Sometimes it takes the wonder of a child, or in my case the passion of a twinkly-eyed adult, to wake you up to the amazing things around you.  In my previous blog post I mentioned the Camp at which my family has been spending time for generations.  I love the place - its in my blood - but today I experienced in a completely new way.  Its funny how you can get used to a place.  Its not that you don’t love it or appreciate it, its just that you get comfortable, and you begin to miss the details.  

Recently I had the pleasure of meeting tree expert, Matthew Largess (aka The Treehugger).  The man is dynamic...and he loves trees...seriously, a lot.  When he heard where the Camp is and that I personally saw a bear there last year (in Rhode Island - quite rare), his eyes lit up.  I knew then that he would be joining us at Camp.  He had to.  He arrived in his orange “I’m not a deer, don’t shoot me” vest, equipped with a compass around his neck and pens poking out of various pockets.  Then he asked of my daughter and nephew, “Hey, wanna have a nature class?”  Then we went on a walkabout (no, that’s not what he called it, but its a fun word one doesn’t often have the pleasure of brandishing).  He stopped often to simply marvel at the trees - to touch them, really admire them...even to smell them (because each species has a distinct smell, don't ya know).  “Wow! What a beauty!” he’d exclaim. 

“Start keeping a journal! Keep track of what you see every time you come here!  You can be the caretakers and record keepers of these woods!" 

"The future of the forest depends upon the children!” 

It may be cliche but isn’t it the truth?  Children really experience nature fully. They soak it in with all of their senses.  We need to fan that spark as they grow; cultivate it.  What better way to do that than to find the spark within ourselves?  The desire to protect nature is born of a love and respect for it. How better to encourage our future scientists and conservationists than to stop and really  see nature, to explore, to ask questions (and to admit we may not know all the answers), to simply and fully marvel at the truly stunning work of Mother Nature all around us?  



My family has part ownership of a rustic wood cabin built by a group of my great grandfather’s friends back in 1906.  It sits on a secluded pond surrounded by over 200 acres of woodland.  When I get out of my car there I breathe deeply, taking in the smell of the deep pine woods.  Just being there moves me, and passion for this place runs deeply through my family.  I watch my children and the children of my brother and my cousins frolic in the pond in just the way we did as children.  I see my parents enjoying time with their grandchildren in just the way I imagine my grandparents and great grandparents did before them.  Sometimes I well up just reflecting on the simple beauty of that - the indelible connection to family past, present, and future.

There has never been a land line at “Camp” (as we call it).  There was a time when if you needed to use a phone, you had to go to a neighboring house up the road.  There has never been a television.  It is simple and timeless, except...

These days when we go to camp, with me and my extended family come cell phones, iPhones, iPads, DVD players, laptops...I think on this last trip handheld devices may have outnumbered people two to one.  

Don't get me wrong, I am so grateful for wireless technology.  My small business has hit the ground running. Honestly, I would not have felt comfortable going away at all this summer had I not been accessible to potential clients and to contractors working on the school.  

For us grown-ups, I have accepted that having iPhones or cell phones at the ready is a necessary evil, even at Camp.  However (call me a hypocrite if you must), I still cannot get to that place of feeling they are a necessity for the children, particularly when we are in such a historically “unplugged” location.  

My family is amazing.  My siblings, cousins and I get along really well, despite often differing parenting styles.  If we can't agree we can usually laugh about it, sometimes pretty hardily.  As my family members read this, some will roll their eyes, while others will be giving me a virtual high five.  A good natured ribbing in each direction will likely ensue. 

There is no doubt that each of us loves the camp and (obviously) the children.  We all want the children to experience the joys of nature, and there is no doubt they do.   The kids run and swim and fish and row until they drop...and then they want their iPads...and maybe that’s just fine.  

Maybe I am just too nostalgic, but to me Camp should be about time spent enjoying simple pleasures. I love the idea of my children engaging in the same quintessentially “Camp” activities that were enjoyed in turn by my grandfather, my father and me...even if that includes occasional boredom. 

My grandfather probably couldn’t have imagined the kind of technology now available in this cabin in the middle of the woods, yet somehow I imagine him arguing that being at Camp without these amenities builds character.  Though, I can also imagine he would quickly be in favor of a way for the adults to enjoy a quiet drink on the porch in the evening without interruption.

Do you allow your children to bring video games, iPads and the like with you on vacation? If so, do you place limits on their use?  Do you feel that they have an impact on the overall experience, or are they a non-issue?


