Sunday, January 14, 2007

If you are looking at something and move to a different position you may see more clearly and perhaps see things that completely alter your understanding. Years ago, when a friend pointed out to me that my "brains were in my hands," I was offered a different view of myself, that changed the way I looked at my own hands and offered me the insight leading to my career as a woodworker, author and teacher.

I hope to do for others, what my friend did for me...provide a slight change in perspective into the frame of reference the hands provide. The simple drawing above illustrates the first position of play between parent and infant. I discovered when I held my own daughter in my lap in this position, the wonderful opportunity that we had for hand play. I was also reminded of watching my father and mother holding my little sisters in the same position. My father was deliberately engaged and totally attentive as though he realized the significance of this play for his children's development.

Too often now, parents are distracted by other things rather than being engaged with their full attention on play. With your child in your lap, its head on your knees and feet on your chest, start by moving your hands into and out of visual range. Weave your fingers together and then pull them apart. Repeat and then vary your motions. Your child will watch and in a short time will engage your hands with hers or his. My daughter Lucy and I could spend what seemed like hours in contemplation of our hands. As she became a couple months older, toys and rattles joined with the hands, and we never tired of the play. We don't have any way to measure the profound impact such simple things can have except to observe the results. I could spend days as I suspect many parents might, proclaiming the wonders of my daughter. I won't. But I will invite you to play with your child in the manner I describe. Hold him or her as shown in the position above.

Friedrich Froebel, inventor of Kindergarten realized the incredible opportunity young mothers were missing in the development of their childrens' capacities for learning. Much of his early work was in developing songs, hand activities and games for mothers to play with their children. We hope that schools will do enough to educate our children, but don't count on it. They can't make up for the opportunities lost in the earliest days. But take your child in your lap and with your hands make a start.

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