5 Simple Parenting Practices to Create a Fresh Start

Posted 3/7/2016

Hello Families!

  Yes, it has been a long time but I am back in the saddle and ready to share some parenting wisdom with you! Can you feel it in the air? Spring is just around the corner, oh how I love Spring! It is a time to clean out the cobwebs of a long winter and start fresh. I thought this would be an ideal time to write 5 simple, yet effective ways for you to clean out your old parenting habits and start fresh. All are simple with a common sense approach but they are extremely effective. So here goes:

1. Diet
  We have all heard over and over 'you are what you eat', this is because it's undeniably true. Why notgive your child the very best foundation? When my children were young, all was organic and wholesome however our diet has grown more healthy with time. My kids are now 18 and 16, at the height of those teenage years when most are eating their worst. With their strong background of healthy, whole foods, my kids make really great food choices which I am SO grateful for! When I am at the co-op, they send me lists with almonds, smoked salmon, dried seaweed, spinach (for smoothies), kale, ginger, carrots (for juicing), raisins, mangos, trail mix, sushi and the like. I do not think many teenager's food hankerings look like this! When you start your child off with whole foods, their bodies simply know what it feels like to eat good. Nonetheless, it is never too late for any of us to change our eating habits. So, if you and your family have gotten off track, well now is the perfect time for a fresh (pun intended) start!


2. Sleep
  Your child needs 11 to 13 hours of sleep per night. Just like diet, sleep is a huge factor in their behavior. In the evening, have a calm and consistent bedtime routine. If every night is the same, PJs, brushing teeth, story, verses/prayers your child's body will respond. It will know and begin the nightly process of 'letting go of the day, embracing the night' (a mantra I used with my kiddos). Not to say there won't be those nights where sleep comes harder but if all is consistent, a good night sleep becomes the norm and your child will flourish.

3. Rhythm
  A strong daily rhythm is vital for the young child. With a strong daily routine or rhythm, the child relaxes and settles into life knowing all is well. Knowing what to expect throughout the day, creates comfort and security for the child. I have seen it many times here at Sweet Waters Childcare when a parent may come early or arrives late and the rhythm is disrupted. The child often melts, begins to whine and is out of sorts because the rhythm is off. When this happens give a little extra love and time to help support them until they can get back on track. Make sure your routine is a balance of quiet/down time and outside/big play. Do not over schedule your child. This will only lead to over everything: over tired, over stimulated, over crabby. Be the filter for your kiddos, don't agree to everything, be selective and thoughtful before committing to things. Also, give yourself permission to cancel if your child is clearly not up for an activity. It may be a few minutes of uncomfortableness for you, however, that beats a whole lot of uncomfortableness for you and your child afterwards. Being in tune with your child's needs is key.

4. Little to No Screen Time
  Here at Sweet Waters we are always media free. I ask parents to have their children refrain from the screen during the school week and limit on weekends. The developing child is simple too young to cope with the physical effects of the medium. It drastically impacts their own imaginative faculties, no matter what the content. The presence of too much time on the screen can clearly be experienced in the child's play. So, if you start limiting this ever present component while your child is young, you are allowing your child to experience the world around them first and foremost. This is monumental! It is an essential developmental base your child must have before they enter into the vast world of shows, games, movies, etc. Believe me, you will have plenty of time reeling this one in (huge issue in our house!). So why not wait?


5. Get Outside
  I don't know about you but I tend to get crabby if I am inside too long. Outside play is essential to children (and adults). Breathing the fresh air, running about with the big sky above, feeling the wind on our cheeks, watching the trees sway, hearing the birds, the warmth of the sun on our face. HUGE! So simple but the impact is GREAT!! Here at Sweet Waters we go out on the coldest of days. Many times it takes us much, much, much longer to get ready than we are actually out. Why all the effort? Well, all that squirrelly behavior runs right back up the tree where it belongs. We come in refreshed, calm, ready to sit down to lunch. So gear up! Get out with your kiddos. It can change a hard day into an amazing day, it's magic. I cannot say it enough!! Kid acting out + go for a nice long walk = everyone comes home refreshed and happy! I can almost guarantee it.

  So there you have it. Just 5 little things you can do to make it oh so much better for your child, for you and your family as a whole. You cannot ask for more than that!

Wishing you all a Happy Fresh Spring!

Kelly Waters

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Are We Over Praising Our Children?

