Quiet

In 1994, or there about, life was profoundly altered and childhood lost its abundance of quiet.  This change rippled through the major metropolitan area first and would eventually arrive in daily life for most children in the developed world.  Now, twenty-two years later, the ripples have yet to still. What was this life-changing milestone? The arrival of dynamic communication – the internet, followed by smart phones, and 24/7 connectivity.

The current generation of children will never know a world where they are unable to find an answer in less than 15 second to almost any question they might think to ask.  The generation born after 2007 may already know all the ins and outs of a smart phone.  They may be helping their parents with app complications and more. Smart phones, ever more abundant, have become more fascinating than blocks or play dough. They are even more interesting to young minds because of the parental captivation that they observe daily.

To say that a child’s mind is similar to a highly absorbent sponge is not earth shattering.  Expose a little person to something colorful and dynamic and they will quickly become proficient with it in ways that make parents feel somewhat obsolete.  But the constant activity has its downside. Too much information without time to process what they are doing can ignite too much stimulation in the brain which is overwhelming. Child psychiatrist Victoria Dunckley MD makes a strong case for limited interaction with electronics from the early development stage. When she states, “Dealing with constant input lowers the brain’s ability to work through emotions and make sense of what’s being learned”.

The skill of learning can be disturbed when the brain is seeks immediate input and results.  Acquiring skills likes of memorization, pattern recognition, social interaction or motor skills all arrive at different speeds for children.  The more peaceful the environment while the child acquires proficiency the less stress they experience.

A young child needs calm and quiet to allow emotional regeneration that aids in learning and creative thought. Although a preschool mind will not understand this large concept, they can be nurtured to enjoy the quiet more than dynamic. Quiet should be looked at as a useful tool that gives them strength to handle school.

Every morning, when your child passes through the doors of school, they step away from the dynamic world and enter the world of quiet exploration where they will develop their skills as students. Because learning is not always uneventful, the bombardment of sounds, images, or distraction can cause breaks in learning system. Learning to properly hold a pencil can cause frustration and exhaustion, the quiet of their environment can help to keep their frustration within a manageable range.

Respected Buddhist Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh offers the following reflection that quickly defines to the benefit of silence (or quiet) in this reflection.

Silence is essential. We need silence,
just as much as we need air,
just as much as plants need light.
If our minds are crowded with
words and thoughts, there is
no space for us.

The quiet offers an opportunity to think and reflect which cannot only help to alleviate stress but also help to lay the groundwork for future coping skills, which is a life skill.  Although it is hard to say no to little people who ask earnestly for the opportunities to see what mommy or daddy have in hands, offer the devices in limited measure. Once elementary school begins and research work requires interaction with computers they will experience connectivity soon enough. The human mind needs this time to ponder thoughts without distraction.

Thich Nhat Hanh suggests that one should attempt to listen with their whole being to the sound of rain or wind and, in some way, try to be one with it. Given that you live in San Francisco, where wind is often available. Use this technique as a game with your child.  Take time with your child to stand or sit and listen to the wind without discussion for five minutes, after talk about what the experience is like.

 

Supplemental Material

Children

The Quite Noisy Book Margaret Wise Brownapril-supp-1
Pictures by Leonard Weisgard
A little dog named Muffin is awakened by a tiny noise that sends him on a search to find out what it is. This Margaret Wise Brown book is out of print but well worth a trip to the library (where quiet is paramount).

The Quiet Book Deborah Underwoodapril-supp-2
Illustrations by Renata Liwska
All quiet is not created equal. In this irresistibly charming picture book, many different quiet moments are captured, from the anticipation-heavy “Top of the roller coaster quiet” to the shocked-into-silence “First look at your new hairstyle quiet.” The impossibly sweet bears, rabbits, fish, birds, and iguanas are all rendered in soft pencils and colored digitally,
and, as in all of the best picture books, the illustrations propel the story far beyond the words.

Sitting Still Like a Frog: Mindfulness Exercises
for Kids (and their Parents)april-supp-3
By Eline Snel and Myla Kabat-Zinn
An excellent started for a young child to learn the importance of mindfulness.
Filled with wonderful way to help your child find their quiet
place, while practicing concepts that will nurture them through life.

Parents

Silence, The Power of Quiet in a World Full of Noise
Thich Nhat Hanhapril-supp-4
Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist Zen master, has authored a number of books discussing mindfulness and its benefit, along with poetry, scholarly work and peace activism. Reading his pros is an experience in exaltation all its own. His peace and serenity moves the reader towards a place where you feel centered while acknowledging the benefits and
drawbacks of modern society.

