I don’t know about you, but I am obsessed with how precious my children are when they are asleep. I think it’s because I don’t get enough rest of my own, and my inner child is remembering how nice it felt to go to bed at 7:30 and wake up when I felt refreshed. (Not to mention that a sleeping child is just plain adorable!) The key of it is this: I don’t really have all that much pressing for attention after 10pm (or 11, or 12…) because I just like to be awake. I enjoy the quiet, and I enjoy having time to myself. I am introverted in the sense that I get my energy from being alone, and being surrounded by wee ones day in and day out doesn’t qualify as “alone time.” So it is often in the evenings that I find myself full of energy and resting – even though I’m not asleep.
I am a floater: using the “Amazingly Awesome” boards in Pinterest, surfing the blog-o-sphere for an afternoon to carefully engineer the next great experience for my Abundant Life crew. I float from one good idea to the next. It’s not a trait I am altogether aware of, proud of, or would tout as “best practice” among my early childhood colleges. The reason is this: while novelty spikes a momentary flurry of activity, familiarity is the fertile ground from which competence can bloom. Unless children are afforded numerous and extended periods of time with the same materials, they can’t deepen their understanding of the why, the what if or the when behind its workings. Take my awesome pipe construction set (thank you, Do It Yourself Early Learning). I purchased the materials, and with the help of my ceaselessly talented and supportive partner-in-crime (thank you, Ezra!), cut the pieces to length and introduced them to the crew. But I didn’t get them out very often. They fit so neatly on one of the shelves up high in our space, and took forethought to pull them out of their bin. Out of sight = out of mind, and the crew didn’t ask for me to take them down. Plus, now that I had introduced them, I moved onto the next greatest experience.
My day-to-day work with young children paired with the here-and-there trainings and consultations I do with other early childhood professionals continue to teach me this: one of the most difficult lines to toe in the complex world of play-based learning is the one that separates “too involved” from “disengaged”. Scores of us champion the young child’s right to play, but the intricacies of such work are more difficult to articulate. In an effort to articulate how I discern the line, I have created a Ten Commandments-esque list, having just listened to one of my all time favorite episodes of This American Life. This list captures my guiding principles when it comes to accompanying children through play-based learning. Despite appearances to the contrary, I do not view this list as exhaustive, and if you have your own to add, I’d love to hear them in the comments below. I found it challenging to describe distinct practices of accompanying children in play-based experiences because everything is so interrelated, but, distinct-ify I did, and the following list is the result. Enjoy!
I was invited to guest post on Janet Lansbury’s blog this week. (I know…awesomeness, right??)
To risk repeating a tired cliche, children know far more than they’re given credit for. Frankly, many of their natural impulses move them along developmental trajectories swimmingly until we jump in and pull them off track. Take eating, for example. Did you know that typically developing children are born with the mechanisms to get food? (crying for mama paired with a powerful sucking reflex) The natural sense for when they are full? (turning away from the bottle or breast) And taste buds that differentiate safe and unsafe foods? (sweet = safe) And then there’s motor movement. Children – without interventions from us – will learn to stretch, roll, grasp, stand, run, skip, swing from the monkey bars, stand on one foot, and dance a powerful, impromptu, and uninhibited jig. (Believe me — one such jig was danced in an oh-so-powerful and uninhibited manner this very morning!) What about their insatiable drive for knowledge? Manifesting in early infancy as an imitative protruding tongue, in toddler-hood as the oft declared NO!, and in the preschool intensity with the sand and water table – children passionately construct knowledge of the world around them like little sponges soaking up everything that brain wiring and hands-on experience affords.