Posted 5/25/2014

Hello Families,

The other day Ms. Jessi brought to my attention that I was interrupting the play with my big adult brain (she said it much nicer than that). I thought about what she said and how easy and habitual it is for us as adults to meddle in our child's play and creations. I found a very fitting article by Marcy Axness and had to share it, Enjoy!


 Will You Praise Your Child This Mother’s Day?

  Along with breakfast in bed and maybe some flowers or candy…if you have a young child, you’ll invariably be presented with a handmade present — of course, the best kind. And you won’t care if the colors clash, if the popsicle sticks aren’t straight, if the pasta is coming unglued; your heart will expand, almost painfully, with a gush of love and tenderness unique to the moment. These truly are the most precious gifts! And this is one instance where it is impossible (and unnatural!) not to praise your child. But what about every other day…? When you praise your child, do you really build self-esteem, as many people assume? Or do you unwittingly erode intrinsic motivation, pleasure and self-satisfaction?

Somewhere along the way it became generally assumed that praise builds self-esteem, leading to the daily parental litany of “Nice job!” and “Great throw!” and “Gorgeous painting!” and on and on ad nauseum. Pundits call it “affirmation” and “positive feedback.” B.F. Skinner called it “positive reinforcement.”

It is a dicey proposition to praise your child. If it came in a bottle it would require a label: Please note all possible side effects before administering to children. Years ago our R.I.E. teacher proposed to us the counterintuitive (and definitely counter-cultural) notion that praise — especially the kind that is routinely doled out to kids — can insidiously erode a child’s intrinsic motivation, pleasure, and self-satisfaction in a given task or activity.

Indeed, praise deflects a child’s focus away from her inner will to create, play and do, outward to our response towhat she creates, plays and does. In his book Punished by Rewards Alfie Kohn points out that praise “sustains a dependence on our evaluations, our decisions about what is good and bad, rather than helping them begin to form their own judgments. It leads them to measure their worth in terms of what will lead us to smile and offer the positive words they crave.”

Self-Esteem is an Inside Job

Their natural intrinsic motivation, delight, and sense of just-rightness wear away, and they become dependent on the illusory glow of pseudo-self-esteem coming from outside in. One of the most helpful things I ever heard Dr. Laura say on her radio show was that self-esteem is about whether you impress yourself through how you act. Or as the saying goes, “Self-esteem is an inside job.”

One morning many years ago, our two-year-old Eve called to me, “Come look, Mama!,” and when she let me open my eyes, there was her new puzzle, all put together. Rather than the standard, “Great job!” or “I’m so proud of you!”, I responded with “You finished that puzzle all by yourself.” I simply reflected what was so, with no judgment attached (except my big smile). My gratifying reward was Eve’s comment back to me: “I smart!”

Expressions of self-esteem don’t get more vivid or authentic than that. But the self-esteem and pride were Eve’s, given by herself to herself, and were based on her own appraisal of her own accomplishment. I had merely been an enthusiastic witness, and indeed, one of the most profound needs of the child is to be seen.

To See Rather than Praise Your Child

I shared my new insights with my husband, and he tried to bite his tongue before making comments like “I really like your painting, Ian.” He and I would joke over the sometimes-unnatural approaches suggested as alternatives to praise, such as “I notice you’ve used a lot of blue in your painting.” Meanwhile, I tried to use this new awareness to fashion ways of responding to our children that were both respectful and authentic.

I learned to make comments of encouragement and acknowledgment rather than to praise, but then read an article by in Mothering magazine that strongly discouraged those too! Author Naomi Aldort wrote, “Sensitive and smart, [our children] perceive that we have an agenda, that we are manipulating them toward some preferred or ‘improved’ end result. . . . Gradually, a shift occurs. . . . No longer do they trust in their actions, and no longer do they trust us, for we are not really on their side.”

So what about simply offering encouragement or demonstrating loving support by commenting on what a child is making, or drawing, or playing with? Aldort says, “Even when we intervene with casual commentary on our children’s imaginative play, doubts sneak in. What children are experiencing inwardly at these times is often so remote from our ‘educated’ guesses that bewilderment soon turns to self-denial and self-doubt.”

