REVIEW: LIVING AN INSPIRING LIFE WITH YOUNG CHILDREN
By Helen Hansen
This E-book is the second in a series of four books which aims to inform and inspire anyone who is a teacher to children, whether it be in an official capacity or as the parent, who is the child’s most important teacher and role model. This book is aimed at four to six year olds. The other books cover the baby to toddler and seven to twelve year olds; they therefore flow from one to the other, but may of course be utilised individually. The book is divided into 25 chapters, each presented in a very readable way with so much relevant information regarding fun and creative ways to educate and inspire!
Helen begins by drawing attention to the fundamental concepts of understanding the child (in mind, in brain, and in play), and just as importantly, understanding ourselves (especially with regard to the conscious and subconscious minds, and how to gain new perceptions by breaking old habits). The sometimes unacknowledged fact that our children are just as much our teachers as we are theirs is discussed in some detail, before beginning the series of chapters which make up the body of the book.
Intuition: intuition is quite simply that gut reaction that we can sometimes feel, whether it be instant or subtle. We all have intuition; it can help with survival. Children live very strongly in the present moment, and therefore have a highly developed sense of intuition. As educators, Helen stresses that we need to recognise and trust in our own intuition in order to encourage same in our children. Children recognise doubt – so trust in your own inner voice! This will encourage children to trust in theirs.
Balanced minds = Balanced bodies: When our minds are at an equilibrium, so will our bodies be. We know that our psychological state can affect our immune system. Balancing our minds can be achieved by living in such a way that our highest values are being fulfilled. If we as educators feel fulfilled, this will reflect positively on our children, and they will feel the beneficial effects thereof. Play is such an important part of balancing children.
Conversely then, balanced bodies = balanced minds, of course! It is just as important to feed our bodies correctly and nutritiously as it is our brains. On a basic level, we need to be eating fresh, whole and organic foods – children can and should be educated from the very start regarding healthy choices! Helen warns to watch out for food intolerances or allergies – they may be reflected in behaviour. And always, less sugar!
Nature: nature provides us with the core fundamentals in life – fresh air, clean water, fresh produce. Mother Earth holds everything we need to nourish us. Encourage bare feet – feeling the raw earth beneath one’s feet is grounding, and connects us to the earth. Being outside offers space and can lighten dull moods. Gardening is a great way for kids to connect to Mother Earth. The Rhythm of Life includes us in day and night cycles, as well as seasonal cycles. We are part of nature! Inner balance can be achieved by respecting our outer world. Children are naturally in rhythm; there’s an organic ebb and flow to their make-up. By creating a day that flows, we can allow for the daily routine to follow these rhythms.
The Breath: it comes naturally to children to breathe and to move, as moving is essential to health. Encourage good breathing habits in your children with breathing exercises – these can be used to calm or inspire.
Singing: singing is not only artistic, but is also intellectual, as it stimulates both left and right sides of the brain. Singing is also a wonderful tool to promote conscious breathing. Children feel rhythm from singing, lyrics provide language experience, and sound vibrations are healing and restorative. Sing with your children in a myriad different ways! Also can introduce instruments, and body movement.
Movement: young children can appear restless – they know they need to move, as at this age they are discovering the world primarily through their limbs. Once we as educators understand this, we can use action to communicate most effectively with children this age. Gender specifics may start to emerge through body expression at this stage. We need to encourage expressive gross motor movements.
Emotions: emotions are visible and are signals to show positive or negative states of mind. Encourage tears as well as laughter! Role playing is a highly effective method of allowing children to explore their emotions safely. The emotion or emotions can be freely expressed, and then the child can return to reality.
Listening: listening is a skill which requires practice. Children will learn to listen if we listen to them! Listening is a sign of respect, and makes children feel that they have something worthy to say.
Language and Conversation: words carry emotions – they are vibrations of sound which attach meaning. Children cannot connect the two as the same. When there is no object connected to a word, the brain will create its own image (imagery). Imagery is developed through conversation and storytelling, and it is therefore crucial to talk to your children from an early age, and to tell them stories.
Speech: clear, audible speech makes for better understanding. As an educator, adjust your speech to be slower, and use a lower tone. Children’s speech can have a large impact on the opportunities that will be presented to them later on in life, not only in academics but in other areas too. There are many fun activities to play with your children using sounds.
Silly Rhymes: silly rhymes are a brilliantly fun form of speech exercise using exaggerated articulation. The content thereof is relatively unimportant. In the book Helen provides some fantastic silly rhymes to use, as well as the speech focus of the rhyme. (Don’t forget these on long car journeys!)
Wholesome Stories: make sure stories, like the movies that children watch, are suitable. Tell your own stories where possible, and try to avoid definitive sides representing GOOD and BAD (this can be confusing for young children). Imagery generated in the child’s brain from storytelling helps to create important neural pathways.
Puppetry: children love puppets! Keep them simple to allow the child’s imagination to fill in the details of the story. Puppet shows can be interactive.
Imagination: imagination is creative thought. Children naturally have brilliant imaginations which should be encouraged, but not overstimulated. Imagination helps with brain development in the sense of conceptualising. Visualisation is an extremely useful tool to develop imagination, the importance of which cannot be overemphasised. Using visualisation, children can be what they choose. Visualisation can calm a child, help to focus, and even be used to handle a difficult situation. It can also develop empathy. Helen shares a lovely visualisation sequence in the book.
Painting: colour can affect mood. Watercolour is a fabulous medium for children to explore different colours and the weaving together thereof. Colouring in specifically of shapes and patterns is a calming activity. Geometric patterns are especially beneficial as they reflect the patterns of nature. There should be no rules to colouring in – just allow the child to colour!
Environment: the space in which children live and learn will influence their mental wellbeing. Curves and shapes are comforting, whilst choice of colour and pattern is also significant.
Discipline: it’s difficult to allow children to make mistakes, but it is vital to allow them to do so! Let the mistake be their teacher! We also need to teach by example, obviously good manners and respectful behaviour demonstrated by us as parents and teachers will be duly mimicked. Children also need to learn their own values, and those values need to be given space to shine through. Discipline is teaching, not correcting or punishing. We need to learn to teach with praise, and also to praise specifically. It’s so important to uplift our children every step of the way.
The book closes with an Addendum A which consists of five wonderful ‘Wholesome Stories’ and an Addendum B – three beautiful colouring in templates. Each chapter has a section called INSPIRE TO ACTION, which offers practical activities to apply to the particular concept that has been discussed in that chapter. Conscious Parenting is also peppered with pertinent quotations and photographs throughout, making it highly attractive and appealing. Helen’s passion for education really shines through these pages, and I have found it to be an incredibly useful reference book. It’s the ideal go-to whenever looking for inspiration, and I highly recommend it to any adult involved in any way with the education of the wonderful children of this world!
For further information, please contact Helen firstname.lastname@example.org
By Janet Neilson