Okay, but what does that mean? In my home, engaging the mind means opening the door to creative opportunities though exposure and modeling. If I come inside from our 'outdoor play' and need to cool down, maybe I get some paints out and allow myself time to let my mind relax. Maybe we get out fabric/textiles and drape them over the chairs or lay them on the floor and explore the textures, colors, and different ways we can play with them.
In my years of raising children and teaching children, it has become vividly clear that children given opportunities/exposure to art, music, textile and nature are calmer, engaged, vocal, and easily take to the tasks ahead of them. When we open these opportunities we activate areas of the mind that can be opened by no other means. That isn't all.
Children learn self-soothing/self-calming when they learn to engage their mind, body, and energy in various expressive activities. Articles abound on the positive effect of nature on a child's behavior and emotional well being. Further still, articles are popping up daily reminding us that artistic/musical expression improves children's reading, writing and math scores.
The down side of this? It takes work. It's messy. It may be something we ourselves were not naturally exposed to, making it hard to initiate. Depending on your method and current supply cabinet, it may require a little investment.
So, when do we start? Now! Never too early or too late. Infants can go outdoors- walks, swings, and simply sitting give them opportunity to look around and engage their senses. Toddlers love getting their hands in paint, fabric, and soil- walking and touching in nature and listening/moving to music. Older children may resist at first, but when given freedom to do it their way on their terms they often find an outlet that fits their personality.
Today I encourage you- whether with your child, your grandchild, students, or even for yourself- take a moment and truly listen to music, splatter paint on a paper, walk through nature. Engage.
Share your experiences, tips, and questions!