So what do we do?? We can bring awareness to our comments, and ask ourselves if what we say helps our child become more deeply involved in what he is doing, or if it (even subtly) turns the task or behavior into something he does to win our approval. This doesn’t mean we never say anything, or become unresponsive! The young child deeply needs to feel our mental and emotion embrace, and recognition of what they’re doing. They also crave authority, guidance, and protection from having to make final determinations of what is right.

There is a way to avoid the pitfalls of praise while also meeting the needs of the young child for the adult’s input, and it is a wonderful art for parents to cultivate. For example, as little Sarah is cutting carrots with her mother for the stew, Mom might comment from the point of view of the carrot! “That is just the way the carrots like to be cut up,” is a more nourishing response than the more standard “I like how you cut up those carrots.”

Another alternative, suggests Whole Child/Whole Parentauthor Polly Berrien Berends, is to offer celebration in place of praise:

“Enthusiasm, love, gratitude! ‘How happy that looks!’ we can say. ‘You must be so glad to see it turn out that way! Thank you for showing me.’ To the child, shared discovery and appreciation of what is beautiful is worth ten times more than personal praise and actually furthers creative growth where praise stunts it.”

Why the Constant Comment?

I began to wonder why we as parents feel this need, this near-compulsion, to constantly comment. Why do we have to say anything at all? The reasons for this are many. One is that nowhere in our society is something allowed to simply be, without commentary, blurbs, hype, or headlines. Never has this been truer than in today’s iTwitterFaceLinkInPod culture.

Alfie Kohn’s extensively researched and now classic book Punished By Rewards dissects the problems connected to praise, incentives, and even grades. Kohn highlights a basic but rarely noticed fact about praise: “… the most notable aspect of a positive judgment is not that it is positive but that it is a judgment. Just as every carrot contains a stick, so every verbal reward contains within it the seed of a verbal punishment.” Kohn points out:

Praise, at least as commonly practiced, is a way of using and perpetuating children’s dependence on us. It sustains a dependence on our evaluations, our decisions about what is good and bad, rather than helping them begin to form their own judgments. It leads them to measure their worth in terms of what will lead us to smile and offer the positive words they crave.

We now have a generation of young adults whose addiction to the constant flow of external rewards and positive feedback has become an issue for employers. There are even companies who specialize in providing flashy workplace demonstrations of praise and acknowledgement for employees whose motivation and morale sags without such external bolstering! This is not a dependence that we want for Generation Peace; rather, we want them to feel an abiding sense of rightness, worthiness and “enoughness” from deep within.

Modeling Self-Esteem

Children learn and develop by imitating adults around them. They absorb and replicate our ways of moving and speaking and our very ways of perceiving and thinking about ourselves and the world. The most effective way to help our children develop a positive self-concept and a healthy attitude toward praise is to cultivate these attributes in ourselves. Our children are always watching. They download us!

And as they grow into young adults, we want them to be able to respect and value the opinions of others and be able to accept and enjoy sincere praise for their accomplishments. But we also want them to be full of positive feelings for themselves, able to celebrate their own ability to do something well, and calmly aware that the ultimate arbiter of their achievements lies within them.

I hope you got as much food for thought as I did from this article.
A Happy Mother's Day to all the moms!


Blessings,
Ms. Kelly

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Wonderfully Sad Article, get your tissues ready

Posted 11/20/2013

Hello Families,

 On such a grey day as this, I hate to share something so touchingly sad but it is so lovely, I just had too. Those of you with wee ones will give them a little extra squeeze and those of us with bigger ones will look back and remember.

The article is called 'I saw my precious child today-in your car, holding your hand. Did you?' By Toni Halleen

  My son is in college, three hours away. He is not at my house, not in my car. He is not in my town. He is away. At college. But I see him... everywhere.

  I saw him again today. This time he was riding on his dad's shoulders and cock-a-doodle-dooing in the bread aisle at Lund's. What a good rooster noise he made. He is not too heavy to ride on your shoulders, Dad.

  Sometimes I see him with long hair hanging over his face, and I guess he is about 13 or 14 years old. His hair is beautiful. Yes, it covers his eyes, but he needs to keep it long right now. It gives him a screen to hide behind when he wants to. Soon, he will cut it, but not just yet.

  Let him make choices and try them out while he is safe at home with you. Soon, he will be making all of his own choices, and you won't know what they are.

  I see him again, and he is about 9; his baggy shorts hang over his skinny legs. He walks with his mother into the department store. She is rushing and she reaches down for his hand. He takes hers without thinking, and they cross the parking lot. Don't hurry, Mom. Hold his hand and enjoy the walk. Soon, he will refuse. He will be too embarrassed to be near you. See him there beside you now. Feel his hand in yours.

