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But how will they learn?

12 February, 2018

A couple of weeks ago our four year old daughter, Juno, began to swim. Just six weeks before she was a koala in the water, hugging my leg or my hip tight, afraid to even stand solo. One heat wave (and 129 river swims) later and she is off, flapping around the water doing her own made up stroke; all limbs paddling at once but very much afloat and speedy. We’d be sewing the badge for ONE WIDTH on her suit if she was at Swim School. It came out of nowhere, this swimming. There was no teaching or even active encouragement on my part. Just many hours clocked up in the water and the motivation, I guess, to not drown.

A few days ago we’d enjoyed an afternoon of swimming when Juno was ready to go home. I walked with her up to the top of the bank, where the trees turn into a meadow, while I ran back down to the get the sunglasses I’d left on a rock. When I came back up I saw Juno in the meadow. She’d shed her towel and her pale body was glinting in the grass. I could see her trailing her hands across the tops of the clover, and then leaping with her arms in the air. As I got closer I saw she was moving her body alongside two small purple butterflies, mimicking their movements and she was singing to them, a wordless melody. I sank into the grass and pulled my hat low. I didn’t want to intrude on this magic. I felt almost like crawling backwards away, as a courtier leaving a royal throne.

This state Juno was in, this right brain flow-of-the-universe state is a beautiful thing to behold. It used to drive me crazy when I first encountered it. Walking to the park, a three minute journey, would take thirty whilst eldest child Ramona, then two, would stop on the pavement in awe of every piece of squashed chewing gum. She’d want to run her palms along the red curves of the plastic seat at the bus stop, she’d shuffle in every small drift of leaves, rarely moved on by my insistence we can take all the time we want once we’re at the playground my love. 

Over the years I’ve learnt to sort of respect this zoning out or, more, this zoning in. This all-absorbing wonder that can be fallen into. I’ve discovered how the right brain is the operating system for small children, so we mustn’t be frustrated when they fail to see past the very moment they are in. I’ve learnt to try and use it as a prompt for myself, to take those minutes to be mindful, to pay attention to the moment, my body, my senses. My daughters are my gurus, in this sense.

But only recently did I begin to understand how precious that state is. And it was in this Ted Talk by brain scientist Jill Bolte Taylor. She’s a neuroanatomist who had a stroke at 37 so is now able to relate exactly how it feels to have the rational, practical, analytical left brain shut off. She recounts the first moments of her stroke, when she began to exist entirely in her right brain:

“I lost my balance and I’m propped up against the wall. And I look down at my arm and I realize that I can no longer define the boundaries of my body. I can’t define where I begin and where I end. Because the atoms and the molecules of my arm blended with the atoms and molecules of the wall. And all I could detect was this energy. Energy. And I’m asking myself, “What is wrong with me, what is going on?” And in that moment, my brain chatter, my left hemisphere brain chatter went totally silent. Just like someone took a remote control and pushed the mute button and — total silence.

And at first I was shocked to find myself inside of a silent mind. But then I was immediately captivated by the magnificence of energy around me. And because I could no longer identify the boundaries of my body, I felt enormous and expansive. I felt at one with all the energy that was, and it was beautiful there.”

Juno is still in the meadow with the tiny purple butterflies but she’s as still as a blade of grass now, just breathing gently,  just marvelling at it all.  She’s got about two and a half years left of this. In just a few birthdays time her brain will have completed the connecting pathway to her left hemisphere and she’ll spend less time in wonder and more time problem solving. We sit in our own worlds for 15 more minutes and then wander home.

Later that night Juno took a thick green felt tip pen and wrote Juno, Juno, Juno, Juno, Juno, Ramona, Tim, Lucy, Zoe, Hello, Juno, Juno, Juno on a piece of A4. She curls the half loop of the J around and around in a spiral.

Ramona peers over Juno’s shoulder, a little bit interested. Not much though. Not bothered that her sister, three years younger, has written more words on one page than Ramona ever has.  Ramona can do monkey bars for eight minutes straight; that’s the kind of thing Ramona likes to work on.

I’m unbothered too, because doing the monkey bars and swimming and chasing butterflies all has as much to do with reading and writing as sitting down and actually writing does. It sounds strange, but it’s true.

How will they learn? When will we learn? Home education and world peace

The process that our brain naturally takes, when it comes to reading and writing,  starts with our bodies, with fine motor development, with muscle memory. As children develop physically and as they become more adept with their bodies they build neural pathways that make conceptualising abstract concepts far easier.

When we try and teach kids to read and write before they’ve had their fill of play and movement, we short circuit the process. It’s like trying to drive a car with flat tires- it’ll go, sure, but it’ll be clunky with a huge possibility of long-term damage.  Research coming out of Cambridge University shows that children that start reading later (at 7 as opposed to 5) quickly catch up to their peers and by the age of 11 show better text comprehension and more positive reading attitudes than their early learning peers.

