Natural means derived from nature not made from humans. As adults, even our most natural, biological instincts; food and movement, have become unnaturally, guilt and punishment, respectively. We all want our kids to eat and eat well. We want them to walk well and walk fast and we’ll use any means to help them get there quickly. For instance, we’re substituting nature’s whole ingredients foods with processed baby foods and toddler safe meals. Requisite shoes are used to help them take their first steps and baby walkers get them there asap. This new flow is actually making everything a lot harder for them and less natural. How can we encourage our kids to grow up naturally, to harness their innate know-how from the way they move, eat and think from day one?
To move naturally our kids need to be outdoors experiencing textures in nature. However with inventions to aid carrying, crawling and walking we’re making things harder on ourselves and our kids. In this day and age, we’re told we must do tummy time. Parents are victims to marketing gurus who promote jolly jumpers, baby walkers and wearing or carrying devices. Instead of becoming entranced by what’s new on the market to help assist you by strapping them on or push them to walk, perhaps we should just put our kids on the floor whenever possible. Perhaps this will help them to discover the world themselves. Is the answer to carry them naturally so they grasp themselves on and learn their center of gravity?
Whatever the situation, let’s offer kids the opportunity to teach themselves their own natural movement. When a baby’s born they’re just so happy. They move in as many free flowing ways as possible constantly adjusting to their body weight. The same goes for us adults, reading this: when you were born you didn’t care what you looked like you just loved what it felt like to move. That seems as natural as it can get.
Eating the Way Nature Intended
It’s the same with food. If anything, babies know when they’re hungry! They also know when they’re enjoying something ‘hmmm hmmmm hmm’ is hard to hold back from their delicious mouthfuls. When do we lose this natural knowledge?
We are what we eat eats. Babies today are born with over 200 chemicals already in their little bodies. The world has changed in terms of delivery so there’s already a lot of unnatural in the world they come into. Moms used to prepare nutritionally for conception as well as pregnancy. Breastfeeding was the norm and baby’s first foods were lead by the babies themselves. Now conception can be aided by IVF or comes as a big joyful surprise after a long time trying. Breastfeeding is frowned upon if it can’t happen or if it does happen in public, and babies need certain “shelf stable foods” available for busy moms.
We are what we eat to the level of our cells and that often refers to our DNA in the nucleus of every cell. We eat nutrients that make and remake our DNA. Research into epigenetics is revealing we aren’t so much our genes as the genes we turn on through our environment – food, movement and thought.
Offering opportunity is encouragement we can provide especially when it comes to food and movement. But what other things can we un-restrict, to encourage our kids to grow up naturally?
Screen time is a big one. We dream of our children lost in imaginative and innovative play in the woods with other children but technology is taking that way from us. A never-ending battle to “limit,” or a sea of guilt, we’re assuming they’re mutually exclusive. There’s got to be as many skills, ways of thinking, communication and connection in technology as the ‘real outdoors’. Like everything it’s all about the balance. Role modeling what you’d like for them is a great start: live the balance you want them to develop. Children are really at the mercy of the opportunities we provide for them: if your child is confined to a small indoor space with no access to nature, exploration, or friends, then technology will likely be their only means to connect with the outside world and other people in it. Find the balance.
Where possible we should try to avoid time commitments. Yes, a routine of familiarity works very well for babies learning about this new thing called living but if you can avoid rushing, when time seems to pass both incessantly fast and slow at the same time in your kids’ early years, you’ll be happier and your kids naturally explorative. If you must schedule, which happens when you live in the world with millions of others, just make sure you’re flexible when you don’t want your beach playdate with friends to end.
If you want your child to grow into their potential, nourishing and stretching all the sides of themselves, then you must provide the opportunity for that growth. It’s naturally theirs to grow.