  I see him riding in his stroller, as his mom teaches him the ABCs. Remember how sweet the alphabet sounds, Mama. Enjoy each syllable. Hear how he speaks. Soon you will forget that toddler voice.

 Today he waited while his mom put a quarter in the gumball machine at the mall. He was so excited to get the prize in his tiny hand. Watch his face, Mom. See how happy he is. Look closely and let him enjoy it. Soon you won't be able to see his smilie.

  I see him in his car seat in the back of the SUV stopped beside me at the stoplight. He is napping. Look at his closed eyelids. Put your phone down and listen to his gentle snores. Soon he will be sleeping far away.

 I saw him walking to school with his father, and he was talking a mile a minute. Listen to him, Daddy. Listen while he talks. Soon he will go away. Soon you will have to guess at what his thoughts are.

  Soon you will be amazed at how you see him-and how you didn't.

 

Blessings,

Kelly Waters

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My Summer Read

Posted 7/14/2013

 Hello Families,

  This summer I have been revisiting a book that my mom read to me when I was around 11 or 12. Once I could read myself, my mom naturally didn't read to me anymore but for some reason she felt drawn to this book and wanted to share it. Now rereading it as an adult I see why. The book is 'A Tree Grows in Brooklyn' by Betty Smith and published in 1943. It is about the Nolan Family, an Irish immigrant family, in the summer of 1912. Life is hard to say the least but there is hope. The tree which I believe to be an Elm however it is never said and I quote "some people call it the Tree of Heaven, no matter where its seed fell, it made a tree which struggled to reach the sky. It grew in boarded-up lots and out of neglected rubbish heaps and it was the only tree that grew out of cement."

  There is many little nuggets in this book about growing up, love, family and having hope even when life throws you hardships. But the quote I found on the importance of the imagination for the child, I felt I had to share! It is said so eloquently by Katie Nolan's mom, Mary, at the time of Katie having her first child. And I quote:

"You must tell the child the fairy tales of the old county. You must tell of those not of earth who live forever in the hearts of people-fairies, elves, dwarfs, ghosts and such. Oh, and you must not forget the Kris Kringle. The child must believe in him until she reaches the age of six."

  "Mother, I know there are no ghosts or fairies. I would be teaching the child foolish lies."

  Mary spoke sharply. "You do not know whether there are not ghosts on earth or angels in heaven."

  "I know there is no Santa Claus."

  "Yet you must teach the child that these things are so."

  "Why?" asked Katie, "When I, myself, do not believe?"

  "Because," explained Mary Rommely simply, "the child must have a valuable thing which is called imagination. The child must have a secret world in which live things that never were. It is necessary that this child believe. She must start out by believing in things not of this world. Then when the world becomes too ugly for living in, the child can reach back and live in her imagination. I, myself, even in this day and at my age, have great need of recalling the miraculous lives of the Saints and the great miracles that have come to pass on earth. Only by having these things in my mind can I live beyond what I have to live for."

   "The child will grow up and find out things for herself. She will know that I lied. She will be disappointed." Katie said grimly.

  "That is what is called learning the truth. It is a good thing to learn the truth one's self. To first believe with all your heart, and then not to believe, is good too. It fattens the emotions and makes them to stretch. When as a woman life and people disappoint her, she will have had practice in disappointment and it will not come so hard. It makes a person rich in character."

  Waldorf Education has at it's core keeping the imagination strong and intact, only one of the many things I love about this way of teaching. Thank you Betty Smith for writing such am amazing book that nails it on the head still 70 years later! Remarkable! If you haven't read it I highly suggest it or if you have a child around 12, you may want to cuddle in and do some reading to them as you did when they were small. I am now 44 and I have such a wonderful memory of being young, on the brink of so much change but safe in my mom's arms with a wonderful book. Thank you mom, I love you! You have instilled in me that even when there is a major bump in the road, all is still right in the world!

Love and Peace to you and your family,

Kelly Waters

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The History of Waldorf Education by Ronald E. Koetzsch

Posted 5/5/2013

Hello Families,

  Last newsletter I gave an overview of what Waldorf Education is but where did this truly thoughtful way of educating children come from? Here is an condensed excerpt from "Waldorf Education, Schooling the Head, Hands and Heart" By Ronald E. Koetzsch. Enjoy!