It’s to do with the brain hemispheres again. You know how kids live from their right brain until they are around 7?  Asking a child to read only from their right brain will mean they learn only through sight (a right brain activity), they will miss out on getting to use the left brain reading activity of sounding out phonetically, and all the extra deep comprehension and that will come once the bridge to the left brain has been built. (Read more about that in this thorough and excellent read about delaying reading until the body is ready.)

 

Sorry, gosh, I do go on one. Back to the kitchen, which is also sort of our bedroom, Juno is writing her name hundreds of times and Ramona is hanging upside down from the bunk. I’m making a cup of tea, still thinking about Jill Bolte Taylor’s Ted Talk. And I’m hit by a wave of grief for the millions of children we pull too early out of their right brain, to ask them to begin operating out of their left brain before they are ready. Think of them. One minute they are flying as one with the butterflies in the meadow, euphoric and at peace, and the next they are forced to stare at squiggles and try and remember what the squiggles mean before they even have the mechanics to do it.

Is there a greater cost to forcing small children into their left brain before they are ready? We have rising rates of dyslexia and attention disorders. And I ache for the children who will never be able to sink into a book and find peace in those pages.

But it also seems we are experiencing a collective existential crisis. An epidemic of depression. Whole days spent communicating in perfunctory emojis. Sometimes in the city I can almost hear the hiss of steam as people’s minds vacate their bodies, unable to stay put in the moment. Analysing, planning, rushing, ticking off, typing, gathering stats, brainstorming, texting. Thinking about me, my people, my house, my income, my country. We are lonelier than ever, cut off from neighbours, surrounded by a thousand shallow friendships.

 “Our left hemisphere is all about the past, and it’s all about the future.  And start picking details and more details and more details about those details…. But perhaps most important, it’s that little voice that says to me, “I am. I am.” And as soon as my left hemisphere says to me “I am,” I become separate. I become a single solid individual separate from the energy flow around me and separate from you.”

We are good at living from our left brains. We’ve been taught for so long that it is best. We download meditation apps and apps that shame us with our social media use, we feel this urge to be at peace, to stop overanalysing, to stop planning, and to sit and breath…. but it’s too hard. We’ve been conditioned to default to our left.

We want, deep down, in our hearts, we want the right brain! Living from the right brain is all about:

“What this present moment smells like and tastes like, what it feels like and what it sounds like. I am an energy being connected to the energy all around me through the consciousness of my right hemisphere. We are energy beings connected to one another through the consciousness of our right hemispheres as one human family. And right here, right now, all we are brothers and sisters on this planet, here to make the world a better place. And in this moment we are perfect. We are whole. And we are beautiful.”

Ohhhh. I’m bad at this. My right brain probably looks like a raisin lying alongside the wooly mammoth of my left. I’ve experienced some of that kind of right brain energy, sure. It’s Right Brain RUS on Moon Circle evenings, and every now and then when I’m chasing butterflies naked in the meadow I have a little revival of mystical consciousness. But bringing my right brain into my every day life is arduous, intensive. I have to rely on intentional ritual, and radical gratitude, and reminders on my fridge to be cosmic.

And I don’t think I’m alone. I see it everywhere. My friends tell me they feel it too, this inability to keep their minds in the present moment, to be expansive and open, loving and at peace.

The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.”

What if we weren’t yanked so thoroughly from our right brains so young? What if children were given the freedom to live in that state of wonder until their own bodies built the bridge out of it?  What if we waited patiently until our children were ready to learn the next thing, and meanwhile shared their moments of marveling with them? What if we saw this right brain perspective, of being utterly interconnected, as a gift children bring us? As something valuable to inspire us?

Jill Bolte Taylor woke up after her stroke, in a hospital bed, but alive. Her left brain was fully shut down and she was in right brain nirvana. She describes:

“My spirit soared free like a great whale gliding through the sea of silent euphoria. Harmonic. I remember thinking there’s no way I would ever be able to squeeze the enormousness of myself back inside this tiny little body.
But I realized “But I’m still alive! I’m still alive and I have found Nirvana. And if I have found Nirvana and I’m still alive, then everyone who is alive can find Nirvana.” I picture a world filled with beautiful, peaceful, compassionate, loving people who knew that they could come to this space at any time. And that they could purposely choose to step to the right of their left hemispheres and find this peace. And then I realized what a tremendous gift this experience could be, what a stroke of insight this could be to how we live our lives. And it motivated me to recover.”

There’s not really a way to know, for certain, that the sudden push into the left brain age five is to blame for so many of our adult problems. But I wouldn’t be at all surprised to one day learn that it’s a contributing factor. All of nature points to this idea that there are stages that need to be completed in order to truly flourish: the cocoon, the germinating seed, the bursting rain cloud. None can be rushed to good effect.  Do we pay for early academics with the golden coins of peace in adulthood and compassionate societies?

When people hear about our lives without school they ask me but how will they learn?  I want to quote Einstein at them, to tell them he, this behemothic genius, said “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.” To explain how these early right brain years of play and wonder are the cornerstone for the rest of our lives; the foundation for all of our learning and the source of our peace. That adults have a duty to stop undermining them so deeply throughout childhood.

