“Consider these nightingales. So great is their love for these roses, that sleepless from dusk till dawn, they warble their melodies and commune with burning passion with the object of their adoration. How then can those who claim to be afire with the rose-like beauty of the Beloved chose to sleep?”
– Bahá’u’lláh to His companions in the Ridván Garden, as related by Nabíl (quoted in God Passes By, p. 153).
“Hear those birds, Mommy?” It’s just before dawn, and Monkey has crawled into our bed. Just outside our window, the birds are singing their greeting to the sun as it begins its slow rise over the treetops.
We love listening to the birds in the morning, in that magical time suspended delicately between the dark of night and the brightness of the coming day. In those few moments, not yet burdened by the chores of the day but full of the promise of the new dawn, we lie in bed and listen.
For Bahá’ís, this time of year brings to mind one bird in particular: the nightingale. This bird, known for its plaintive melodies, was used frequently by Bahá’u’lláh as a metaphor for a person in love with God. The nightingale is a prominent figure in Persian poetry, in which it is characterized by its sweet melody, sung to its beloved, the rose. In a similar way, people in love with God will not rest but instead spend all their hours singing praises to their Beloved.
Here is a beautiful Bahá’í song that I grew up with that uses the nightingale metaphor to talk about Bahá’u’lláh. If you’d like to play it yourself, here is the sheet music.
To teach the little ones about these beautiful birds, last year at our community gathering we did a really fun nightingale craft from the Core Curriculum for Spiritual Education.
We set up a table with the materials, including stickers and markers to decorate the birds. I also found some colorful streamers to use for the tails. If you look closely, you will see one of our ladybug cupcakes on the table!
It was a simple craft, but at the end the kids had something really cute and fun to play with. Monkey still loves making the wings flap!
By the time this Ridván rolled around, however, Monkey really wasn’t very interested in crafts, so I tried a different approach. First, we listened to this recording of a nightingale’s song, which Monkey asked me to play several times. It really is beautiful!
Then we sat in our Ridván tent and did some sensory play. This was so much fun! It would also make a great activity for a group.
In case you were worried, the robots didn’t miss out on the fun! In fact, play was suspended for several minutes as Monkey carefully rolled them – one by one – in from the other room.
Beforehand I had gathered some materials related to the holiday, such as tea bags, rose petals, a flower from our yard, and a small rose made of tissue paper.
I covered the bowl with the beautiful blue scarf we are using as the “river” around our tent. I had Monkey reach his hand under the scarf and try to identify the objects in the bowl. It was hard! Especially considering that I hadn’t prepped him at all for the kinds of things that would be in the bowl.
I then had him close his eyes and smell the tea and the flowers. Afterwards, we examined the flower petals and noted the differences between the fresh petals and the dried ones. We then cut open the tea bag to play with the dried leaves. It wasn’t the first time Monkey had seen loose tea, but it was the first time I had let him play with it!
I think his favorite part, though, was our “taste test.” It is amazing how difficult it can be to guess a flavor when it is completely out of context! When I put some sugar on his tongue, for example, Monkey told me it tasted “spicy.” He was surprised to see what it was! Honey, though, he guessed instantly, probably because he frequently has it on its own.
Once Baby woke up from his nap, I let him play with some of the objects as well. As soon as I held out the first one, his eyes got huge, and he started cooing, so I know he was excited!
**Please note: Sensory play with infants should be strictly supervised for safety reasons.**
When doing sensory play with babies, be sure to use larger objects than you would with older children. In addition to the choking hazard, it is also more fun for them. Baby Monkey quickly became frustrated with small objects, as they were difficult for him to grab and hold onto. Of course, don’t give them anything with sharp edges or points, and be very careful that they don’t put anything in their mouths, which of course they will try to do!
But if you follow precautions and good common sense, sensory play with babies is extremely rewarding. Baby and I had so much fun, and it was a great way for him to connect to the holiday as well.
Have you done sensory play with your kids?
This post is part of the series Walking Through the Garden of Ridván with Bahá‘í Mom Blogs. For a full list of the posts in this series, visit our main page.