  Waldorf Education was developed by Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925). Born in Austria, Steiner was known primarily as a scientist and philosopher. Drawing from his own profound spiritual experiences, he examined such basic questions as the origin, nature, and destiny of the human being, the evolution of human consciousness, and the religious history of humankind.

  Steiner addressed nearly every area of life: philosophy, religion, education, science, mathematics, medicine, agriculture, architecture, social organization, economics, art, drama, speech, music, the movement arts, care of the handicapped and of the elderly and so on. A theme in all of Steiner's work is that modern humanity must discover and experience anew the divine spirit that exists in the world and within each human being and must transform modern culture on the basis of that spiritual reality.

  Steiner holds that the human being is ultimately a spiritual being, who incarnates out of the spiritual world and who returns there after death, and who is in an endless process of evolution and self-development. The modern scientific/materialistic view of the world and of the human being is both incorrect and disastrous. It is incorrect in that it is blind to the invisible spiritual world that creates, permeates and supports the physical world and blind also to the spiritual dimension of the human being. It is disastrous in that it has led to a secular culture that does not meet human needs and that has brought much human suffering. Modern humanity must renew its connection to the divine and create a way of life that supports the wholesome spiritual evolution of the human being.

  In 1913 Steiner established the Anthroposophical Society to spread his teachings, which he called Spiritual Science or Anthroposophy-"knowledge of the true nature of the human being." In April 1919, just months after the end of World War I, Steiner visited Stuttgart, Germany. There, a member of the Anthroposophical Society, Emil Molt, asked Steiner two remarkable questions: Is there a way to educate children that will help them develop into human beings who will be capable of bringing peace to the world? And if there is, will you start such a school?

  Steiner's answer to both questions was in the affirmative. Within a few months, he had selected and recruited teachers for the school and had delivered a series of lectures on the curriculum and pedagogy that was to be the basis of this new type of education. The first Waldorf school opened at the Waldorf-Astoria cigarette factory, with 175 children (mainly consenting of the workers children) and eight teachers. The school was called Freie Waldorfschule-Free Waldorf School-free because it was totally independent of the state or other outside control. It was for its time a deeply radical school. 

  The Free Waldorf School, nurtured and developed all capacities of the child-physical, emotional, intellectual, aesthetic, moral and spiritual. The school welcomed all children, boys and girls, those destined for the university as well as those destined for the factory and shop, and educated them together and in the same way. The school's explicit purpose was to help children become creative, independent, moral individuals, able of themselves to impart meaning and purpose to their lives. Its task and that of all Waldorf schools that have followed it can be summarized as "Accept the children with reverence, educate them with love, send them forth in freedom."

  Interest in Waldorf Education spread rapidly. Soon there were Waldorf schools all over Europe. The first Waldorf school of North America, the Rudolf Steiner School in New York City, opened in 1928. During the National Socialist era in Germany, the Waldorf schools were closed down. They reopened immediately after the war and today Waldorf Education is a major force in German education with over 60,000 children in about 150 schools. 

Waldorf Education is the fastest growing educational system in the world, with over 900 schools worldwide. The Association of Waldorf Schools of North America (AWSNA) is a membership organization that supports independent Waldorf schools, initiatives and teacher training institutes throughout North America. In time Waldorf Education may grow large enough to significantly influence the broader educational landscape. But even now it is fulfilling the original aim of Emil Molt and Rudolf Steiner-to educate free, self-aware human beings who are capable of creating a peaceful and ennobling life for themselves and for humanity.

  Sweet Waters Childcare, strives each and everyday to bring forth this incredibly rich education to our children and their families.

Peace and Love to you all!

Kelly Waters

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What is Waldorf Anyway?

Posted 3/28/2013

Hello Families,

  If you are receiving this Sweet Songs Newsletter, for some reason you have been drawn to Waldorf Education. But what exactly is Waldorf? Why do all Waldorf Early Childhood Classrooms look alike? Why do the teachers always sing and wear a color of the day? What is this all about anyway? Well, I am merely in childhood myself with understanding this very complex way of teaching/being. I will, however, attempt to give a very broad brushstroke of Waldorf in Early Childhood. 