But I tend to leave Einstein out of it, to just explain that curiosity and delight are the perfect ingredients for learning.

One night last week, as I tucked Ramona up in bed, she said “This was the second best day of my life!”  and I said “Cool! When was the first?” She looked at me as if I wasn’t thinking straight and replied “Tomorrow!” She’s seven, her left and right brain should be well on their way to connected up, but she doesn’t care for letters or numbers much. More importantly, her sense of wonder is strong. She is in love with the world, with her every day,  with the community of nature that surrounds us, and believes that it’s all in love with her too.  For both of my daughters, this sense of wonder is a vast and powerful ship on which they will sail for the rest of their lives.

~

 

Here is Jill’s talk. Which I really loved. Ha. You might have gathered.

And here is a recent Day in the Life of our Unschooling lives:

And, finally, if you enjoyed reading this do consider becoming a Patreon for as little as $1. It is a great community with lots of extras such as ebooks and mini series.

Parenting

Why we are a “no secrets” family

23 January, 2018

Ramona had a friend over last week and they were hanging out on the big bed listening to Spotify (seven year olds these days!) when I overheard her friend say “Let’s tell each other our secrets!” With a swell of pride I heard Ramona say  “Yes! Let’s tell each other, and then we can tell our mums.” Her friend said “Erm, no, it’s a SECRET.” Ramona carried on “Yeah, I know, but with secrets you get to tell you mum, and it’s still a secret.” Her friend said “Oh, okay!” And the whispering began.

For a few years now we have been a “no secrets” family. This means we talk about “surprises” rather than “secrets.” We correct each other “Do you mean “surprise” instead of secret?” and we talk about the difference “Secrets always stay hidden but surprises are always meant to be revealed.”

The importance of having "surprises" and not "secrets"

The problem with secrets

Over the last few years I’ve been working for a small sexual abuse prevention charity. It’s been hugely enlightening for me and has impacted lots of areas of my parenting. One of the patterns that comes up in the stories of victims of childhood sexual abuse is the presence of the word “secret” – it’s too common to overlook. Perpetrators use this language often to create a dynamic where children feel unable to tell someone what is happening to them. If you think about it, there is a cultural pride in being able to keep secrets, to not snitch, to not break alliance and loyalty. People use this culture to keep kids in unsafe situations.

We have tried to make sure that the word “secret’ raises alarm bells in our children’s minds. That it stirs up in them questions about who is asking them to keep a secret, that it prompts them to come and check in with us, their safe people.

An evolving “no secrets” policy

For a few years it was easy to have a “no secrets’ policy. Our children were young, and if a friend or family member or random stranger in the street even said the word “secret” our children would gleefully yell “We don’t have secrets! We have surprises! There’s an important difference!”

But as Ramona has grown older it’s become trickier. There’s almost a childhood rite in having secrets with friends. The way we bridged this was by coming up with a solution together – that she would tell me her secrets. So that they were never completely hidden. Since coming up with this, there’s been around 3 times that she has told me things she was asked to keep secret. One of the times was pretty intense, a situation that was unsafe,  and I am SO, SO glad she knew that it was wrong to be asked to keep this a secret and that she came straight to me.

An other version of “No Secrets” 

And, because life isn’t ever straightforward and simple, I wanted to tell you about the time she didn’t want to tell me a secret! I’d love to be able to say “yes, we are a no secrets family and it works perfectly!” but life’s messy, isn’t it?

A couple of months ago Ramona was told a secret by a friend her age. She REALLY doesn’t want to tell me that secret. We talked about how we don’t have secrets, about how it’s still a secret if mum knows. All of that. And still, she didn’t want to tell me.

I sat with it for a while. And I began to feel that my job as her parent, as her guide and safe person, wasn’t to make her tell me her secrets. In fact, I could NEVER make her tell me something that she didn’t want to. Just as you can’t make a child sleep. They own their own bodies and minds, it is their right to do with them what they will. I didn’t want her to feel forced to tell me her secret, as, in a way, that goes against the culture of consent we are trying to develop here in our corner of the universe!

So, instead, I explained clearly the reasons we ask her to share her secrets with me; in order to keep her safe; because people sometimes use secrets to make others unsafe; to make them do things they don’t want to do. I explained that if anyone tells her anything, speaks to her in any way or does something to her that makes her feel unsafe it will really help if she tells me about it.

Once we had this talk Ramona thought a lot about it. She thought alot about the nature of her secret and she came back to me and said “This is Ellie’s secret, but it’s only a little thing. It’s something we want to share between us. It’s not to do with anyone making her do things. I feel totally comfortable. This secret isn’t going to make either of us unsafe.”

While I would rather she was able to just stick to our “no secrets” policy, I think it’s pretty incredible that she has the tools to think about the nature of the secret and to assess her and her friend’s safety.

I feel like by not pushing the “no secrets” thing on to her, beyond what she feels able to engage with, leads to MORE trust and respect between us, makes it more likely that if something unsafe was to be put on her, she would come to me with it.

