Being Ready to Nurture

Last night I was with a couple who regularly care for their 16 month old granddaughter. Their faces lit up as they shared stories of her exploring their home. One of these stories was about her finding her grandmother’s containers of sprinkles used for decorating cakes and cookies. They were found in a low kitchen drawer that she was able to open. And even though this child has not yet been introduced to baked delicacies, the colorful containers caught her eye.

According to the grandparents, this young child reached carefully for one container and shook it, put it back, and reached for another. Somehow the grandfather, who witnessed this moment, let the child be in the moment, allowing her exploration to continue.

The next time the child looked for these beautiful shakers, she found them gone. In their place was a stuffed cat. I can only image the child’s surprise and possible disappointment in not being able to retrieve those beautiful shakers.

As I reflect on this story, I wonder if things would have been different if the grandparents had known ahead of time how to go beyond that first step of exploration. What if they knew better how to nurture the child’s spiritual development by acknowledging and supporting the child’s interest in those colorful shakers? What if they had created colorful Nattles for her to shake, enjoy, and reclaim from the special baking drawer?

Along a similar line, my own son and daughter-in-law did a creative thing for their children’s birthday party. They invited young guests to create shakers that were then used as instruments for a sing-along. The shakers were made with plastic containers filled with pinto beans. When I first saw the instruments, I immediately called them “nature sound rattles.”

Nature is filled with such a variety of attributes – beans and colors are just two. What more might we do with this concept of Nattles? If only we understood better how such a toy can nurture the child.