  Waldorf Education is incredibly vast. It takes into account the whole child, not just the physical body with a brain to fill but the emotional and soul life as well. The key aspects of a Waldorf Kindergarten is activities rich in nature, a setting worthy of imitation and imaginative creative play. It is not about getting the information in and making it stick. It is an inner process of how to support and love this child so the natural learning curiosity remains intact, engaged and strengthened. As a result, they will go out into the world with a true passion for discovery and learning.

  I will never forget the first time entering a Waldorf Kindergarten, the beauty, the true thoughtfulness of the space was tangible. As soon as I saw the cloth napkins on the drying line, I knew I found a wonderful school for my children and a community for our family. In contrast, I remember visiting my niece's classroom. I hadn't been in a public elementary school since I was young and I was struck at how much stuff was crammed into the space. There were hundreds of books spilling off the bookshelf. There were plastic bins stacked to the ceiling. Every single inch of wall space was covered. There were even things hanging from the ceiling dancing at eye level. With 25 children, it was distracting to say the least. For me, as a grown woman, I had a hard time being in the space. I cannot imagine expecting a child to pay attention, sit still and learn. We wonder why Attention Deficient Disorder is on the rise...

  In a Waldorf Classroom, the eye can rest upon natural things. The light is ample yet diffused. The toys are simple, allowing the child to organically create the play, not the toy directing the child "Push the red square." Even the simple act of painting the classroom has a whole technique called Lazure. A layering process which gives the room depth and creates a truer expression of color, modeling our natural world. For each stage of development, a color is chosen that supports the child's needs. For Early Childhood, it is soft pink/peach which reflects and assists the dreamy consciousness of the small child.

  Not only is there great preparation to the space, the teacher has a tremendous responsibility. In 'The Education of the Child' Rudolf Steiner, the innovator of Waldorf Education, wrote: "What the adult does, feels, and thinks are all imitated by the child under seven years. So complete attention to the task in hand, with a care, love and joy in the doing, actually helps in the formation of the child's physical body." A lofty goal, I know. The Waldorf Teacher is specifically trained, not only in regards to the children and classroom but their inner soul life as well. The teacher is always striving to be better; for themselves, the children and the larger community. It truly is a way of life.

  Waldorf Education and Anthroposphy (the philosophy behind Waldorf) is a journey not a destination. A lifetime practice for sure. Since becoming a part of the Waldorf Community 13 years ago, I am still struck by its utter richness in understanding all things big and small. We all need a bit more of this thoughtfulness and care in our daily life, don't you agree? So I hope this gave you a bit more understanding and a desire to find out more. 

Here is a great resource, AWSNA (Association of Waldorf Schools of North America):  http://www.whywaldorfworks.org/

With Love,

Kelly Waters 

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The Art of Raising a Whole Child in the Digital Age

Posted 2/23/2013

Hello Families,

  I have been struggling for years to find the perfect one-liner for the rationalization of the young child's ample use of technology: "Well, that's our world now.... What can we do?.... We need to start them as young as possible...." Instead of this throw in the towel attitude, I feel we as parents have to become a giant filter for our children. This is huge! It is the fog under the door and if we are not careful, our children will be lost in its haze. Resulting in a obscure vision of themselves and the world around them.

  When my daughter, Sequoia, was small, I thought TV was okay if not too much and if the content was appropriate. As I looked deeper and became a part of the Waldorf Community, I quickly realized that it was the ACT of watching, period. Anything on a screen, regardless of content, is simply too much for the young child. Frequent exposure to these rapid flickering images, diminish a child's natural capacities for attention and memory development. Both of which are essential for learning. The young child needs to create their own images first and foremost which is done through play. When simple natural things are readily available, the child fosters deep creativity and imagination. Both of which are essential to innovative thinking. In contrast, a heavy diet of ready made computer images and programmed toys shuts down imaginative thinking. Hmm... so what will truly help them navigate this very complex world we live in? NOT MORE SCREEN EARLIER! I just read that the Minnetonka School System wants every student, 1st grade on up, to have an ipad. This is the wrong direction for our children! This is like building a house without any foundation. Children need to figure out how to be in their body, how to be in the natural world and how to bond with others BEFORE entering the world of technology.