She’s able to engage with the whole “secrets are unsafe” dynamic whilst holding on to one that she really wants to keep.

~

We have a big problem with child sexual abuse here in NZ – the statistics tell us that one in three girls will be abused by the age of 16.  It’s an awful figure, far worse than most other developed countries. But what that figure does is remind us, and it should remind parents in every country no matter what the stats are like, that sexual abuse isn’t something that happens out there, to other people. It crosses all boundaries, can happen to anyone.

We need a HUGE, widespread  societal change, we need perpetrators to STOP and we need rape culture to END. But there are small things we can do in our own homes to shift the likelihood that our own children will be victims. Talking about secrets, using the anatomical terms for body parts and nurturing your child’s sense of body autonomy are some of them.

I invite you to consider being a “no secrets” family too.

Much love and stay radical! x x

Moon Circle

Moon Circle: rediscover intuition, wildness and sisterhood

10 January, 2018

 

Moon Circle: rediscover intuition, wildness and sisterhood

All over the world, women are discovering the power of sitting in sacred circles together. Let Lucy take you on a journey of connecting with yourself, the earth and your sisters. Moon Circle demystifies the process of setting up a circle up whilst keeping alive the magic and mysticism that pervades these gatherings of women.

Moon Circle’s combination of practical guidance and poetic imagery will help set your feet on your own path of rediscovering your intuition, your wildness and your tribe.

“As I read Moon Circle I felt as though I was sitting somewhere cosy with Lucy as she honestly shared her experiences from her first discovery of a women’s circle to the harvest of knowledge she now has from setting up her own circle and participating in many. Through story, humour and practical guidance Lucy offers us an inspiring guide to create and hold a Moon Circle so that women can gather to reclaim their ways.”
Sjanie Hugo Wurlitzer, author of Wild Power: discover the magic of your menstrual cycle and awaken the feminine path to power (Hay House, 2017)

“Beautiful and evocative, down to earth and very accessible, so anyone could feel that they could start or be part of a circle.” Susan Durcan, Embodied Wholeness

Moon Circle Lucy Aitkenread

Buy as a PDF, an EPUB or on Amazon as a Kindle or paperback.

(The paperback is easily available to those in Europe and America and trickier for those worldwide – you have to buy through either Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com and the shipping could be astronomical….)

GET MORE INVOLVED:

Join the Moon Circle Facebook live  – 10AM NZT Wednesday Morning (that’s Tuesday evening in UK)

I’d love you to share a link to my new book in anyway you can, even if it’s just with your Facebook friends.

Once you read the book I would LOVE you to give me a review on Amazon or Goodreads – this makes the job of selling books so SO so much easier!

For a little glimpse of what our Moon Circle entails take a look at today’s video:

Do you need a sacred space to gather with the sisterhood to rediscover your intuition?

Thank you so much! I feel like I need to sleep for a month now after all this excitement. Hehe. It wasn’t at all in my plans to start on another book last year just a couple of months after publishing Freedom Face. But in April I began a Patreon page, and this encouraging community that sprang up around me made me feel like I’d truly stepped into life as a writer. (I know, I know, so many words and still there is self-doubt.) I felt this deep urge to write about the thing that was making such an impact on me and Moon Circle was birthed in midnight sessions while the family slept.

Thank you to those of you that have been so supportive of all my random endeavors, lol,  thank you especially to my Patreons who literally allowed this book to happen, and to the sisters in my Moon Circle; what a privilege to share that sacred space with you.

And here it is!

Much love and stay radical!
Sacred sisterhood moon circle

Moon Circle

How to change your life

4 January, 2018

Ah, beautiful readers. I am approaching the day when I spill my guts! All about the thing that has been totally transformative for me over this last year. The thing that has made me more able to step into myself, my wild side, my intuition. The thing I can’t stop talking about so had to put it all down in writing! It’s the Moon Circle we began 18 months ago and it’s the single biggest thing that has changed my life since becoming a mother.

On Wednesday 10th January I’m launching the book, called, er, Moon Circle (just to keep things simple) and I wanted to let you know a little bit about it. I realise I have been far more shy and reticent about promoting Moon Circle compared to my other books and I think it’s because it articulates some of my deeper feelings and vulnerabilities in a way that my others don’t. So, today I am gathering up the boldness I’m going to need for the next week or so of putting it out there!
Moon Circle

Here are a few paragraphs from the Intro…

“Our Moon Circle is where we tell our stories to each other, where we take the sting out of the shame we’ve experienced, where we share tears over our griefs, and where we honour and bolster the dreams of each other’s hearts.

It’s a place where we know we belong, because we’ve seen each other’s shadows and we’re unafraid.

It’s a place where we practise trusting ourselves, speaking on instinct, and voicing our intuition – and then we see that trust bleed out of the Moon Circle, flooding our everyday lives.