In order to help our children find comfort in tranquility, it is imperative that as their mentors you understand these benefits as they pertain to your own life. Thich Nhat Hanh’s suggestion of allowing silence and quiet into your life does not require a large amount of time, if you only have 5 minutes, it will be 5 minutes spend helping to center yourself and set you towards a more relaxed sense of focus.

He eloquently explains silence and its benefits:

“Silence is ultimately something that comes from the heart, not from any set of conditions outside of us. Living from a place of silence doesn’t mean never talking, never engaging or doing things; it simply means that we are undisturbed inside; there isn’t constant internal chatter. If we’re truly silent, then no matter what situation we find ourselves in, we can enjoy the sweet spaciousness of silence.”

Who among us does not wish on a given day to stop all the voices in our soul that tell us too much on a constant stream? Silence can be rejuvenating in more than one way. Silence can help us solve problem that arise.

“Right thinking requires mindfulness and concentration. Say there’s a problem we need to solve. It will take us much longer to reach a good resolution if we apply wrong thinking to it. We need to give our mind consciousness a rest and allow store consciousness to look for a solution. We have to take our intellectual and emotional ‘hand of the wheel’ and entrust this question, this challenge, to our store consciences, just as when planting a seed we have entrust it to the earth and sky. Our thinking mind, our mind consciousness, is not the soil; it is only the hand that plants the seeds and cultivates the soil by practicing mindfulness of each thing we are doing as we go about our day. Our store consciousness is a fertile soil that will help the seed to germinate.”

Educators


Question for Lonna 

In the past two decades, there have been many changes to the cultural landscape that children are being raised in. Prior to this time, childhood was a quiet and reflective time where measured movement through the development stages was enjoyed. This allotted time helped a child to become skillful and proficient as they navigated the stages. Because of technological changes, current children are now used to frequent distractions, which upends the child’s ability to appreciate a slower pace and can stall stage proficiency. Readily available computers, televisions, iPads, and smart phones populate every home and intrigue children from as young as one year old. Understanding that children, on a Montessori campus, learn from their interaction with the environment. How does Playgroup address this issue?

I love technology. I am more productive and connected than I was ten years ago. My only child went to college away from home and continues to live in another part of the state. Technology allows me to share his life and communicate with him more often. I am able to be in contact with many people at once and stream shows while still being in contact. I have created a life with very little quiet time. I know this is unwise for me as a grown up, but it is unhealthy for young children.

Their bodies grow as they sleep, their minds develop during quiet down time. During quiet times young children can develop concepts, ideas, and observe the world. We all know the line, you can’t listen if you’re talking. Children can’t develop an imagination if they are put in front of devices which stimulate their eyes and ears but requires no direct third dimension. It is imperative that children from birth to six experience life through their senses. The keystone to Dr. Montessori’s philosophy are the Sensorial Materials. A Montessori school would not think to present a virtual cube. We present the Geometic Solid representation of a cube, which is a real cube.

In the car, during breakfast, while dinner is being prepared, are all times that parents introduce devices to entertain their children. When a phone can stream an educational show or a pre school game designed to teach letters, what’s the harm?

Our job as parents is to help our children develop tools to put in their tool belt for life. The ability to quietly exist, to observe, to create something from nothing is hampered when technology is introduced too soon. This is a developmental step I fear this generation will skip completely.

I am always asked if Playgroup children have access to technology. My teachers do. I use search engines daily and look up things for the children often. I also have a library in the school. An actually library, a place that the children visit daily to look at books, be read to or just sit in a comfy chair.

When I worked on the playground design I wanted places the children could sit quietly. They can observe a red tail hawk, listen to the fog horn or watch the clouds. I recommend as little screen time as possible at home. Most of my parents practice yoga, the quiet settles and soothes them. Children need to be in a settled and soothed state. The quiet that adults enjoy during yoga should be provided for children during their day. The beauty of being still, observing life and being aware of things as simple as breathing must be taught.

Lonna Corder
Executive Director, Playgroup

YouTube

A meditation on color for preschoolers Children’s Rainbow Mediationapril-supp-5
https://youtu.be/47qmNv38hrM

You are a tree. meditations for kids – tree
https://youtu.be/mc24izlaLqA

Memories of Old Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood Noisy and Quiet
https://youtu.be/7xmM8c2eawo

5 to 10 minutes project: Meditation 101: A Beginner’s Guide Animation
https://youtu.be/rqoxYKtEWEc

Alternative subject matter but relevant to Quiet Susan Cain: The Power of Introverts
https://youtu.be/c0KYU2j0TM4