Nourishing the Senses

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“Physical environment” must be understood in the widest sense imaginable.
It includes not just what happens around the children in the material sense,
but everything that can be perceived by their senses,
that can work on the inner powers of the children from the surrounding physical space.”
~ Steiner, The Education of the Child

As I struggle… again… with a resolution made and not even begun to declutter the house, I find myself pondering this quote. I know that a child, especially a young child, is strongly affected by their physical environment. I believe with my whole heart that this in turn effects every aspect of their lives, including learning. A child learns through their senses. One of my favorite Waldorf quotes is the one that refers to an infant as “one big sense organ”. It makes sense that a cluttered, messy, noisy setting would have a negative influence, just as a clean, orderly, peaceful setting full of beauty has a positive one.

If we believe in the mandate to “do all things with love,” it makes sense to bring that intention not only to our parenting but also to creating a gentle environment for our little ones. We can not only make their worlds physically neat and ordered, but also give them joy, peace, and a listening ear. By our example and planning, we can introduce them them to the idea of balance, of in-breathing and out-breathing.

I’ve often spoke of a strong daily, weekly, monthly, yearly rhythm as a foundation, and it’s true. Rhythms that I thoughtfully laid in place almost eleven years ago when Michael was a baby still support and uphold and (I hope!) enrich our lives. They’ve evolved and in some cases when they no longer served us, they’ve been discarded, but for the most part they are still there, a solid underpinning as we go along.

But lately I’ve been thinking of these rhythms and routines in a more organic way. They’re an ocean that carry our family along. Sometimes it gets a little rough and choppy, but for the most part, we can rest on the rhythms and be peacefully carried along, knowing that they’ll eventually guide us home.

If rhythms and routines are the ocean, the home environment is the port. I would encourage you to be intentional about making your port a beautiful one. A peaceful one. A gentle one. Let those sensory connections your child makes in their early ones be connections that tell them the world is a great big beautiful loving place.