I’ve written this little book because, almost every week for a year, I felt I wanted to respond to various women in a hundred different circumstance with the words “Oh! You need a Moon Circle!”. It’s all very well to think everyone should get to have one, but another thing for people to actually go out and make one happen. So I’m sharing our story: how we got our Circle off the ground; and all the things we do as part of it.

A Moon Circle is for you if you’ve ever struggled with a sense of belonging. It’s for you if you’ve ever been shamed or rejected, or made to feel small.  It’s for you if you feel you want to nourish your soul, but don’t want to be part of a religious institution. It’s for you if you have anger and hurt, and you need to vent in a safe place. It’s for you if you feel an urge to connect to the earth, but feel at a loss about where to begin. It’s for you if you have become skeptical of the ‘women-are-bitchy’ myth. It’s for you if you are tired of being respectable and acceptable.  It’s for you if you feel a sense of something burning within you, and you want to stoke that flame.”

Buy the book

I’m kicking off the book launch with the greatest price it’s ever going to be so do nab it in the first 3 days! You can buy it on your Kindle or Kobo or as a PDF or epub file from my website. (This one you are reading.) If you plan to buy on Kindle you can pre-order it here so that it arrives on publication day!

Join the Facebook Live on Wednesday
We had so much fun together on that Facebook Live when I launched Freedom Face, didn’t we! Hehe. I am going to do another Facebook Live on publication day, Wednesday 10th January at 9:30 NZT. I’d LOVE to see you there!

Spread the word

One of the most important things you can do to help me is spread the word! Please review it as soon as you can on Amazon or Good Reads. Share it in a relevant Facebook group or on your Facebook profile. These might seem like minor wee things but they make all the difference to an author with no marketing budget! Lots of you have done this for every book I’ve written and I am eternally grateful. Mucho slobbery, consenting smooches in advance.

In the meantime you might want to take a look at today’s Youtube video, all about the unschooling camp we had at our place over New Years.

Happy New Year to you. Thank you for continuing to support my work online, my aim for this year is to become even more abundant and generous with resources and helpful things! Much love to you. x x

writing

An absolute heart stopper!

16 December, 2017

I’m sitting in the library waiting for today’s Youtube to upload. Although we get wifi to the yurt it is slow like a sleepy snail slithering through Lavender Oil so on Youtube days I come into town.

I’ve been meaning to post here, on Lulastic, for days and days but because it’s been a while I feel like I need something deeply momentous to share. And, truth is? I got nuthin. I’ve been spilling my brain into all sorts of corners lately and today it feels like a string of those fairy lights that all hang down in the row, I mean, I guess they’re doing their job, lighting something, but so many loose threads! Jeez.

But then this old fella has pulled a seat up next to me. He just got an iPad and the librarian taught him how to use it. After a little set back “Google. Cars.” “No, CARS. you dipstick” he is now successfully on Google, googling all his favourite things and he is blown. away.

He’s every Granddad rolled into one. “Blimey! *laughs with glee* Goodness Gracious! All sorts on here!”

He’s every person coming across Google for the first time. “Oh, wow. This is incredible! They’ve got pictures of every electric car ever made!”

He’s every person who’s ever had a dream. “It’s showing me how to make my own electric car!”

He tells me he’s new to all this. I kinda got that. But his joy is absolutely infectious.

And I neeeeeed it. I need his infectious joy, especially about the internet! I’ve been feeling so internet-weary lately. I’ve been needing to drag myself to emails, to psyche myself up to do the normal everyday tasks that make up my job.lulastic

It’s true that too much time on social media makes it harder for me to be present. And it’s true that posting lots of really honest stuff makes me feel a little vulnerable or overexposed sometimes. And it’s certainly true that gardening lazily, painting badly and making very average mosaics is all stuff that brings me a different kind of life-fizz.

But, somehow in my head I’ve developed a dichotomy around the internet… about my internet stuff being hard and Must Do and, even maybe even, a little bit preventing my ultimate well-being. And everything off the internet being Virtuous.

Which, obviously, like many dichotomies, is bullsh*t.

The truth is that I need to hold my hands open loosely towards Everything. To let the good stuff settle in deep into my palms and let the life-sapping stuff sift away through my fingers. I need to use the internet to create (hey, my newest ebook all about Moon Circles is coming out in a couple of weeks! Hooray!) and be part of deep community. Not to scroll and answer every single comment I get on all my platforms. (They call that community, but it isn’t necessarily so. I do try and keep up with it, but often it prevents me creating and I need to be  mindful of that.)

I spent the whole of Tuesday just writing my HEAD OFF, on posts and books and the Parent Allies support group and I did a livestream on my Patreon all about parenting, and honestly?  It all Filled My Boots with energy. I felt transcendent afterwards. I was buzzing. Because, actually, the internet is neither good nor bad, it’s what you’re doing with it. Right? I know you know that. We all know that. But we forget and then we spend time doing silly things like checking the news all day to see if nuclear war has broken out.

So. There we go.

I thought I’d let you know some brilliant things going on all around the internet. (See how infectious this gentleman’s joy is?)