  So what can we as parents do to lessen the effects of media and have a more balanced home life? Awareness is key, keep track of your child's screen time. Here at Sweet Waters Childcare, I ask that children avoid the screen during the week and limit use on weekends. Of course, the ideal would be little to none at all. Be mindful of what is happening in your home, is something always on in the background? Children are much more sensitive to this. What may be white noise or even comforting for adults, can be very overwhelming and upsetting for the child. Welcome the quiet into your home. It is much more relaxing for all. Be aware of your own screen use especially in the presence of your child. Our families deserve us to be fully present, a true gift for all!

  Well, okay so it is not the one-liner that I had hoped for but this topic requires much, much more than that. We, as parents, need to speak openly and honestly about this very complex issue we are facing. The wonderful thing is, it's fairly easy to attain; you don't need to go live in a cave in order to do this : ) Just look around and pay attention to what is going on in your home. By turning things off and putting the distracting toys up and away, you open the space for the imagination to flourish. So sit back, watch and listen, your child will amaze you with their very own creations. Now that's entertainment!

With Love and Peace,

Kelly Waters

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Rhythm, Rhythm, and more Rhythm

Posted 1/27/2013

Hello Families,

  Well it is the start of a brand new year, with a fresh outlook moving forward! I love the new year with the excitement of changing those things that are not working for me, while being oh so grateful for the blessing in my life. As you move forward into this new year, I would like to emphasis the True Importance of Rhythm! 

  Rhythm is essential to all life. It surrounds us, the changing of the seasons, the rising and setting of the sun, the cycles of the moon, everything growing and changing. Rhythm is within us, our beating hearts, the circulation of our blood, our breathing in and out, all that is living has rhythm.

  Rhythm for the young child is a necessity. It brings about good health and well-being. I have seen it time and time again here at Sweet Waters Childcare. A child coming for their first time may be unsettled by the newness of it all and being away from mom and dad. But once here for awhile and the child lives into the rhythm, they relax. The need for discipline lessens because the rhythm supports the child and they know exactly what to expect, which in turn brings great comfort and peace of mind.

  So how do you bring more rhythm, more structure to your child's life? I like to start the old fashioned way with a pen and paper. As best you can, write out your day and your week. What are your child's needs? What are your needs? When do you work? When are mealtimes/snacks? Outside/inside play? Nap/quiet time? Does grandma/grandpa come for a weekly visit? Finally when does the bedtime routine start (and end : )? Write out general times when each of these will happen but more importantly is the succession. Of course, this gets more challenging the more children you have and the greater the age gap. However, a rhythm is definitely still possible, it just takes more organization from you and your partner and a bit more support from the greater community.

  Once you have your general week laid out, make sure you include plenty of daily outside time. I remember when my children were small, we always went for our daily walks even on the coldest of days. Indy was in a sling under my many layers and Sequoia was running about. Movement is part of this, a stroller is fine if needed but I would suggested a shorter walk with your toddler on their own two feet. Again at Sweet Waters, I have witnessed the importance of outside play even if it takes us longer to get ready than we are actually out, it benefits us all. The squirreliness of the day runs back up the tree where it belongs and the calm, centered child returns and we can move forward happily into our lunchtime.

  Once you have been living into your more structured rhythm, your child's physical body will respond. This is how deep it runs. Your child's digestive juices will begin to flow at mealtime, their eyes will droop at rest time and they will be rip and raring to go on their daily walk. Making parenting much less stressful and much more enjoyable!

  I understand life happens and your families schedule will ebb and flow. However, set that compass and try to keep your sites due north. Don't get lost at sea in the feelings of guilt and frustration, if you lose your way. Allow the flexibility of life to happen with a basic plan of your day. If you get off track, steer back on course. Tomorrow is always a new day. I hope this gives you much food for thought, it is in the awareness of the simple things that you do each day that gives your child a feeling of structure, order and a deep feeling that all is right in the world. 

Peace and Love to you and your family,

Kelly Waters

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The Art of Waiting and the Young Child

Posted 12/9/2012

Here at Sweet Waters Childcare we believe strongly in the age old art of waiting. Never before have we had so much right at our fingertips. But why you ask is waiting so important? Isn't it just a big waste of time? Quite on the contrary, waiting builds strong character, it forces us to dig deep. This is especially true for the young child.  

