I spoke with a friend of mine recently who is a Bush Kinder teacher and she shared with me this fascinating activity they do that builds empathy between mother and child, and helps the child grow up feeling secure in life. Firstly, I should say what Bush Kinder is even though it doesn’t take much explaining! Following the style of ‘forest schools’ from Scandinavia and Denmark, they’re founded on the study that letting kids play and learn in the bush (under supervision of course), helps them become happier, healthier, more imaginative, independent and closer to the environment. This environment also helps them build a strong sense of security by allowing them to explore safety and grow in confidence.
Building a strong security attachment bond with your child is what this activity helps promote as well. I want to focus on it because as these two very wise professors explain – “The emotional quality of our earliest attachment experience is perhaps the single most important influence on human development.” - Alan Sroufe and Dan Siegel.
Attachment theory is best explained in this short snappy video.
But basically in my words, a child learns to feel secure and able to take on risks, respond well to stress, have great social skills and go forth independently in life by learning from their parents and surroundings that they are loved and understood and the first 5-6 years are the most critical time for developing all this. The interesting surprise is that it turns out non-verbal communication is actually more influential in creating this healthy bond. That doesn’t mean don’t attend to your child’s needs of course! But be more aware of your facial expressions, body language, pace and intensity that you respond to your child with. You may need to slow down to reassure your child you understand their needs and encourage their interests. Tone of voice, touch and eye-contact are extremely important as well.
Here’s where this powerful activity comes in! It helps mothers tune in with their children and build more empathy for them (it can be very frustrating at times to wait on children), and also dedicates time to sending them strong messages of love and security with non-verbal communication. Mothers can get together to do this with their children or join the teachers at the bush kinder for this practice. The teachers will form a circle around one child at a time (again while there’s still supervision), and just watch the toddler lovingly and full of adoration. Honouring the child and observing how incredible they are. How full of potential they are. Allowing them to explore their environment and play safely with all the eyes of wonder and love holding them. The circle moves with the child if they move, encouraging them to explore. The intensity is felt by the whole group and they say they can feel a calmness in the child that also radiates from the mother.
If this activity uses the same important techniques that are widely studied about, then why not amplify them as a group! Spread wonder like it’s confetti, that’s what we aim for and this circle of love story is one to spread.