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Being at home in my physical body - nurturing the senses in Early Childhood.
I have been reflecting on our parent night conversation and what it means for us to be ‘at home’. With all its ups and downs, family is the place to feel safe and secure and ‘at home’. Another home each of us is our ‘physical home’- our own body.
Young children come to be ‘at home ‘in their body through the sense of touch, through sensing their well-being or their ‘out of sorts- ness’ (sense of life), through movement and balance. These are the four foundational senses Steiner described as needing particular care in the first seven years.
While we don’t write about these in reports, much of our curriculum is designed to nurture these. Hence for example, our healthy joyful environment, the use of natural materials (where we can!), the freedom to play to explore and learn, the emphasis on lots of movement and guidance in social interactions.
These senses are vital for growing a healthy sense of self- and they just need the time and opportunity. Have a look at the photos and identify which senses are supported in each We know as adults we do well to listen to our body. For example, we might crave touch, or our wellbeing might be off when we have had late nights, or something needs to be moved out by a good long walk, or we feel ‘out of balance’. These four senses give us the ability to develop a good awareness and feeling for our self and the ability to be able to use it to its full capacity. If our ‘physical home’ is well, we feel well. When it is weak, it is much harder to relate to the outer world and to other people and to be open to learn. Nurturing these for young ones seems obvious – cuddle time, loving relationships that are kind and firm, healthy food, a secure and predictable routine, warmth, plenty of sleep, rest, play, opportunities to move and balance. Yet even as we do, both at school and at home, many children show signs that the four foundational senses need special tending. Young children need us to protect, provide and surround them with the good things. They do not have the capacity yet to make informed decisions. And the senses of hearing and sight show signs of overload: so much noise, so much to look at. This is just part of our culture, a by-product of our fast pace, reduced physical movement and levels of electronic engagement.
How to balance this, is the question? Let’s pause a moment to consider:
· How can I help the child in my care find her physical home, her physical well-being?
· As well as physical touch, can I also ‘touch’ them by being fully present, fully ‘here’ for a part of every day through humour, interest, warmth, attentiveness, sharing time together?
· Am I being respectful? Respect means treating each other’s feelings as important and bodies with sensitivity and showing this in our actions.
· Where does my child need support now?
· What are my habits teaching my child about eating and taking a rest and sleeping and moving and regular rituals, rules and routines? Young children learn primarily by imitation, so our example of maintaining well-being is their teacher.
· Can I slow down so that my child can play uninterrupted and at her own pace and interest for a good space every day?
· Can my child walk and move as much as she needs to?
Every little bit done to nurture and respect these senses support children to be at ‘home’ in their body.
A gift for life. The responses to these questions will be a little different for each child, even in the same family.