As we begin to enter yet another seasonal shift, transition has been on my mind. In many subtle ways we shift easily into one season and out of another, with a change of clothing, adjustment of temperature in our homes, perhaps a new variety of foods grace our tables. But, how are you celebrating and marking the seasonal shifts with your children? Are you bringing their attention to signs and changes? Are you making them aware of how these shifts affect them in their own spirits? All too often we are disconnected from the natural world and we loose sight of what it all means and how it really affects us. We are unprepared for the pull of the season on our spirit and loose our balance with nature.
A dear friend wrote to me recently, stumped on marking the seasonal transitions and making them meaningful for her family. I gave this much thought and wrote back to her with some different ways we bring focus to the changing seasons in my home. I would like to share some of the points of my letter to her with you here.
Right now in the northern hemisphere we are about to go into Autumn. The equinox is on the 23rd of September. But how about beginning some preparations now? In our home we have a nature shelf. We don’t have space for a table and my toddler would make it impossible to have one right now, anyway. A shelf, placed in a focal spot of the home, is a good alternative. Make sure your children, that you feel are old enough to handle things gently and respectfully, are able to reach it so that they may contribute little things they find as they want to.
On it we place any items that represent the season to us. Some are items we buy or mama makes, but much of it is things my girls and I have made together or we have found when gathering. You could begin by going out for gathering expeditions. Gather up and encourage your children to do the same, anything you think speaks of autumn and you could use in crafting. The Children’s Year is an excellent resource for seasonal crafts.
You can go ahead and begin creating things together for your nature table (or shelf), putting them aside until fall is actually here. For my own children this builds up an excitement and awareness of the changing season and they keep wondering ‘Is Fall here, yet?’ Going out and gathering, looking for certain things that say fall to them make them eagerly on the lookout for the subtle changes that occur.
On the night before the equinox or solstice I pull everything from our shelf, so, when they wake in the morning it’s ready to be filled with all of the things we have been collecting and making. It’s such a joy to see all of the new things up and things that I have purchased or made without showing it to them previously, that they are not sad to see the other things go away.
Also, I have explained to my children what is occurring with the sun (waning days) and during the various times of the yr, as they wax and wan, my girls have become very aware of this. Even with young children you can talk to them about it in the simplest of terms just to make them aware. Maybe say something at a certain point each evening (dinner?) about where the sun is that day and eventually they will catch on that the days have gotten shorter or longer. It could become a little ritual. The point is, to draw their attention to these seasonal changes so they can experience them and be connected.
Another way we mark the transition is through food. I’ve mentioned here before, for breakfast we have eggs and toast one day and oatmeal the next, and we go back and forth. Once or twice a week we change it up with muffins or biscuits or fruit smoothies… things like that. But as the seasons shift I like to include something very seasonally specific. Such as, often with our muffins this summer we put berries in them, strawberries, blueberries. For fall we will make apple muffins, letting the girls help me chop and I always love to do just about anything with pumpkin! Just little additions that bring a little bit of the season to the table.
Gentle, subtle changes in your home are going to make your children aware of the changes that are occurring and will help your whole family find balance with nature.
There is a part two to my letter to my friend, a few thought on seasonal festivities and how we can relate to them, regardless of religious/spiritual leanings. I will be sure to follow up with that next week.
Julie Hunter is a single mama raising 3 spirited girls, two babydoll sheep, angora rabbits and a gaggle of chickens and ducks in the North Carolina Foothills. She spends her days at home, crafting with her children, homeschooling, taking long gathering walks in the woods and knitting Waldorf-inspired toys. You can find her blogging and keeping shop at This Cosy Life.