1- I made a beautiful calendar for Patreons, with the full moons and new moons and inspirational quotes from all my fave women and they are enjoying it and even sending it to print shops and that is making me so happy.  (Becoming a Patreon is open invite! I’m trying to make it win-win for everyone; you get to support my work and I get to create things for you.)Patreon Lulastic Calendar
2- This lovely, thoughtful post by the amazing Mel Wiggins all about handling the overconsumption and pressures of Christmas. I love Mel’s compassionate vibe, towards the earth, people, her children.

3- This say-it-like-it-is post by the brilliant Happiness is Here – reasons to scrap the naughty list!

4- The Sound of Music on Netflix. So good.

5- The On Being podcasts. They are just basically all wonderful.

6- The Hay House Meditations. I just pick and choose and have come across some absolutely beautiful ones. I listen while I water the garden.

7-  Lots of new stuff on my youtube channel! Just in case you’ve missed anything 😀

8- Some great tables over on Parent Allies, tables of our children’s developmental needs by Robin Grille and they are SO HELPFUL!

9-  There is ALOT of information about electric cars on the internet, my friend would want you to know. In fact, he’s just found ACTUAL VIDEOS of ELECTRIC QUAD BIKES. Being driven through town!

You would not believe it! This is just an absolute heart stopper.”

I hope we all get a little of his astonished glee sprinkled around all of our lives.

Much love and keep radical!

Featured, Parenting

Sixty Great Gift Ideas for Kids (that aren’t toys) 2017 – 2018

2 December, 2017

**This list of Gift Ideas for Kids has been Updated for 2016 – 2017**

We spent six months travelling around Europe in a campervan. We had a tiny stash of playthings and our three year old toddler Ramona thrived. She was a case study for how kids play in nature. She had a twig that would be a wand one minute, a baby the next, a spade in the morning and a guitar in the afternoon.

During that time I came to believe that too many toys can push a child’s imagination right under the bed and will eventually wreck the planet our children have got to enjoy for the rest of their lives. (Read my thoughts on that here.)

These days I think that rather than having such a negative view of toys we can just view them as one part of the big picture of childhood. As parents (or caring adults in a child’s life) we need to provide a nurturing environment that values fun, communal games, imagination play, art, creating, music, nature. Toys aren’t evil. They bring kids a whole heap of enjoyment, so let’s not be too harsh on them!

However, we all want to be that awesome adult that opens the doors a little more on a child’s imagination. We want to give a kid a gift that they will remember forever!BEST LIST EVER! Sixty Great gift Ideas for Kids- that aren't toys

Pin for later: Sixty Great Gift Ideas for Kids

This list of gift ideas for kids is for you. Whether it is for Christmas or a special birthday, this list has a unique and awesome non-toy gift for every child.

This is a crowd sourced list of gift ideas for kids. Using Twitter and Facebook I asked 6000 people: What is the best non-toy present you ever received as a kid?

Here are sixty ways to show you care, and for the most part they fire a child’s imagination and cause less havoc for the environment. Many of them are free, or cheap and plenty of them can be found in charity shops or secondhand stores. There is a common theme of taking children seriously- of trusting them and their abilities, of giving them tools to create.

(When a celebration is coming up and it’s a pressie-giving kind of time, I reckon a good, frank chat is the best starting point. The child/ parents have a better idea about what the child would enjoy/ needs like a hole in the head. But the second port of call should be this list, for sure. Bookmark it and share it with your family members!)

**New video** Here I share my favourite things from this list and add a few extra ones to the list – including the present we had handmade for Ramona’s sixth birthday! 

Here we go….

Gift Ideas for Kids – Tools & Equipment

I am reading “Escape from Childhood” by John Holt at the moment and the thing he is really convincing me of is how much kids NEED to be useful. Exactly like adults! They love to be taken seriously, to have serious implements and to be able to truly, genuinely help and build and be busy working. When considering gift ideas for kids we should think about great it must feel for them to open up proper tools and equipment.

1-A small fruit tree to grow and nurture.

2- Same goes with a proper hammer and nails. Throw in some wheels and planks and they’ll be set for days. or perhaps a toolbox filled with things were a massive hit; rope, screws, pulleys etc.

3- Sew them a baby sling for their dolls. Here is a tutorial for an easy sling for your toddler’s doll – it has never failed to please a tot in my experience!

4- Gardening equipment- a proper trowel, some organic slug killer and some seeds.

5- A greenhouse. A reader says “When I was 9 I got a greenhouse. To this day it is still my best Christmas present ever as I spent hours with my Grandad learning how to grow food.”

6- A pocket knife. Every kid age 4+ needs a good simple pocket knife, a lesson in using it safely (sitting down, striking away from you, with an adult in range) and a bit of wood to carve.Sixty Great Gift Ideas for kids - that aren't toys

7 – Cress seeds were specified for very young children- imagine helping to feed your family at only age 2?! Plus they pop up all year round and don’t take as much patience. You can also make them a head to grow them in so it looks like hair! Classic!

