The most effective kind of education is that a child should play amongst lovely things. – Plato
I’ve written about this idea before. The idea that children can and should be encouraged to play, to use their imaginations, to be amongst lovely things.
I’ve never really “childproofed” our home in the sense that I haven’t allowed our home to be overrun by our kids’ things and hidden away beautiful things. Yes, I make smarter decorating decisions, but I don’t do away with beauty all together just because we have children. The bottom book shelves hold items they are allowed to play with – toys and unbreakable decor pieces. The top shelves hold pieces that are more precious and I don’t want broken. They’ve been trained, from a very young age, what items they are allowed to play with, and which should stay put where they are, as decorations. It takes a lot of hands-on work, but it’s been so worth it!
I’ve tried to [mostly] embrace this mindset in the kitchen, too. I don’t like using plastic (plus, let’s be honest, it’s ugly), and we don’t have room for lots of kid-specific kitchen items, so we’ve taught our girls how to use breakable things. We own two small wooden plates that the girls have adopted, and if they’re clean and accessible, they use these. And if I have something particularly meaningful, like an heirloom dish, it’s off limits for the girls. Otherwise, they’re allowed to use anything in the kitchen. They LOVE drinking their Saturday morning juice in small stem glasses. They have tea in vintage porcelain cups.
We usually set the table at mealtime, and they’re incredibly eager to pitch in. We hosted our welcoming spring brunch a few weeks ago, and Zoe and Naomi jumped at the opportunity to set the table; it never grows old (apple doesn’t fall far from the tree <3 ). It brings me so much joy to see them passionately embracing this art form, and I cannot wait to watch them pursue their interests over the years!
I’ve learned that kids are capable of so much more than we give them credit for! When children have practice doing things in real life, helping out around the home, setting the table, cleaning up their toys, etc., this aids them in their creative play. It gives them a jumping off point in their imaginative play. The girls currently have one of my side tables set up in their bedroom with two children’s chairs gathered around, a flour sack towel “tablecloth,” and an ever-rotating vase of flowers. I love allowing them to keep a vase of flowers in their room; they know how to handle it delicately, and they are so eager for that responsibility!
Believe me, as I write these thoughts, I’m made aware how much more I have to learn in this area, and I certainly have not mastered it. I so frequently stifle their creativity or restrict their play because it’s just easier for me. There’s less of a possibility of a mess. There’s less of a possibility of injury. But living life with no risks is no fun, and children will never learn, so let’s all support each other in this pursuit of imaginative play, and allowing them to be amongst beautiful things.
I hope these beautiful photos by my friend Jen Eun inspire you to include your children in helping around the house and setting the table and being amongst beautiful things.
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