Nature Babies…a RIE in Real Life Story

Phew, today marked an end to the triple digit temperatures Southern California has been suffering through for the past two weeks. Even today, when the temperatures didn’t top 100 and the skies were dark and volatile…the wind was constant…it was still stunningly hot. We are ready for a return to cooler temps. Not just us! Take a look at two of my fellow park-goers from this week:

No squirrels were injured in the documentation of these pictures. They were spry when they needed to be!

To be honest, I (and a lot of others) were alarmed when we saw those poor guys sprawled out. But it is actually not a sign of heat stroke, but nature’s own way of helping animals cool down in hot weather. And it has an awesome name: splooting. Yup, you heard it here first, but you have probably seen your dog or cat do the same thing when it’s hot. It was just so rare and startling to see squirrels do it!

It got me thinking. We did an awful lot to keep cool in classes this week: some classes were canceled because the temperatures were too dang high, other classes met and basked in the breezes, marveled at the clouds, and held as still as possible soaking up the coolness from the soil. We also had ice water for snack, kept ice-y wet washcloths on hand for necks (child and adult alike), indulged a little longer in spilled water during and after snack, and sipped regularly on our water bottles. One enterprising parent brought along an Evian facial mister…and another parent mentioned using hydrosols …yet another talked about serving her frozen puréed baby food, well, frozen, rather than thawed! It got me wondering: what are some of the ways you all beat the heat with young children these past two weeks? Thermostats willing, we won’t need the tricks for a while, but I’d love to compile a resource guide to share for the next time things heat up.

And now, on to this week’s RIE in Real Life vignette.

In this afternoon’s class, I had just one baby for a little while as we waited for her classmate to wake up from nap and come join us. She happily explored the entire space: crawling in and out of a box, up and over the stairs, up and down the slide. She hefted pool rings and sampled balls; she played with curlers and blocks; and she checked in with me and her mother…but she was also very content to explore and play, needing no guidance or direction from either of us. It was one of the things her mother marveled at: her child’s ability to just play. It reminded me of a similar scenario with a 2+ child earlier in the week: she happily played and explored, no peers required…when you let children do what they are meant to do (play and explore freely), you realize you don’t have to entertain and teach. As Magda tells us: all babies are motivated from within. Young children are quite capable of finding their own way…when you get out of the way.

There was one moment today, though, that really struck me. There she was, on the edge of the blanket…a blanket full of toys, mind you…and there she sat, first playing with just two curlers…nesting and re-nesting, really focused…but then, she dropped one curler and reached her fingers into the grass, pulling up a small fistful in her left hand. She looked at it, then reached her right hand down, through the large curler and pulled up a small fistful of grass in her right hand. She looked at it, then pushed it back through the curler. She was nesting with the grass! She spent several minutes in this endeavor…long enough for us to notice the pattern.

A pause in play for a check in with Mom (photo cred to Mom!) Note the curler in her lap, the grass in hand, and the orange washcloth tucked behind her neck for cooling!

Yes, at one point, we did need to redirect her to chew on the silicone straws we have as part of the playscape, rather than the tasty(?) grass, but for the most part, she was quite content to mix her mediums…play objects she’s well-familiar with and grass and earth which she is getting well-familiar with.

For all the hassles and headaches that come with teaching RIE outdoors, it is truly a pleasure and a gift to watch children really connect with their world in this way, and in the way of the little one on the cover of this newsletter.

For those in Southern CA, enjoy the rain tonight and tomorrow…get out in it!

For those elsewhere, I hope you have a weekend of fun weather, too.

For all of you, I’m wishing you the best.