These days my husband and I spend a lot of time with the grandchildren, as do most people of our generation. I’m not quite sure why this should be so as our parents and grandparents did not do the inordinate amount of childcare that we all do. I think it is that we are a much healthier, fitter generation than our forebears. Grandparents still do tons of babysitting even when both parents work and use childcare centres. What is wonderful about this situation is that grandparents take on this role because they want to. They have the time that they generally didn’t have for their own children but more importantly, they give to those children the time and attention that the children desperately need.
In a ‘hurried up’ world children often don’t have time to ‘unwind’, to take in their surroundings, to process the day’s activities and to give vent to their imaginations. This situation can lead to high stress which is pretty sad when you consider we are talking about little children. The long-term consequences are dire.
When our littlies come over we have them one by one so we can give them individual attention wherein they don’t have to compete with their siblings. Their behaviour changes (for the better), they talk a lot, they play quietly and we go along with whatever they would like to do. Being me, of course they get lots of music and movement and books. But they do so only at their request. I am their nanna, not their teacher. They may prefer to play at the park, do gardening or cooking or a myriad other activities. The current project is fairy gardens.
We have to have one fairy garden per child, of course. There are some delightful miniature flowering plants that are very suitable for sunny or shady situations and tiny succulents are always appropriate. These are not expensive from your local nursery – or ask your parents or the community to donate some. The children can decorate the gardens with shells, stones, coloured glass beads (which I call fairy wishing stones), or anything else you (or they) think appropriate. My littlies use the little ‘tables’ in the pizza boxes!
I have written before about fairy gardens (Kidz Newz #137 – Why We Need Fairies at the Bottom of the Garden) but reiterate it here because it is a delightful activity whether you are a grandparent or in a teaching setting. With a small group of children you have co-operation, division of labour and the delight of choosing how to decorate or design your fairy garden. You can buy fairies or little fairy houses at garden centres and gift shops but I think purpose-built (by the children) shelters and figures are better. Plenty of containers are suitable for indoor gardens and if each child has his or her own, they can take them home at the end of the week or term and be responsible for watering and generally caring for their garden. If you feel this is a bridge too far in your centre, enlist the help of some grandparents. I’m sure they would love to help!
There are plenty of ideas online. Here are just a couple but these are designer gardens. The children don’t have to copy these models. The purpose of the exercise is to engage the children in growing plants while engaging their imaginations. Above all, it is such fun! Number one rule with small children – make it fun!