even “Hmmm….” you leave room for your child to come up with a response himself. It may be a fantastical answer to his own question and that is just perfect at this age.
The third key is to respond to questions with imaginative pictures or stories. Preschoolers are in a very dreamy state of consciousness. Their minds are more pictorial than ours and less verbal. They respond best to explanations that speak to their imaginative picture-thinking.
For example, if your young child asks why it rains she isn’t asking for a factual explanation of how the water cycle works. She is asking for a description that makes sense to her. That might be something as simple as, “When the clouds become very heavy with water they burst and down comes the rain!” Or she might enjoy a little story such as, “When Mother Earth is thirsty she calls up to Grandmother Rain Cloud, ‘I’m thirsty and the plants need water to drink!’ So Grandmother Rain Cloud wakes up all her Rain Fairy children with her loud trumpet call and the little Rain Fairies fly cheerfully about sprinkling buckets of water down on Mother Earth. Mother Earth drinks up all that water and lets the plants drink from it too. Then when the sun comes out those happy plants stretch up and smile!”
Closely related to awe and wonder are the feelings of reverence and gratitude. These are all cultivated in so many ways in the Waldorf curriculum as we tell stories, develop a relationship to nature, sing, say blessings at meals, celebrate festivals, and more. Attention to the emotional and spiritual development of the person is a big part of what sets Waldorf apart and makes it a truly holistic method.
How to preserve the awe and wonder:
1. Leave room for silence.
2. Leave room for possibilities.
3. Use imaginative pictures in your explanations that speak to your child’s dreamy and pictorial state of consciousness.
4. Consider how the capacities for awe, wonder, reverence, and gratitude will help your child to thrive as an adult and a life-long learner.