Monday, 4 July 2011

A Colourful Life

A new day under bright skies got me thinking about colour.  So much of it in our lives, and so much taken for granted.  The miracle of sight, for one.  The gift of language, which helps us interpret and label what we see and enables our interactions with others on many kinds of meaningful level.

It begins so easily.  The sky is blue.  The grass is green.  These apples here are red...these fish are orange...  Semantics on a simple level...and yet, still I wonder whether we end up over-categorising to the point where we forget just how amazing it is to have our eyes filled so beautifully every day.

I never had to teach Niamh her colours.  She taught herself by playing with balloons.  Isn't that a lovely way to learn?  To have your world filled with bouncing, joyous, tangible colour?  No flashcards necessary.  No three-period lesson required.

How to make your world blue:

Or should that be, how to make blue your whole world?

Colour must be amazing, for children.  They haven't been jaded, yet.  Imagine what it must be like to be holding blue?  To be bouncing on yellow?  To run with red!  I think Niamh enjoys colour on so many more levels than I remember how.  To hear her excitement when she eats an orange, "I eating orange!" has made me realise she really IS eating orange.  It's not just a misplaced indefinite article (yes, I did have to look that up).  Orange is exciting, zingy, sweet and juicy.  It smells like a fresh morning.  What a fabulous way to experience a colour beyond a name, right?!  To her, purple and pink are more than just "favourites," or semantics, or categories of a vast spectrum - they are necessities which make her world important and which make her Niamh.

Without thinking all the above through, I made her a colour activity.  I got it from a lovely website...but stupidly didn't think to remember WHERE I found it.  I am so, so sorry I can't cite where I found it, but as soon as I find it again, I'll add the link here.

Here she is trying out her new puzzle:

A close-up, so you can get the idea of what she was doing:

You know what?  She LOVES the cards.  She really loves them.  She takes them around the house and shows them to her toys.  But as for the activity?  Categorising colours into little bowls?  I'll let this photo speak for itself:

Yes.  She is crawling away.  She was there maybe 3 minutes.  You possibly can't see it in the photo, but she is taking the card of the yellow ducky with her to show to HER yellow bath ducky in another room.  And yes, she is still in her PJs.  We are going through a bit of a "I want to wear pajamas all day" phase at the moment...

At first, I have to admit I was a little - and I am a bit embarrassed and ashamed by this - annoyed with her.  Irrationally annoyed.  Like she was rejecting me somehow, because I'd made her the activity and she found it uninteresting.  I don't profess to be any kind of rational, higher being, by the way.  I am certainly human, and sometimes stupidly so.

I wanted her to complete the activity...more, I realised, after much inner searching, than I wanted her to have fun with it.  My child knows her colours, after all.  Just whack the bragging hat on my head and bumper sticker on my car.  (Mother of the year I am not, nor will ever be.)

So, did I suck up my pride and let her off the hook?  In another dimension, where I have learned humility, yes, I no doubt did.  In this world, however, no.  I did not.  (Stupidly so, remember?)  I tried twice to get her to try to complete it.  But you know what?  As soon as I did, I realised that even my heart wasn't really in it, either.  She's not at school, after all.  She's at home and these are HER toys.  I gave them to her to explore, after all.  What child on earth doesn't want to have FUN with their toys??  So I let her play with the cards the way she wanted.  She knows her colours, she knows which picture goes in which bowl...bah.  Why be precious about it.  I only sat up till midnight printing them out, sniff, sob...

(And to the maker of those cards, I do still love them!  Really!  And so does Niamh.  Just not the way they were intended to be used...)

Anyway, we found a much better way to explore colour:

A park picnic with orange carrot sticks, juicy red apples, green grass slightly damp with late morning dew and a picture-perfect blue sky and fluffy, puffy, pom-pom white clouds.

Later, a sunny yellow slide and the all important "Pinky Football":

 I think the look on her face is enough to know which lesson meant more.

As if to appease my inexplicable need to categorise things today, a little natural filing did eventually come our way - entirely instigated by Niamh, who found many different types of leaves to explore.  Some were only newly fallen and so were soft and pliable.  Some were dry and brown, and it was great fun to scrunch them in our hands and to jump on them.  Some had strong smells - eucalyptus, peppermint - and some nothing discernable other than the lovely scent of damp earth.  I think I am going to have to get my act together very soon and make a nature table.

Pushing her hands through the soft, alluring cool of lush, green clover:

Now she knows better than anyone.  Green is how alive feels.  What a powerful lesson, right there.

For both of us.

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