The Un-Playground

My girls love playgrounds (what kid doesn’t).  We often go to Morton Park or King’s Park near our home in Newport.  Our yard is quite small, so in taking them to the park I imagine I am giving them a larger expanse in which to run and explore.  But you know what?  They don’t really do much running or exploring.  There are slides - they go up, they go down.  There are swings - I push them back and forth, back and forth.  Not much to it.

One morning this week there seemed to be a lot of discontentment at home (this is my nice way of saying the girls had been shrieking at each other all morning).  It was clear that we needed to  GET OUT but I was not in the mood for the playground, it wasn’t a beach day, and I feared that a trip to The Norman Bird Sanctuary or Sachuest Point (both of which I love dearly) would inevitably turn into me carrying my substantial and seemingly tired three year old on a nature hike.  So, I decided to pack a picnic and take the girls somewhere new.   I was in search of someplace wide open with no equipment.  We went to The Glen in Portsmouth.  I have lived near it practically my whole life and I think I had been there once, years ago.   I wasn’t even sure exactly where the park was or exactly what it would be like.  We parked the car, took a little walk and this is what we found.  

Heaven.  As soon as we walked into this tree grove my five year old said, 

“I feel so relaxed."  

Has any child uttered those words upon entering a playground - ever?  I think not!  We laid down our blanket and proceeded to spend the next three hours in this beautiful place.  We saw two other people, and four dogs, total.  It was pristine, and though we were not far from the main road, all we heard were birdsongs and each other (and absolutely no shrieking).  

What did we do?  We had lunch.  We played hide and seek. We played “Duck, duck, unicorn.”  We played “Bees.”  We had races.

The girls brought paper and markers and they pretended they were explorers.  They drew pictures of flowers and bugs and brought them back to me and I made up silly names for the ones I didn’t recognize: “Oooooh, that is none other than a rare Whoozawhatsa!  FANTASTIC!” 

We lay on our backs and looked up at this.

The next day, they asked to go back.  So we did...and we brought friends.


The Elephant in the Yard

I have noticed with my daughters (ages 3 and 6), that often when I am sitting down, watching them play (or hoping to), there is suddenly a fog of boredom that wafts through the room.  Conflicts seem to more readily arise between them.  Conversely, when I am physically busy with chores or hobbies, the children either want to help, or they respect the tasks at hand and become industrious in their own parallel way.  Perhaps the feeling is that if I am “just” sitting there, I am available to resolve all conflicts (therefore why not create more, since we have a built in referee?) and I should also, obviously, entertain them.  Yet  when left to their own devices, they can resolve conflicts and create more imaginative games than I ever could.  I think it is so important to give them these opportunities to play and to navigate how to treat one another without my constant input. 

Sometimes the chores of the day capture the children’s interest, and they ask to help.  Laundry, dishes and cleaning tasks can all be rewarding work for them, but what thrills them the most is the real work that happens outside - digging, weeding, watering, planting, mulching, harvesting.  Gardens are magical, even to me as an adult.  I still find myself a bit surprised when a seed I have tended emerges as a food producing plant!  

One day recently, my husband decided to make a koi pond in our backyard.  He spent hours digging a big hole for the pond.  The girls were initially fascinated, and though the excitement waned a bit while the afternoon stretched on, they matched his industriousness with their own digging in the sandbox, as well as helping me to weed and water the garden beds.  Beau set up a table with a notepad and pen, and like a mini archeologist, she rinsed, examined and documented the random items being uncovered in the excavation site...marbles, pottery, whiffle ball, hair clip, coal, elephant?  We passed an entire afternoon busily and contentedly in our little backyard.  (I have a really cute picture of Ruby to add here, but she is one of those new-age, garden-in-your-underwear types).

Sometimes we adults don’t feel like being industrious, and I am not insinuating that we  shouldn’t sit down and relax now and then. Children need to have down time too, and its good for them to see us taking care of ourselves.  I am simply reflecting on how our own work, whether it is done with the assistance of our children or merely in their vicinity,  is an important factor in the children developing their own sense of confidence and self worth.  Whether they are learning how entertain themselves, how to get along with their siblings or how to fold laundry, they feel empowered by these experiences.  Their will is strengthened by being treated like a welcomed and competent helper, as well as by not always needing to be helped

Food for thought:  Sometimes the tasks at hand can take a little longer (okay, a lot longer) when we are assisted by our young children.  But look at it this way - if we do not honor their pleas to participate in our family work now when the desire to be included is so heartfelt, do we still have the right to complain when they get older and no longer have any desire or inclination to contribute?