8- My sister put together a survival kit for her six year old son- a good rope, pegs and a tarpaulin for den making, camo paint, a good torch. Flipping heck, that was a hit.

9 – A wind up torch. Sustainable and fascinating for children. They especially love head torches.

10 – A good baking bowl, a whisk, some scales. Show them you have faith in their ability to make something yummy.

11- The ingredients to make something yummy! One reader explains about the special thing she did for Christmas “I once gave my daughter’s friend a bag filled with the ingredients, Christmas cutters and the recipe to make their own Christmas gingerbread. They loved it.”

12 – Kitchen implements- one tweeter is getting her 2.5 year old son a peeler with a big handle as he genuinely loves helping in the kitchen. One reader received a sieve when she was young and it was her favourite present ever. I think I might get my three year old a good grater- they are so fulfilled when they are doing something worthwhile. A garlic press was another great suggestion. And every kid needs an apron.

13- Their own cookery book. Several times a week Ramona picks something out of her cookery book and bakes it. She is five.

14 – Something to pull apart- give them a screw driver and an old type writer and the afternoon to take it to bits and explore its inners.

15- A rock tumbler. A reader explains “I loved collecting rocks when I was about 9- it was so cool being able to polish them!”

16 – A magnifying glass and a book of native Insects.

17 – A microscope “I spent months finding things to look at and getting family members to guess what it was- the best was tiny slivers of onion skin.”

18 – Binoculars – plus a guide to bird and wildlife. We just bought a pair for our eight year old neighbour and you have pretty much never seen a kid more excited!!!!

19 – A calligraphy pen, nibs and ink. “I was given these age ten, and shown how to use it. I still have it!”

20 – A DIY science kit. Or DIY anything kit really!

Gift Ideas for Kids – Art and creating

The emphasis here is on good quality stuff. Just like adults, children deserve to work with good quality materials. It is frustrating scrawling on crap paper with crayons that barely make a mark. Seeing the vivid colours of acrylic paint on canvas is much more likely to stoke a child’s passion for creating art, no? These gift ideas for kids might just stoke your own memories of receiving creative crafty pressies.

21- A ball of bright coloured, good wool and instructions for finger knitting will open up a whole new meditative world.

22- Ingredients for DIY porcelain clay- a little box with corn flour and bicarb and instructions. They’ll love the making and the shaping.

23- Proper non toxic acrylic paint, high quality watercolours, and proper paintbrushes.

24 – A good quality sketch book. These are unbeatable in terms of art – acrylic and watercolours just feel and look magical with beautiful thick absorbent paper.

25- A selection of blank canvases and an easel.

26- A candle making kit. (I have made candles since I was 11 when I got my first kit and loved it. And the only fire I caused was when I was 22 and being VERY experimental. Just a shame the fire happened on my future in laws dining table.)

27 – More kits: A perfume making kit – what a cool way to learn about chemicals and stuff.

28 – A sewing machine. I got my first when I was 12 and after a fairly quick lesson from my Aunty have seen ever since. Or even just a hand sewing kit with fabric, needles and threads.

29 – How about these wonderful chalkboard puppets? Handmake some chalkboard blocks and give them along with some chalk and then, the best bit, PLAY TOGETHER!

30 -A box of craft materials that is all their own- ribbon, pipe cleaners, beads, buttons, fimo etc. Red Ted Art has a lot of gift ideas for kids in the form of arts and craft gift boxes.

31 – Jars of homemade playdough and a box of cutters and tools (found in secondhand shops.)

32 – A box. It was the third best gift, suggested by over thirty people! The best explanation comes from reader, Clare “The best ‘present’ I ever got was a great big cardboard box. I made it into a house and played in it for YEARS. The best thing about it was that my parents got really involved in it- my mum made curtains for it and they never complained about having a tatty old hoc in the living room and let me keep it as long as I wanted.”

Sixty Great Gift Ideas for Kids

Gift Ideas for Kids – Music and Culture

33- A mixtape – burn a cd with a selection of fun songs. Ramona has been given some of these and they are her favourite gift by a mile. I have gone on to make them for other children and my kids have helped select the tunes. So cool.

34 – Audiobooks- Roald Dahl stories are fantastic and tantalise imaginative minds.

35- A subscription to a magazine such as National Geographic. A reader explains how she felt about her subscription given to her by her neighbour age six, “At first, we just looked at the pictures but I read more each year as I grew. In our sleepy village,nit was a very welcome window into different cultures. And I always felt very grown up and acknowledged when I read them.”

36- Instruments! A good drum, maracas, a ukelele. A good xylophone. The brain patterns used in music are the same as those used in maths so giving kids the tools to create music is important. And fun. But make sure they are GOOD- in tune etc or children will lose interest.

37 – A song. Rope people in to help you, friends to strum chords on the guitar. Record it on YouTube and send it to them! We have done this a few times, it’s weird and fun. Write your own or just change a few lyrics to an existing one.

38 – Investment in a creative venture- for example Hadar Manor is crowd funding her new album and in return for contributing you can get anything from a shout out on the album to a personalised song, written sung and recorded for you.

