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Creating a Naturally Enriched Environment

There are many things you can do as parents to provide a naturally enriched environment for your young child. Neuropsychologist Jane Healy states, "The brain tends to seek out what it needs at each stage of development. Why not trust the child's brain to seek out the stimulation it needs from a naturally enriched environment?" (Your Child's Growing Mind. A Practical Guide to Brain Development and Learning from Birth to Adolescence). Here are some simple ways to do this:

- Have play and activity times fit rhythmically into a regular structure (e.g., have meals, activities, rest, play and bedtime occur at expected times every day; have special activities occur regularly, on a certain day each week).

- Allow time for free play--home life can be fully as valuable as taking lessons! When your child is playing, observe more, interrupt less.

- Provide areas for activities, with things arranged in a way that invites the child's involvement
(such as child-sized furniture for a kitchen area, a workbench, art area, etc.).

- Provide simple toys that require the child to complete them with his or her imagination
(items from nature, cloths, costumes, simple dolls and "archetypal" toys).

- Provide examples of real work for imitation. As children see and help adults transform things through work, this will become transformed in their play. (Quality time is time when you're present, aware of your child and doing something--you can be folding the laundry or baking instead of doing puzzles).

- Provide plenty of contact with the world of nature and opportunities for play with sand, soil, water, air

- Provide artistic activities that allow your child to express freely what lives within him or her (coloring, painting, beeswax modeling).

- Value "orality," with the young child
Have good communication cycles, but don't explain intellectually or reason so much with
him/her.
For the very young child: lots of nursery rhymes, finger plays, movement games, simple
stories (The Gingerbread Boy, The Three Billy Goats Gruff, etc.).
For the older child (4+), provide nourishing images from stories the child hears.
Sing often, to and with your child (much more valuable than tapes!).

- Limit "screen time" (television, video games, computers, VCR) both because of the effects of the media on the child's brain/senses and the effect of the content/images coming to your child.
"In addition to altering society, new technologies also have a disconcerting habit of changing the mental skills and even the brain organization of people using them ... .Fast-paced, nonlinguistic, and visually distracting television [and video games] may literally have changed children's minds, making sustained attention to verbal input, such as reading or listening, far less appealing than faster-paced visual stimuli." --Jane Healy, Failure to Connect. How Computers Affect Our Children's Minds--for Better and Worse

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