Hello, my name is Bethany, and I am a toy snob.  At least, that is what I was told this week by a close friend who is a recovering toy snob.  

I don’t like plastic toys.  I don’t like their typically short lifespan, the sheer volume of them in the world; the impact that their production and disposal have on the environment. Not to mention the issues I have with some of the actual toys themselves, particularly toys marketed to young girls...the impossible body image of Barbie and her friends; encouraging little girls to spend hours on end deciding which (typically inappropriate) outfit looks best.  

The worse offense, and it is certainly not relegated to plastic toys, is the blatant commercialism targeted at our most impressionable little friends.  “Do you like My Little Pony?  Great! Now you must buy everything from hairbrushes to shoes to potty chairs featuring My Little Pony!”  I think it sets children up to fall into a dangerous pattern of mindless consumerism, not to mention gullibility.  Do we really want to feed into the notion that soup with Tinkerbell on the can actually tastes better?

In Waldorf early childhood programs, toys are chosen very consciously.  They are almost always made of natural materials such as wool, silk, cotton or wood. They can be human powered but never battery powered.  They are non-commercial. The reason? Natural toys offer the appropriate sensorial experience to the impressionable young child.  Children’s imaginations thrive when they are given simple, open ended toys.  This makes a world of sense to me, and I have embraced this thinking fully when considering what toys to buy for my own children.  

Its not that my children live in a bubble, and I certainly don’t prohibit them from playing with non-Waldorf toys when we are out and about.  I don’t make a big deal about my feelings about toys in front of them.  I don’t want them to feel that certain toys are bad.  I try to be diplomatic.  For example, I have dodged taking home a couple of huge bins of Polly Pockets from my lovely aunts’ house by sighting our cat, who has a penchant for eating small bits and bobs, of which “Polly” has oodles (if you are familiar with Polly Pockets you know what I mean - Good God, the shoes alone!).  The girls have accepted this reasoning (because it is kinda true).  So, they have a Polly Pockets extravaganza whenever we visit my aunts.  We are all okay with that.

So this friend, this toy snob in recovery, is so very generous and she loves to give away toys that her children have outgrown.  She has given us many lovely toys, truly...and more recently, with a wink and a knowing grin, she has begun to send us home with contraband.  

It started with a plastic cash register.  I removed the batteries, and I was cool with it.  Then it was teeny, tiny Playmobile animals and Magnatiles (again, fine), but now we have started down the path of My Little Pony, Princesses and Polly Pockets.  It has been the proverbial “slippery slope”.  As we were walking toward our car from this particular friend’s house the other day, my three year old, who was clutching several new treasures, inadvertently dropped a small doll in the grass.  I noticed, but kept my stride, hoping to leave it behind.  My friend called out, “You dropped one!” and then “I saw you watch that drop, Mama!” (Did I mention she’s a stinker?).  I was not pleased.  Really, really not pleased.  It was then that I realized I needed to do some soul searching...about toysReally? Did I just say that?  Maybe, just maybe, I was taking this a little too seriously.  I am proud of sheltering my children for as long as I have.  But eventually, the world gets in.  If I make these toys taboo, isn’t that going to eventually backfire?  If my children have a strong foundation of imaginative play, will they use even these commercialized, plastic toys creatively?  My sense is, yes, they will.  

I still swear I will not buy highly commercial, plastic toys (a statement snickered at by friends who are parents of children older than mine).  If the toys are given to us second hand, in moderation, I think we will all survive...and, at the very least, we are saving them from the landfill. 

Saturday morning, my family and I were about to head out the door to the local farmer’s market.  “Can I bring my dolly?”, my little one asked.  I looked down, and in her little hand she was holding a plastic, miniature Cinderella, who was rescued the week before from a Rubbermaid graveyard in our friend’s garage.  For a brief moment I considered that I may be called out as a fraud when someone sees me, the owner of a Waldorf-inspired school, sharing my Saturday with mini-Cinders.  

“Sure, why not?”, I said.  If she is going to play with the contraband, I need to own it.  I need to keep it real.  After all, as long as Cinderella is willing to earn her keep around the farm, I guess I’m okay with her hanging around for a bit.














(Yup, that’s her...milking the a tiara.)







At my daycare and preschool, a Waldorf and nature inspired program, the classrooms  are free of plastic toys and commercialized toys and images.  Though it may be virtually impossible to avoid these things in the wider world, I do believe in the great value of providing a haven from all of these influences at BLOOM.  We work to create a mindful, natural environment wherein imaginative play and organic learning can flourish.