The Importance of Warmth in Early Childhood
At birth, a child leaves the warm watery world of the womb and enters the earthly world. They meet the realities of life. We provide them with everything they need for the growth of their physical, emotional, and social development which will continue well into early adulthood. It is a key to supporting a healthy life. Warmth is the essential ingredient for the development of a child and continues to be essential for all of life. The most obvious place we see it is in the warming of the physical body. Yet it is only one of the aspects of warmth. There is also emotional warmth, the warmth of love, generosity and true morality. Warmth weaves itself throughout human experiences and without it, we cannot change or transform.
All aspects of warmth wove throughout my childhood on the shores of Lake Superior and then Muskoka. It provided me with endless opportunities for growth and discovery in the world of nature. My brothers and I spent our childhood outside from the beginning of our lives. We loved being in the natural world and our parents had deep respect and relationship with the natural world.
In these northern locations, characterized by four distinct seasons throughout the year, our clothing changed to adapt to the seasonal forces of nature. Regardless of the conditions, nothing deterred us from enjoying the outdoors! During winter, we wore snowmobile suits, big wool sweaters, hats, mitts, and boots lined with wool felt liners to keep the snow and cold at bay. In the spring, we tightly tied blue hoodies to fend off the blackflies. We ran barefoot all summer long; a part of our daily routine was scrubbing the pitch off our feet before bed!
How fortunate I am to have a childhood in such magical natural spaces and to have been surrounded by warmth on all levels, physical, love and generosity of heart by my parents. All of its aspects wove through my growing up and well into my adult life. It was experienced, not taught. This experience became a way of life for me as a parent. It wove itself into my work with young children and with adults. I can give warmth because I was given warmth from birth onwards. I can now observe that my own children have grown the capacity for living and giving warmth in their lives. It is a gift that keeps on giving.
If warmth is the key to healthy development, how do we know when there is enough of it?
Once upon a time, we had a kind of intuition about warmth. In our time it is our task to learn about and understand what creates it, what maintains it and what keeps us warm enough to be actively participating inside and out.
When it comes to physical warmth, science has researched nature and imitated it to make clothing that is “like” wool or cotton but more durable and long-lasting. The focus of science has not been to maintain warmth. We create clothing from three main sources, animal fibres, plant fibres and minerals. All fibres have their place creating clothing we need to be comfortable inside and out. If you are seeking warmth, wool is ideal.
Parents and caregivers nurture and develop a child’s sense of warmth from birth, allowing it to grow through care and the experience of being warm. How do you know when is a child warm enough? A good indication of being warm enough is when little hands and feet are as warm as the heart. Warming the core of the body allows the heat to flow outwards to those extremities. On average it takes between nine and twelve years to develop a sense of warmth. If we are able to care for its development until around this age, the child can then begin to know when they need more or less clothing to maintain a healthy sense of warmth. They will carry this inner wisdom forward into their entire lives.
Years later as a parent and then as a kindergarten teacher my understanding and respect for it and the importance of connecting to nature grew more conscious. Warmth and Weather Inc. emerged from that wisdom.