Six Simple Things Every Child Needs


Sometimes, it takes the peaceful days of a winter snow to remind us how to be joyful in simple things--like a warm winter fire, a cozy book, or a quiet trek in the snow.  The silence of snow reminds us of how clamorous our lives have become and whispers a forgotten truth: children have more when they have less.

Children need simple things to thrive--things that don’t cost money.  Charlotte Mason, a British educator who has inspired Ambleside School today, advocated six simple things for children:  

  • Lots of time in nature

  • Quality books read aloud

  • Simple duties of kindness toward family and friends

  • Chores

  • Habits

  • Routines

Do we have time for these things in our busy lives?

Student Reading.jpg

When my children were young, the living room fire became a gathering place for our family.  One of their favorite childhood memories is the winter their father read Treasure Island to all five of them.  Over the years, without a TV in the room, the hearth became a symbol of warmth and vitality;  singing, conversation, and reading became pastimes that grew there.

At Ambleside, our students also are most content with simple things. The kindergarten class has found a holly tree and under its branches, they play house, build forts, and delight in simple imaginary play.  In our 8th grade class, reading aloud Old Squire’s Farm builds a common experience of enjoying humor together.  Sweeping the steps, playing with younger children at recess, moving furniture, visiting the nursing home nurture a sense of well-being and contentment in our students as they give up what they want to do in order to show kindness to others.   

Over the years, I have watched many children grow, not only the five of my own, but many students at Ambleside, and Charlotte Mason was right when she said, “We may believe that a person…is put into this most delightful world for the express purpose of forming ties of intimacy, joy, association, and knowledge with the living and moving things that are therein...The fullness of living, joy in life, depend, far more than we know, upon the establishment of these relations” (School Education, p. 75).  So wherever this finds you, take pleasure in the simple things -- reading a book, walking in the snow, playing a game by the fire.

Check out good reading for young people on Ambleside School’s website here.

-Ginnie Wilcox, Head of School

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