Bright Ideas

Out of the Vault: Stories that Feel Relevant Today

Natural Start Staff

Now seems a time to dig in and embrace this new normal and all of the emotions, challenges, and opportunities that come with it. There is no one right way to approach this time and no single organization has all the answers, but we are heartened by the ways we see our community supporting each other and learning together. 
We dug through our archives to uncover stories that feel particularly relevant today. We enjoyed reading them again in a new light, and thought you might too. 

Filtering Nature: The Facebook Effect

by Catherine Koons Hubbard
Many families have turned to nature for a sense of calm, relief, or simply a distraction from the stress of the current state of the world. As we see more beautiful and heart-warming photos of children playing outside come across our newsfeed, this article from Catherine Koons Hubbard reminds us that not every moment in nature is camera-ready, and that’s okay. She encourages educators and parents to “fight the urge to promote nature and childhood through rose-colored glasses” and to embrace the whole, true story: Sometimes children cry or fight or look at the slug on the sidewalk with disgust. Try to resist the urge to hit pause when that happens and remember that good or bad, it’s all part of the experience. 

Noisy, Messy, Squirmy, and Quiet: Mindfulness and Yoga for Preschoolers

by Lauren Maples
Children are sure to be experiencing a wide range of emotions right now. Activities that promote movement and mindfulness, such as yoga or meditation, can help children regulate their emotions. Lauren Maples, a registered yoga teacher with her Masters in Early Childhood Education and founder of Bija Kids, shares tips and techniques for trying out yoga and mindfulness activities at home. 

Magic, Wonder, Science, and Exploration: The Educational Value of Fairy Villages

by Kit Harrington
Tapping into children’s curiosity and creativity and exploring a pretend world can be a great way to nourish imagination and escape from stress. Enter: fairy villages. We loved looking back on Kit Harrington’s playful story about fairy villages and how creating imaginary worlds allows children to practice empathy and caring while engaging in an activity that gives them a sense of ownership and control, concepts that are especially valuable right now. Reflecting on her own experiences crafting fairy villages with children, Kit said, “I believe the simple joy derived from magical experiences can be traced to the idea that anything is possible.” 

A Parent’s Guide to Nature Play

by Ken Finch
Being a parent is a challenging job, no questions asked. Being a parent during a global pandemic? It probably feels impossible some days. Providing love, support, and spending quality time with your children is exactly what you need to be doing, and everything else is a bonus. If you’re looking for ways to spend time together as a family, while enjoying nature, we recommend Ken Finch’s “A Parent’s Guide to Nature Play,” which covers the what, why, and how of unstructured play outdoors. And for whoever needs to hear it: You’re doing an amazing job! 

Learning & Playing Freely: Resources from Dr. Peter Gray

Dr. Peter Gray is a research professor of psychology, published researcher, and renowned author who believes children learn best when given space to direct their own learning experiences and play freely. While children are home from school and parents are balancing work while homeschooling, his perspective feels particularly relevant. 
Dr. Gray delivered the keynote address, “Mother Nature's Pedagogy: How Children Educate Themselves Naturally Through Free Play and Exploration,” at Natural Start’s 2019 Nature-Based Early Learning Conference, which you can watch anytime at this link