On Center and Periphery.

Hi there blog- reader!

First and foremost: we are so happy and grateful that you are here, and we want to begin this post by telling you this- and tell you that we are very sorry about the delay of this particular post. You were never forgotten, yet we experienced some technical issues. All is solved now, and we are happy to continue.
Did you see the picture above? This picture is one of my favorites. It is really a typical situation from the everyday life in my ‘old’ Kindergarten Nokken in Copenhagen, Denmark, where I lived and worked for 25 years.

In the picture, you can notice many little things.

Perhaps you notice that all children are wearing clothes suitable for outdoor activities. Perhaps you also sense the atmosphere; that it seems calm, and that the children (and I) look quite content, occupied with their own little, safe world.

You may also notice that we are all sitting underneath a good, solid tree. However, if you look closer, you can tell, that the grass is worn out on the ground, just near the tree.

Why is that?

Because, on our daily walks to nature grounds, we always choose one specific tree where a grownup will stay put to represent the center of the outdoor space where we stay. All the children know where this center is. They play and climb trees and can get the feeling of disappearing for a little while from the “grown up eyes”; however, they all know where they are, because they know where the center is.

If we instead arrived at a natural ground and just let all the children run freely around there would be much more confusion, more noise, and more roughness amongst the physically ‘wilder’ children. There would be less focus and less calm and less sense of us being there, as a group.

We always make sure that a grownup- preferably the same – sits underneath the tree and stays there during our stay. Whenever a child needs a small break, to get comfort, or have a little talk, get a sip of tea, or wants to carve a little piece of wood (with a harmless cutlery knife), it can always return to the center, and the center always stays the same.

As long as the grown up stays put, the child’s center exists.
Especially the little ones, under the age of three, need you to stay. If a child trips and falls nearby you, then even without getting hurt, it will often react by looking back towards the center (you) to check if everything is still all right. It needs you to confirm that.

If you just make eye contact and give a little smile, you send this message: “Yes, you fell. Yes, I saw you. I am still here if you need me.”  Often, the child will continue exploring. But if you aren’t there, or if you overreact, it is much more difficult for the small child to return to a calm center inside itself – because it mirrors you through your presence and your reactions.

Most children will happily explore the periphery, as long as you take the role of a reliable center.

You can use this tip in many different situations, e.g. when your child is experiencing an emotional tantrum. What really helps, is when you focus on feeling the anchor in yourself, try to stay calm, and let the child react. Tantrums are like an emotional wave, and they have a natural course and also an ending. If you don’t react with the same intensity in emotion, it is so much easier for the child to find its own center within.
We have created a little video on Center- Periphery for you.

We hope you will enjoy it.

As always, you are most welcome to comment on today’s newsletter right below.

With Love,
& Anna on the side 🙂

Comments (4)

  • Helena Dodds

    Loved your picture and the newsletter. Thank you. The strength and peace are clear.

    • AnnaF

      Dear Helena,
      Thank you so much for your kind Words!
      All the best from
      Helle and Anna on the side 🙂

  • Rie

    Dear Helle and Anna,

    Thank you very much for your wonderful blog and video. I have been enjoying it, and learning a lot from.
    I particularly found today’s article helpful because of what I have experienced last weekend. I am starting a waldorf-inspired outdoor parent and child class in Astoria, NYC. Since it is in NY city, I am holding my class in a big park, not in real forest.
    I held my first class on last saturday. We had a good time, but the children went all over the place—and I have been wondering how I can set an invisible boundary so that we don’t spend all our time chasing and collecting our children.
    And after I read your article, I became clear to me why it went that way.
    Since it was the first time, I wasn’t sure where to set the “center” at all. I was moving here and there, going back and forth between this parent and that child…. no wonder the children went so wild! (beside the excitement of having friends and playtime in a big field)
    I am sure there will be more challenges, but I will keep your article in mind next time I hold the class.
    Again, thank you very much for your wonderful insight.

    • AnnaF

      Dear Rie,
      Thank you so much for your comment! We are very happy that our article was so helpful to you! Thank you for sharing your experiences with us.
      Keep up the good Work with the children in your care 🙂
      Helle and Anna