Centering…one of my favorite pastimes! I love meditation and mindfulness practice. But this centering practice is far more practical! Centering is a strategy I borrowed from 40+ years in the classroom, and now apply in my own home, as a grandparent. Parents may find the concept helpful as well. My grandchildren are 3 and 8 months, so adjust the ideas to fit the children in your life.
Centers offer a “yes” opportunity in a world of adult control. Very few admonitions are necessary within this kind of environment. (There only is only “safe” and “unsafe” when testing limits, always bound to pop up from time to time.)
Centers are opportunities for children to work independently or with little adult input or help (although we often get an invitation to participate!). Centers require small, separate spaces within your home:
- a low table
- a space on the floor, defined by a small rug or furniture layout
- a space under the table (really!)
- a child-sized chair, cushion, or tiny table to sit on
- a few bookcase shelves dedicated to one kind of play with lots of “loose parts”
- a plastic box or basket with materials organized around a particular activity for the child’s use
- an area separate from the fray, with lots of books, and possibly a cozy place to curl up.
My little granddaughter moves through my home from center to center when she spends time with us. Four centers are visible in the small spaces in the photos above.
A small, round table with chairs (one waiting for her younger brother to fill) sits in a previously unused corner of my kitchen, for cooking, water / science play, playdough or painting. Her aprons are available right where she works. The table has inner storage, but we purchased a plastic lazy susan with compartments from IKEA, useful for both art and cooking activities. She often chooses to drop playdough on the floor, a preparation for her followup activity: to use her “sweep” and dust pan. Play and work are interchangeable.
Peeking through on the right is my dishwasher with magnetic toys. She enjoys my magnet, demonstrating the words “clean” and “dirty” as she dials it back and forward. No early readying instruction for her, just integrated, natural fun play!
The pig stands guard on the cutting and drawing table in the living room. A place for everything and everything in its place makes cleanup a snap. I will often choose to clean up after her at this center so her play is uninterrupted. It’s common for her to come back to this center often, with a half time performance. You can see my djambe drum on the right and a basket of musical instruments just above, a concert just waiting to happen!.
This is just the beginning; the more your grandies visit, or if you are a parent, you will want to adjust the number and complexity of centers. It’s best to keep it simple, storing things like paint and play dough in a well-known place so they can ask for it if they like.
Oh, and I guess I should be honest about the mindfulness thing. It’s really very centering for me to be part of the whole thing. Just watching her move through my home with such joy, often inviting me to play with her, doing things as painting my hands with finger paints and brushes and then playing in the kitchen sink with a tub full of soapy water. My cell phone sits on a shelf nearly, used only to play music on Pandora. Yes, this is my bliss.