As I said on my last post, I’m deep into Winter this time around and, for once, not rushing it along. But I will admit to having begun turning my thoughts slightly towards Spring last week when the temperature warmed up.
We added snowdrops to our nature table and I cast my eye over the bookshelves, remembering which Springtime books we have that will get switched into the seasonal story basket in a few weeks. So it must be my fault that the temperature has plummeted! Sorry guys.
We’ve had a seasonal story basket for years now and it’s enjoyed some attention from our boys, but like many things it’s taken a while to root. It was always led by me and, while it was dipped into fairly often, (it slightly pained the Virgo in me that) the season’s books would quickly get mixed back in with the others and forgotten. I wondered if maybe it wasn’t for them.
This Winter it’s been completely different. Rather than instigating the shift from Christmas books to wintry ones myself, my eldest took up the challenge. Dashing around the house, he snatched up everything snowy, frosty and cold he could find. He remembered lots but happily rediscovered several he’d forgotten, proudly presenting me with a pile when he was done.
He explained the whole process to his little brother. Why we were doing it. How to tell if a story was wintry or not. Pointing out his favourites. Lots of chatter and pouring over them. Such a joy to watch. And it reminded me, as they’ve reminded me so many times, that they take much more from our traditions than I’m able to see. While in the moment they might only seem mildly interested in something we do, their inner experience is all their own and runs deep.
It’s part of the wonder of a seven year old, that I get to see this more clearly. Having absorbed all of his seven years worth of experience, my darling eldest now lives all the things that he loves. His internal clock is finely tuned, as are most children’s, and he’ll ask about things that we’ve done in earlier years, often on the very day they happened. We get reminded of our rhythms by him, always right on time. Things we thought didn’t really stick come up in conversation and he’ll ask wistfully if we can do that thing again this year, ‘because I really loved that, mummy’. All the sown seeds are in there, tucked just under the surface and they’re vibrating, rooting and sprouting just like the early Spring bulb shoots. So very lovely to watch.
He transitioned really well last year from his Steiner Kindergarten to the lower school and is loving every day. I’ve truly never known a child so eager to get into his classroom each morning. But as well as the upright, confident, curious Class One child I see before me, I can still see the Kindergarten child who soaked up all the stories, songs and skills and forged a strong connection with the seasons. It’s all very much part of him. His little brother only has to sing the first few words of a song and he beams in recognition, asking ‘are you doing this one at circle time yet? And this one? You will soon! It’s an almost-Spring song!’. I see in him a deep wonder of the world and I hope that always stays with him.
All this to say that the seasonal story basket (possibly all of our family traditions?) is now firmly in the hands of my children. They’re compiling it, tending to it, reading from it, playing out the stories and showing it lots of love.
It reminds me that these seasonal rhythms do a whole lot more than just make a corner of our home look pretty. They ground the boys and give them a sense of place in the year. A knowing of the present and a trust in what’s to come. I realise as I watch them, that it’s early mindfulness in action. And for two sweet boys growing up in an ever-shifting world this can only be a good thing.
We’ll begin the shift toward Spring stories in a few weeks, no doubt the boys will tell me when it’s time, and I’ll share what’s in our basket then. For now, since I’ve been asked about it before and I know it’s always great to find inspiration in a list (and it’s snowing outside as I type!), here’s a rundown of the Winter stories in our basket and a little about why we love them.
In the Winter basket:
Brambly Hedge Winter Story – by Jill Barklem – this series is very much treasured around here. Such sweet stories and wonderfully delicate, detailed illustrations. This, with its ice palace and ‘Snow Ball’ (brilliant!), is very much loved. Such wonderful wording in this one too and I’ve often heard the boys repeating lines of it to themselves, helped by the audio version we sometimes listen to on journeys.
The Tomten – by Astrid Lindgren – there’s something about this mystical little Tomten and his care for the farm animals that makes my boys go quite dreamy!
The Tomten and the Fox – by Astrid Lindgren – equally loved this, with the thrilling addition of a hungry fox, but he gets nowhere with the old Tomten around taking care of things.
The Story of the Snow Children – by Sibylle von Olfers – like many books of magical journeys they’re entranced by this, with its snowy land and majestic scenes. I will admit that the Snowman waiters at the snowy feast slightly give me the creeps, but the boys love them so what do I know!
When will it be Spring? – by Catherine Walters – a huge favourite for us! Alfie Bear is sure it’s time to stop hibernating and keeps waking his tired Mother Bear to check. This sparked a giggly game with my eldest when I was expecting his brother, where I was Mother Bear and got to lay down a lot. Best game ever for a tired pregnant mama! We adore the illustration on the last page when Spring does finally arrive.
Snow Day – by Ezra Jack Keats – a sweet and lovely story of exploring with our feet in the snow which captures our fascination with it so beautifully.
One Snowy Night – by Nick Butterworth – anything with woodland animals is a hit around here but when they’re piling into Percy the Park Keeper’s bed it’s even better!
One Snowy Night & One Winter’s Day – by M Christina Butler – two from the Little Hedgehog series which always have sweet stories of kindness and friendship with plenty of woodland friends.
Sylvester and the New Year – by Emmeline Pidgen – this tends to stick around after New Year for a while. They love the enchanting illustrations and that the new year is a child we are welcoming.
The Bear’s Winter House – by John Yeoman – illustrated beautifully by Quentin Blake, this has been read a lot this year. The Bear’s friends are rather cheeky and take advantage of his hospitality, but he does get his sleep in the end. It delights my two.
Ollie’s Ski Trip – by Elsa Beskow – snow, skis, Jack Frost, King Winter and Mrs Thaw. So much to love in here and they have always been so thoroughly captivated by her beautiful illustrations.
We also love A First Book of Nature by Nicola Davies, (see pic at the top of this post) with its seasonal sections, swoon-worthy artwork from Mark Hearld and beautiful poems, all the year through. It’s earns itself a year-round spot in the basket and we particularly love it at the first turn of the season.
What are your children’s favourites for this time of year? We love finding new ones to add to our collection!