Children need experiences to attach words to

Watching television is secondhand experience. Doing something on a computer is secondhand experience.  It’s got to be real.  You have to have experiences to attach words to.

Things to think about

Look around your environment for children.  How many different experiences can you identify?
Are there tools for children or are there only toys?
What are your expectations for children to know how to do?  How can you give them experiences with that to help them along?
Are you comfortable letting children fail?
In what ways have we made experiences too easy for children?  In what ways do you challenge them?

Highlights from Playful Wisdom
by Michael Mendizza featuring Bev Bos and Joseph Chilton Pearce

What if the way we treat our child is the way our child will treat the world? And what if you and I are not all that different from other parents, so our child is like theirs and that is the way the world will be? Around the 12th to 14th century BC, Hermes Trismegistus proclaimed, “As above, so below.” That which is above is the same as that which is below. “Macrocosmos is the same as microcosmos. The universe is the same as God, God is the same as man, man is the same as the cell, the cell is the same as the atom, the atom is the same as… and so on, ad infinitum.” Human behavior is fractal by nature. A fractal is a pattern that repeats at every scale. We create the future by the way we behave now. Wow! Each of us is responsible for the way humanity is and will be. Everything we do matters, and our children are watching and don’t miss a stitch. “As above, so below.” In modern parlance we might call this “the epigenetic effect.” To a profound degree, it is the model environment that sculpts human development. If we really understood this, we would place the vast majority of our attention on optimizing the model, which will naturally, without effort, resonate spontaneously in our children. Instead, we ignore for the most part, the often dysfunctional model we represent, and bribe conformity with various forms of punishments and rewards. Strange? The hero’s journey is one of breaking our identification with a toxic culture, and unfortunately all cultures are more or less toxic, so we can turn around and incarnate a new culture. Parenting is the crucible where this alchemy takes place. The director of the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University notes that a baby forms 700 new neural connections per second in the first years of life. It is the back and forth interactions with adults and the environment that shape the developing brain. “We begin to see differences in the size of a child’s vocabulary as early as 18 to 24 months…. These differences,” he says, “are not genetically hardwired. They’re based in the differences in the kind of language environment the child grows up in. If early intervention doesn’t happen, a child will struggle with language his or her whole life.” Yes, that is true. But wait, Einstein didn’t talk until he was four?

The other thing I think that kids have to have is they have to have experience, experience to attach words to.  And there has to be 100 options for that every day because every child is a different learner.  The same stuff can be out but it can moved, manipulated, guttered, logged, PVC pipe, all these, just the tools of childhood, tools rather than toys, and to be able to move it and to use it in a different way.  All we have to do is support it.  All we have to do is look around.  So the experience is to attach words to are really, really important.  Watching television is secondhand experience. Doing something on a computer is secondhand experience.  It’s got to be real.  You have to have experiences to attach words to.  You can’t understand absorption unless you’ve done it.  You’ve can’t understand erosion unless you’ve done it.  It’s with everything on this planet that you’ve already had the experience with, kids have to have that and they have to do it over and over and over again.  You know when you watch kids build dams, how much water is going to break that dam?  How much sand do they put back up there?  It’s just the experience over and over and over.

I think our kids are going to, the kids who shovel and the dams break and there’s all this erosion, someday in junior high somebody’s going to start talking about erosion in some distant kind of way, show a picture or talk about it, and our kids are going to know it.  They’re going to know it because it’s inside of them and there’s just everything, they’ve got to experiences to attach words to.  And I think it’s one of the things that’s really missing today.  It’s secondhand.  So much of it is secondhand.  They’ve got to have experience.  We wonder why our kids don’t know how to act when they’re out.  It’s because they haven’t had experience doing that.  You need experiences with those things.  One of the things that people ask me sometimes is, “Bev, how do you teach manners to kids?’  Well I don’t know that you do, but if you have an expectation one of the things you could do on one night a week, not every night, you don’t want to ruin all nights of the week, but you could say tonight we’re going to practice how we would eat if we’re going to go to a restaurant and here’s a napkin for your lap and this is how they do it.  You don’t spend a lot of time with it but you can practice a little bit so they get experiences with how I’m going to be a public kid.  You know somehow what we do is we take them out and then kind of just angry with them when they don’t behave like an adult.

They are children and we really just can’t forget that.  So experiences with everything and the more experiences you can give them.  I mean it’s guiding, it’s the Earth.  I’ll never forget when my grandson, who’s now 14, he was 4 and we were out working in the garden and we’re digging and he just loves the smell of that earth and he keeps smelling it.  He finally looked at me and he said, “You know I don’t think that you’re going to know how to do this when you’re grown up if you don’t do it when you’re a child.”  And I thought what wisdom when you pay attention. It’s true.  You’re not going to know how to plant and how to do those things if you don’t do it when you’re a child.  So it’s experiences with everything.  One of the loveliest things, he lived in this house for a while and one of the things that he and his grandfather did was they built a tree house.  It was 90% Zack who built it.  He was 7 or 8, it’s just the support.  You might try that.  And then some things didn’t stay but they’ve got to have the support while they’re doing that but they’ve got to have the experience with falling apart, things not working, going back and trying again, questioning and get them the supplies.  One time he made a bed out of rope, a rope bed, he’d seen a picture.  He made a rope bed.  Well it was the most uncomfortable thing you could ever sleep in in your life but he had that experience and then he knew that and he still talks about that.  So it’s all those experiences.

You know one of the things that I think is, I don’t know, such a sad thing sometimes, so many young kids have small bikes with training wheels.  They never have a trike.  They’re never low to the ground where they can look and see and not worry.  They’re already on a bike and they don’t have the experience of learning to do that.  Of balancing, of being afraid, so that they get the experience of how you push your body and what you do.  I think in some ways we’ve made things too easy for them and in other ways we just don’t pay attention.