It was Charlotte Mason’s belief that the child is a person so we must educate the whole person, not just his mind. This led to her famous statement that “education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.” As a living being, your child has a body and during the pre-school years especially, it is important that you nurture it. So how do you nurture your pre-schooler’s body?
By helping them learn to regulate it and strengthen it.
Habits, routines & boundaries, and sensory play are your key phrases here. Let’s take a look at each.
The first three habits are Charlotte Mason’s suggestions for the early years and I’ve tacked on cleanliness, encapsulating both hygiene and picking up after oneself. All of these habits deal with self-control to some extent. This is usually a huge struggle for Outside-the-Box kids but do not despair. Keep your expectations realistic and remember slow and steady wins the race. Practicing habits in conjunction with a really good therapy program is key. I highly recommend you purchase Laying Down the Rails to give you guidance for habit training. All four of these habits are covered in great length in the book.
Beyond these you want to be working on building good communication habits and curbing bad habits like whining, yelling and interrupting.
Routines & Boundaries
Routines help you to be predictable which is huge in helping your child feel safe and have more successful days. They create a natural flow to your day and boundaries help children understand what is acceptable and what is not.
Routines are the pillars in your day that help your child be successful. They are often set around meals, outings and rest times. Routines are things that you do every day or every week. The more rock solid your routine is, the less drama in your day. My children rarely give me trouble in the mornings because we’ve had the same routine for years now. It goes without saying what is expected of them. We’ll talk more specifically about schedules in a couple of weeks.
Boundaries serve a similar purpose but they are more circumstantial. Boundaries have a lot to do with safety and character. It is not fair to have inconsistent boundaries. How would you feel if you were driving 45 mph down the street and one day that was perfectly okay and the next you got pulled over and received a ticket? It is difficult to enforce too many boundaries so be very selective about what you choose. You want to ask – is it something you can consistently enforce? Is it really that important? Does it deal with character? Is it a safety issue? Does it inhibit natural and organic childhood development?
Sensory play is simply play that engages the senses. Many of our OTB children have problems regulating their sensory systems on their own so they need some extra help in this area.
Some of our favorite activities include playing on a table top in a shallow bucket of sand, rice, beans, or goo. Play doh would fall here, as well but because of my Celiac Disease and our gluten sensitivities, I don’t let it in the house.
We also have a sensory goody bucket that I pull out during read-aloud time. The kids are free to fidget away as long as they’re not too loud.
Here’s what’s in our bucket:
- Nesting Dolls
- Squeeze balls
- Fidget Spinners
- Pin Art
Healthy eating habits and playing – outdoors and indoors – are your key words when it comes to strengthening your pre-schooler’s body.
Healthy Eating Habits
This phrase is so overused it’s become vague. What in the world does this mean?
Here’s what it means to us…
- Drink lots of water all day long. The goal is half the ounces of your child’s weight. So, if your child weighs 30 lbs, they should be drinking 15 ounces of water a day. Avoid juice and sugary drinks.
- Avoid foods that hurt them. Find out any food sensitivities and remove them from their diet.
- Eat foods that help them. I challenge you to look at the Daniel Plan plate and aim for that. Another fun idea is to create a food rainbow and try to eat produce of every color every day. Littles love coloring in the rainbow throughout the day.
- Eat sugar in MAJOR moderation. Sugar is in everything from breakfast foods to ketchup. Our kids are getting a constant flow of sugar in their day and it is terrible for them. We try to limit sugary treats to holidays and birthdays only and even baked goods are limited to once every week or so.
- Take the basic supplements. Between the earth’s soil being depleted and GMOs and all the other “Big Food” fun in American’s diets, even if your child ate a perfectly balanced diet (which most pre-schoolers do not), they still might be missing out on some basics. In my opinion, every person in America needs a good multi-mineral/multi-vitamin, probiotic and omega-3. If your child has belly issues as many OTB children do, add a digestive enzyme to the mix.
“Never be within doors when you can rightly be without.”
– Charlotte Mason
When I read Charlotte Mason’s first volume, Home Education, the biggest take away I got was to go outside. So we did.
There is much more to the book but the importance of time in the Great Outdoors cannot be overstated. Outdoor play goes a long way in developing gross motor skills. Climbing, jumping, skipping, swinging, and rolling are all essential body movements that assist with childhood development. Give them room to run, space to explore, and fight the urge to step in too often. Unless your child is blatantly going to hurt himself, bite your tongue and let him be adventurous…it’s good for him :).
While they are probably a bit young for a full-blown nature study, every little one loves a walk outside. Treasure boxes are the perfect thing to take on a nature walk with pre-schoolers. We take a drawstring bag or a lightweight box to transport all of our nature “treasures” home in. We have a table in our school room especially for display items like this and Little Miss loves to set all of her treasures out to look at.
Stretching creative brain muscles by playing pretend can be done either outdoors or in. Encouraging and allowing your child to use his imagination is one of the best gifts you can give him. One of the fastest ways to strip him of this is to overload him on screen time.
When you are indoors, try to choose toys for your child to play with that require him to manipulate them in some way in order to get them to move. I avoid obnoxiously colored plastic toys with bells and whistles and opt for more atheistically pleasing wood toys with natural designs. Stick with classic toys like blocks, pull toys, dolls, action figures, things that go, and wooden “paper” dolls. Having a dress-up costume box for your child is a must, as well. You’ll want to have some arts and crafts materials on hand, too.
So to recap…
During the pre-school years, the best way to nurture your child’s body is to
- Train them in good habits, namely, obedience, truthfulness, attention, and cleanliness
- Work on good communication skills and curb whining, yelling, and interrupting
- Set routines in place in your home to give a natural flow to the day and teach them to your child
- Set reasonable and realistic boundaries in your home and teach them to your child
- Provide materials and opportunities for sensory play every day
- Develop healthy eating habits in your child (as well as the rest of the family!)
- Provide quality, classic toys, art supplies, and a dress-up costume box for your child to play indoors
- and of course, go outside and play ;).