Strewing: Definition and Suggestions

Sandra Dodd, on the first response below; then others

What exactly is strewing and how do you do it? I think it is leaving material of interest around for our children to discover. Is there more to it?

That's it.

I said it years ago in an AOL discussion and the visual stuck.

What I was referring to was leaving things around and changing them out.

Some of our most successful items have been toys or objects for playing with (sometimes not purely a toy) like

pattern blocks

castle blocks

magnets (or some new magnet toy where something swings or moves)

a prism

odd little crafts things with some tactile element people will just HAVE to pick up and mess with (fuzzy, furry, slippery, gummy...)

printouts of good cartoons or little articles or humor lists (generally taped inside the bathroom or left on the counter there, or on the dining table)

new foods, snacky stuff, in a bowl, out

interesting rocks, rinsed, in a bowl, on the table

But there's another element which isn't physically "strewing" but involves instead taking the children out and about with the idea of their seeing (hearing, tasting, smelling, touching) things they might not have come upon otherwise and that you can't lay casually about the house.

Sometimes it's just as simple as driving another route to the same old place, or going to a different grocery store than usual. Other successful outings of note which I consider in the same category as strewing (though not the same action):

construction sites

any public doing like racing remote control things in a parking lot or vacant lot—just passing by is sometimes sufficient without even stopping



garage sales

new stores just opened

old stores in danger of closing (take them in before it's gone)

prairie dog towns

vacant lots with wood we can pick up for firewood

And with ALL those things, we get time together, shared experiences and conversation.


On AlwaysLearning, Pam Sorooshian wrote:
Strewing might be what I did at the Live and Learn conference when I noticed that some of the leaves were turning colors and, as I was heading to our room, I picked some up off the ground and left them on the bathroom counter so that my daughter would happen to see them when she used the bathroom. I have no idea if she ever noticed them or not. Or it might be that I'm getting something out of a closet and I notice a game that hasn't been out and played in a while, so I set it out on the living room coffee table.

When the kids were little, I was very aware of and more intentional about this habit—I picked up interesting rocks or feathers, put out different kinds of paper or markers or tape or a puzzle or an old hat or anything that might, even if just for a moment, interest someone. Now it is just a way of life and I don't think about it, but we all do it. It is kind of a background thing that goes on in unschooling families—it is part of what creates a stimulating, enriched environment for our kids.


When someone asked at unschooling.info, Deb/Bugsmom wrote this:
Strewing: one way to look at it is similar to when you were dating your beloved. You studied that person, learned likes, dislikes, interests, etc. You found out maybe that your beloved liked spicy foods (and you hit every tex-mex restaurant in town). So you saw a new Thai restaurant open up nearby and extended an invitation to try it out. Thai food can be quite spicy. Your beloved might say No thanks. Or maybe I'll think about it. Or maybe okay let's go. And then afterward decide not to touch Thai food again, the spices are too different. You found something that might be of interest. Brought it into view. Your beloved could do with it whatever suited—no strings attached. That no strings is where it differs from 'setting up' kids for 'educational experiences'. You bring home a neat bird's nest you found BUT it has strings attached (and not the ones holding the nest together)— it usually comes with enforced study of birds, nests, habitats, etc. rather than "Hey this is really cool—anyone want to see it?" and let it take on a life of its own—one might glance up and go back to drawing manga, another might be fascinated and try to figure out what kind of bird it belongs to, a third might look at the nest and try to weave something him/her self and maybe get interested in weaving, basketry, knitting, and who-knows-what. No strings.

Another view is like the movie Coming to America (Eddie Murphy plays the Prince of Zamunda). In that movie, there are several young ladies whose task it is to toss rose petals in his path so his steps are sweet and fragrant. He doesn't tell them where he's going, he just goes. They study him, his usual behaviors and patterns, his likes and dislikes, and so on. So, most of the time they know that they can go this way and it is pretty close. Sometimes, though, he changes direction suddenly and it's their job to get back in front quickly. We are those flower strewers—we study our kids, what they usually enjoy and so on, and try to draw those things into the environment. Sometimes though they take a sharp turn and after a month of dinosaurs, dinosaurs, dinosaurs, suddenly we're in outer space. It's our job not to pull them back to the 'rest' of the 'cool dinosaur stuff' we've been accumulating and 'studying' but rather to take a breath and head off into space, facilitating their access to what they want rather than saying Okay let's do a "unit study" on space now.

"Strewing has no strings attached," wrote Deb Rossing, in "Strewing Works Both Ways"

Strewing (directory page)