The Greeks describe concepts of atomism, mthyology, cosmology in terms of the four elements- air, fire, earth, water. This helped the Greeks understand both the physical and spiritual world. Our young children connect with the world, and therefore the self through connection to these elements and psychologists and philosophers such as Rudolph Steiner categorize human personalities into four temperments based on these elements. In Steiners work, he describes children as being Sanguine, Choleric, Melancholic, or Phlegmatic. Even philosophers, and authors such as AA Milne, author of the Winnie-the-Pooh stories, and Candace Bushnell, creator of Sex and the City have used these four temperaments in the development of their characters to better connect with audiences.
Winnie the Pooh's characters, Tigger, Pooh, Piglet, and Eeyore have strong personalities, relateable by everyone who reads about their adventures. Children can connect with either knowing someone like them or being someone like them. Many children may feel like Piglet, but desire to be more like Tigger. The four main characters of Sex and the City represent the many different sides of a well-rounded woman; however, individually they're a representation of the developing woman, one who has more dominant sides of self than one who has achieved balance.
So how do we help our children achieve balance using what we know about self and the four elements? Create opportunities to connect with nature and play with these elements. Bring these elements into our homes and create rich, meaningful connections with them away from home.
Fire: Using candles at bedtime and dinner, going camping and building bonfires, and lighting the fireplace in the evening or on a cold night are all meaningful ways to include fire at home and either connect with a "fire" child or bring out the fire of a "water" child. Playing with fire elements such as melting ice in the summer sun or drawing with charcoal ignite new energy in the developing child. Perhaps blazing a bowl at a local kiln or visiting a glass blowing shop and observing a demo are posible in your area. Also, be sure to keep a thermometer on a window of the home. Our weather apps are too abstract for the developing child to truly grasp temperature change and seasonal elements and theres great value in removing technology as a crutc when you can. Bake together, too!
Water: Humans are mostly made up of water so humans have always been attracted to water and connected with water in different ways. Children love bath time, splash pads, waterparks, and beach time, but they also enjoy playing with water and using water tables and toys. Other water activities may include washing dirty dishes or muddy animals in a soapy bin, washing the family car, playing a game of sink or float in a sensory bin, or painting with watercolors. Waldorf education uses "wet on wet" to introduce colors and encourages telling elaborate beautiful stories about the colors as though they're living. A water gage is fun to keep outdoors in the yard or garden. An older child can track the rain and begin to make the connection between rain and plant life or changes in temperature.
Air: This element is very calming for children that feel tight and highly anxious. Blowing up a balloon, blowing bubbles, or meditative deep breaths help the anxious child recenter, but air play with toy planes and parachutes or fashioning a sailboat from bark and thin fabric allow children to explore this element in nature. Take the family to fly a kite on a windy day and share stories like Pippa and Pelle and the Autumn Wind every fall! Hang windchimes outdoors and enjoy the beatuful sound of the chimes each time the wind blows.
Earth: Playing with the element of earth is perhaps one of the easiest to pull off as earth takes so many forms and is so readily available to us to harness in its many forms. Explore parks, tree climbing, mud pits, sandboxes, and rock quarries together freely without agenda, but its also wonderful to bring earth into the home. Playing with mud, clay, and modeling beeswax not only build fine motor muscles, but draw on the childs natural curiosity about the world. Beeswax crayons warm in the hand and inspire creativity in a way a synthetic medium simply cannot do!
Please check out my podcast on The Four Elements on apple podcasts, Whole Heart: Crunchy Parenting and be sure to subscribe. Also find my youtube channel "Chelsea Vail Whole Heart".
Thank you for loving your children enough to expand your knowledge on how they love and learn! Be well.
Parenting expert, blogger, inventor, single mom to twins, barefoot nomad, adventure seeker, boho spirit, advocate of play