39 – A poem. No, really, really! How special, for a kid to have their own poem. Written on beautiful paper. For them to treasure.

40 – A story. Ramona and Juno’s Grandad has written them both a story, printing it out into a book and gluing in photos.  It was about cats. They LOVE their personalised stories! How about writing a story about them? Or drawing a comic featuring them? It doesn’t need to be about them.

41- Lost My Name team sent Ramona and Juno personalised books featuring their name. The stories are totally unique, funny and the illustration is cracking without any rubbish gender stereotypes.

42- Books, books and more books. This was the most popular response by miles. The child especially enjoys receiving a book with meaning- one mum explains “her eyes light up when I say “this is something I loved when I was little, and I thought you’d like me to read it to you.”

43- Last Christmas we were living on the other side of the world to my husbands family. They sent over a book that they had recorded the story into- Ramona loves hearing the voices of her Grandparents, Aunties and Uncles reading to her.

44- A photo album or scrap book. Reader Sally explains that her three year old loves these.

Sixty Great Gift Ideas For Kids - that aren't toys!

Gift Ideas for Kids- Experiences

Days out were probably the second top answer after “box!” Kids love hanging out doing stuff with people who love them, and memories last WAY longer than toys. If giving an experience that doesn’t already come in the form of a card or voucher, draw them up a personalised one that they can open. It feels so much more exciting! These are gift ideas for kids that keep on giving WAY after they have been cashed in.

45 – A season pass or vouchers to something- an outdoor play area, a private woods such as Westonburt or a wildlife lark or donkey sanctuary.

46- A micro love bomb- let them have a whole evening hanging out with you, doing WHATEVER they want. Like, really, anything. (Based on Oliver James’ miraculous Love Bomb idea- a whole weekend to reset connection and attachment.)

47- A micro adventure- grab a tent, pack a little gas cooker and have a night in the local woods. Even London has accessible woods you can do this in.

48 – A visit to stables to ride on a horse- Ramona adored this for her third birthday. A reader adds that when she was seven she was given a Shetland pony-owning day “7 year old heaven!”

49 – Sew them something magnificent for their fancy dress box –  a mermaid outfit or a pair of wings- see a tutorial for easy toddler wings here, you could make them any size.Sixty Great Gift Ideas for Kids

50 – A tent and sleeping bags to camp out in the garden.

51 – A day out in a big city- the museums, a picnic, feeding the skanky pigeons, climbing the towers.

52- A voucher for a den building afternoon. Take wood, hammers and nails and build a fort together in the local woods.

53- A course. Six weeks of a children’s photography or pottery or dance classes.

54- Adopt a whale/ dog/ monkey. This is a delightful idea, the child has a sense of investment with an animal and they can make a real difference for a charity.

55- A box of second hand clothes and costume jewellery for a fancy dress department. One Tweeter said the stash she was given included a WEDDING DRESS. Brilliant.

56- An experience for a baby- a jar of threaded beads, jewels and shells for them to shake and look at.

57- And another idea for a baby- a box of tissues entirely theirs to pull out. (This is probably my favourite of them all- even at seven months old Juno has worked out how to undo the lid of the baby wipes and delights in pulling them out.)

58 – Organise a visit with a local craftsperson or skilled person.Imagine spending an hour with a beekeeper or on a tractor or hammering nails with a builder or watching an artist blowing glass or making cheese or something more specific the child loves! You could give a box of beers to the tradesperson in exchange! One reader had a day of work experience at a farm when she was a child and she cherishes that memory.

59- Car booting/ junk store shopping. Write a voucher and include ten smackeroonies and set a date and go and find the most obscure antiques you can! We bought tap shoes at a junk store for both our kids- unbelievable amounts of entertainment!!!

60- Fruit picking. One of my most treasured childhood memories is of going strawberry picking with my Nana and Grandad when I was small. I remember my Nana stuffing her face, the red juice dribbling down her chin. She was an upright, honest citizen but I think she thought eating them as you go was part of the deal! Traditional activities like this are magical – I could almost make a list of gift ideas for kids based entirely on old skool chores. Ha!

Sixty Great Gift Ideas for Kids

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What an epic, epic list of gift ideas for kids. Thanks to everyone for sharing your ideas and stories. I am inspired and have my kid’s Christmas gifts sorted: a grater for Ramona and a box for Juno.

May your Christmas and birthday celebrations be ever imaginative and may you become a gift rockstar in the eyes of the children in your life!!!

PS We are blogging from a yurt in a forest in NZ these days – follow through Facebook or Instagram and keep up with our Youtube updates:

PPS If you are looking for creative gifts for mums and dad please check out my book 30 Days of Rewilding – designed to help families find their place amongst nature.

PPPS Check out the comments below for more gift ideas for kids – this is an organic, evolving list with people adding to it constantly via the comments!

Pin for Later:Sixty Gifts for kids that aren't toys. Amazing ideas for non toy gifts.

Sixty Great Gift ideas for Kids - that aren't toys!