A Quietening of Our Home and My Mind


In the Beginning . . .

In those first days after my children were born, I can not remember having many thoughts that didn’t revolve around them. Everything that I needed to do or think about other than them felt like a distraction. I was focused and present.


As time went on and we settled back into the rhythm of the day-to-day, my mind needed to consider things and people other than my daughters.


Striking that balance between being a responsive parent and managing the other things in my life is tricky. My daughters no longer need the same type of attention they did as young infants.


The Context of Play

Now that they can play independently for extended periods of time, my efforts are spent trying to create the conditions that support independent play.  From carefully chosen playthings, books, and art experiences, the environment is theirs as much as it is mine. Lately, however, I’ve started to notice that I have been treating our shared environment, our home, as sometimes more mine than ours.


I love to listen to music. If I were left on my own, I’d play music all day – preferably, loudly. My taste in music is sometimes at odds with creating a peaceful environment for the girls. Our home is TV/computer-free during the girls’ waking hours, so naturally I listen to music without limit.


Between the talkative toddler and my raucous taste in music, I started to notice what a busy environment Moon (10 months)  was experiencing at times. Though she wasn’t upset or even irritated by it, I did notice how distracted both Greysen and I could be by the music, and I began to wonder what, if any, effect the extra ambient noise could have on Moon.


Greysen and Moon have overlapping afternoon naps, but recently Moon has started to wake before Greysen, leaving us an hour or so to ourselves. With the house relatively quiet so that Greysen can rest, I realized just how much I was contributing to the noisiness at home.


In our hushed home, I began to notice just how far from silent our quiet house really was, and so did Moon. Most of all, I noticed that when we kept the house quiet and still, it helped my mind do the same.


Sitting at home, we hear birds (several types, actually, most of which I couldn’t name), cars, wind chimes, our meowing cat, the hum of the refrigerator, and the rustle of the lemon tree. Natural sounds. Peaceful sounds.  Minus four voices, these are the sounds of home. In this muted moment, the bonds that were forming between us were resounding.


These past afternoons, I have watched Moon and waited attentively as she plays.  I’ve noticed the strength with which she holds herself as she now starts to pull to a standing position. I noticed a new scooting motion to her crawl.  I noticed her noticing me, and then returning to play.


This brief one-minute clip is of her playing in our quiet home while her older sister is playing nearby. Is this quiet catching on?




While I can list 50 things that distract me from being present, I can think of only a few environmental ones that I have some control over. During the day, I find myself so often distracted by both unimportant and important things alike that divert my attention away from the only two things that really matter. Keeping an uncluttered space so that the environment is easily navigable for my daughters is a priority, but seldom do I think about actually having an uncluttered atmosphere. I can choose to dismiss any possible effects background noise can have on us, or I can choose to reduce the background noise in our home. Since I have already noted that a peaceful atmosphere help me keep my mind in the place it needs to be in order to remain responsive, I can only expect a similar impact on my daughters.


“Observe more, do less. Do less, enjoy more.”

                                                                       – Magda Gerber


In our toddler-paced lives, having a quiet home is not my goal. A home filled with laughter and cries, extended drum solos and screeches of glee from being found during a game of hide-and-seek is welcomed. These sounds are meaningful to my children. It is the disconnected pulse of advertisements and some types of music (including my favorites) that are beginning to feel like an imposition in my children’s lives.


For the better part of the this past week, I’ve taken a new approach toward setting the tone of our day. Music, if played at all, was chosen in consideration of what we were engaged in. I hope that this gift of a quiet-ish home will bring with it a new kind of peace. An inner tranquility, perhaps, that can set the tone for focused play and peaceful interactions.

Real Food in the Play Kitchen


At any given point in time, there are real foods in the girls’ kitchen area. We also have play food that gets rotated in a little at a time, but the real foods outnumber the play foods these days.


If you’re considering rotating in some real foods in your kitchen, these are a few things that I’ve learned.


  • Rotate fruits or veggies that won’t bruise easily or rot quickly. In the classroom, I alternated between limes and lemons depending on price. Now, we have a lemon tree that generously gives us lemons all year round. When they are not ripe, we still use green ones.


  • If there are no allergy concerns, shelled nuts make for great ingredients. We have a hefty handful of walnuts an acquaintance gave me as a gift. In either case, if Greysen asks to have a walnut or slice open a lemon, then all the better since she’ll eat them afterward.


  • Dried corn and gourds from fall continue to be baked in our pretend kitchen.


  • Natural materials, like seed pods or leaves, are frequently found in outdoor play kitchens and can be just as delicious when “cooked” in an indoor kitchen. I keep the playthings large and fresh so crumbly leaves don’t wind up all about.


  • Foods that won’t be wasted. Before the lemons have been there too long, we use, them.


These real foods, especially in abundance, have an open-ended property to them. The walnuts regularly become a fanciful collection of dessert foods, from “chocolate” to “ice cream.” These real foods are assigned roles such as “coffee,” “spices,” and “chocolate” far more often than other play foods.

At 24 months. Greysen is engaging in representational play throughout her day. Stocking her kitchen with interesting, real things that encourage her to use her imagination is how I try to create an environment that supports her interests, and thus learning. Real foods are also an easy way to bring the outdoors in – something I could really work on throughout our home.


Greysen’s friends are also drawn to the real food and have on occasion been unsure if they are even permitted to play with such things. On more than one occasion, a parent or child has approached me, lemon in hand, thinking that they were mistakenly available to the children and not to be used for play.


What kinds of materials inspire your children in their play kitchen?







Encouraging Self Care

Last week as I sneezed and sneezed, my cloudy mind was inspired!  I was in frequent need of tissues as I tried to stay near the girls while they played.


Why not move some tissues to Greysen’s level so that she can reach one if she needs it?


Here is the addition of a tissue box to her shelves on the bookcase.


I added a nearly emptied box with just a few tissues.


As to be expected, she was excited about this new access to tissues.  She did not use them sparingly, but since it was just a few tissues it didn’t feel like a big waste.


She stuffed her shirt. I don’t know what to say about that.


After that instance, however, the tissues have sat on the bookcase and only get pulled when there is a nose in need.


By trusting her with access to tissue, she now has one more way that she can care for herself and her needs.