Magazines for Little Children

(this has been adapted from a message I posted on my yahoo list, Waldorf At Home.)
 
Children under the age of 7 live wholly in their bodies – they are on the go, meeting the world bodily from the minute they get up in the morning until they go to sleep at night. Even if ones child is quiet and not as "into things" as other little ones, that child is taking in all the sense impressions around him or her. As Steiner said, the little child is like a sponge, soaking up impressions.  And as the inner forces of "self" are still very undeveloped, there is no reflection, no introspection, no filtering of what goes in or what comes out again. It is up to us as parents to help the child contain and form his desire to be active, to help him put it to healthy ways of expression (clapping games, climbing trees, helping with chores) and to guard what sense impressions he takes in – and how much.
 
When we look around at the children in our communities, we see so many that are out of control,  never stopping for a moment, not pleasant to be with, who are simply racing from one sense impression to the next. Similar in  the way in which  sugar can effect many children, an overload of sense impressions which have not come in the right way ( ie through the child’s activity and experience, not merely passively received via an image)  can overload and even sicken the child. We talk a lot about sugar reactions – people hardly at all talk about sensory overload reactions.
 
So in order to bring sense impressions to our little ones in a healthy way, one needs to think about things like bodily experiences – if a child is sitting in the mud, stirring it, feeling it, smearing it, even tasting it – he is using his body to work on this sense impression that is coming to him, LEARNING in the way that is right for a child under 7 ie through his own body and activity. If he was merely looking at a picture book about mud or at a picture of another child sitting in the mud, he is left with an impression – but with no bodily experience to make it meaningful. Somehow – and this is a personal research question of mine – this kind of empty taking in of impressions which are not experienced can become almost addictive to young children. As with giving our little children too many sweet foods, this habit of  wanting more and more impressions  can create a very unhealthy situation.
 
So what’s all this got to do with a magazine for little children such as Babybug?! My point is to say "does a little child really need her own magazine?" Why is this important? Does it meet a developmental need? If, as Waldorf posits, the tiny child learns best via actively exploring and experiencing her world, wouldn’t it be better to skip the magazine and use the money to build a sand box or similar? Later, when she’s about 9, such magazines would be great (Spider and then Cricket – the magazine group being discussed really does put out fine publications. Cobblestone for American history, Faces on cultures around the world and Footsteps for African American history/literature – all great for older children! See www.cobblestonepub.com).
 
Ok – so I have come across like some cranky, dusty old anthroposophist who is railing against one innocent (and really very nice when compared with other things available) magazine meant for little children! But those of you who know me and my work with Christopherus know that I am not cranky and crusty, that I am not a purist. But I am deeply concerned about our culture and about how our society perceives the needs of children, especially little children. If a 3 year old can be content with a pot and a wooden spoon, why on earth does he need so much "stuff" ? And why is it that people don’t know this and raise children  so that they need more?!
 
Back to these magazines, the point is – if ones family life is basically very sedate and peaceful, if ones children don’t watch tv or videos, if the same story is read or told to them every day or night for a week or two, if they have simple playthings and get lots of time in nature, if they get 11 to 13 hours of sleep per night (little ones, remember) and your family rhythms are well formed – then, yeah, so what?
No harm in these magazines. But if a scenario is forming where a child gets piles of different books every week from the library, watches even a couple of hours of media a week, has a hectic and/or changeable schedule and is basically becoming very demanding in terms of stimulation, of needing more (remember the sugar analogy) then I would urge caution.

 

Posted on December 10, 2005 in Kindergarten (and pre-K)

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