 When it is snack time at Sweet Waters, it isn't just lickety-split, here's your food, dig in. It takes time, we.... peel the apples, cut the apples, fill our pot, the smell of apples and cinnamon fill the air and our noses, if we wish Ms. Kelly will bring down the pot to peek in at the apples slowing turning into apple sauce. Our room has been tidy, the bathroom boat has returned, we set our table with care, everyone with an important job to do then we.... WAIT... to be served thinking to ourselves "Oh it smells so good, oh it is so close, oh this one is for me!" but still we wait until all friends have been served and Ms Kelly sings "Hands together, hands together, I see Saige's, I see Jor­­­dyn's, I see.." then we have our blessing and NOW we may eat our homemade, warm, oh so delicious apple sauce! What has the child learned from this? They have withheld a desire, they have dug deep within themselves NOT to act. And we do this act of waiting over and over again. 

  Once a child had been coming to Sweet Waters for awhile and knows the ropes, I see them become very comfortable with waiting, satisfied with being still, they will even help others who have forgotten their Meal Time Manners. So the next time your child is reaching, asking or trying to do something... Wait don't jump right up to rescue them (unless of coarse it is unsafe) Allow them to step back, to wiggle or squirm, to find a different way and finally they get (or not, it may take weeks, months) what they are after all themselves. What is so easy for us to grab, lift or move is one less time for them to figure out for themselves. My advice, watch and wait, your children will definitely amaze you (as they have me). And when they turn to you after they have finally got success, you will see that deep rich character building at work in their faces.

Peace and Love to you and your family,

Kelly Waters

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The Art of Gift Giving for the Young Child

Posted 12/9/2012

 Hello families, well it is that time of year once again. For many of us we go into the holiday season with a sense of hopefulness and excitement, only to get inundated with so many buy this, buy now, I want.. that we can end up feeling like a victim to consuming. By the time it is all over, we are exhausted and relieved. Over the years I have learned to keep it simple, only purchasing gifts for my own children and nephews. Everyone else on my list got my famous Holiday Pecan Twists, something I loved to make and were always received with eagerness, a perfect gift!

  So how can you with young children approach this holiday with great care and wonder without getting lost in consuming more and more?  First, keep it simple, children really "need" so little, be thoughtful of the gifts you are purchasing. Waldorf toys are designed and made to keep the young child's imagination engaged and intact, not to disrupt a whole household with all the noise of bells and whistles (unless of coarse they truly are bells and whistles : ).  Yes, good quality toys are more expensive but this is definitely the case where less is more! I cannot stress this enough, many of the things here at Sweet Waters Childcare were once my own children's toys. They are so well made that they can truly become heirloom toys. Loved over time, good for your family and good for our earth.  

  Second, always research before purchasing, this will help keep costs down. Make a list for each of the children you are buying for, if buying online, see which sites have the most of what you want, as many have free shipping over a certain amount. I have included some links below of great sites with lovely toys. Don't forget the big man in red, otherwise he can throw a wrench in your attempt to staying on budget. Santa came down our chimney with simple things like sewing baskets, puzzles, games for the family, chocolates, oranges, candy canes and woolen socks.  Again, keep it simple so you have something to build upon, if you do the big gesture now what will happen when your child is 8, 9, 10...?

  Lastly, okay, so maybe you are already aware of all the things I am talking about here, however, your extended family is not. This can add extra stress and anxiety for you. Can you really tell someone what to give your child? I say, most definitely. Obviously the more open and honest the relationship is the better received this will be. There may be those who are not open to any suggestions, for those gifts there is always the back door to the Goodwill. For those who are willing, give them lists, even giving links to exactly where to get them. Many times I order things for my mom and we would settle up later (again always after the free shipping). My dad never knew what to buy for his 'out there' daughter's children, so we would go shopping together. This became a lovely tradition for the two of us spending the day together, having lunch and truly getting just the right gifts.

  I, too, am learning and striving to make it better for my family. Now that my children are both teenagers, the challenges are great. Waldorf anything is out and iphones are definitely in. So now what? Well I am trying to instill in them something bigger than themselves, so each year they volunteer by passing out holiday baskets to families in need. This has helped us all to keep alive what is really important, it is the people not the stuff. So I wish you all a calm, peaceful holiday season!

With love,

Kelly Waters  

www.bellalunatoys.com/

www.novanaturals.com

www.blueberryforest.com/

PS. Don't Forget Esty (search 'Waldorf Toys') for great handmade, one-of-a-kind toys and the City of Lakes School Store (hours are M-F 8:20-9:30am and 2:45-3:30pm located at 2344 Nicollet Ave. So.)                                                                                                                  

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