The Best Thing You Can Do For Your Children Today: Let Them PLAY!

IMG_4301We were traveling in South Africa a few weeks ago. Our ship docked for a six-day port stay, and we were lucky enough to see the highlights: a cable car ride to the top of Table Mountain, a hop-on/hop-off tour bus that drove us around the city, a drive to Boulder Beach to see the penguins swimming in the ocean, and a climb up to the lighthouse at Cape Point to watch the swirling waters where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet. Plus, we visited the aquarium, played at some parks, ate plenty of delicious food, and found a western-style grocery store to restock our snack cupboard.

A few days into our adventures, my oldest turned to me and said, (more…)

Who’s Driving Your Car?

Process-oriented art a la Cadence

Metaphorically speaking.

I was at a park, sitting a few feet away from my very capable 1-year-old who was climbing up and down the stairs and skillfully maneuvering the slide.  The mother of a young toddler followed her daughter through the structure close to Desmond.   She spotted him, and looked concerned, thinking (I assume), “Where is this boy’s parent?  Should I intervene?”  She was alarmed – unaware of Desmond, his context, his mad climbing skills.  From my place, however, she was hovering – crowding her daughter’s exploration, and giving her daughter a false sense of competency.  Our eyes met almost immediately, and she asked, “Is he yours?”

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Lessons in Learning: Familiarity Breeds Competence

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.

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Learning from Children: 3 Lessons for a Full Life

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.

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In My Perspective…

The Kite Shirt

This is a picture of Simone in her absolute favorite shirt.  You may see a tuxedo shirt, but ah – you would be wrong.  You see, from her perspective (at the top looking down on her belly), she sees a kite with a pink balloon (aka corsage).  She has worn this shirt for a year, so the entire Abundant Life crew knows this shirt as “The Kite Shirt.”  So, no surprise, when Desmond appeared this morning sporting his equally fancy onesie, his friends all noticed.  “Desmond has a kite shirt, too!”  (Thanks to Uncle Brent and Aunt Jen whose wedding gave us the occasion to purchase said kite shirts…at the time, for a much younger Simone and smaller older sister, Tekoa.)

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It’s a party!

Discordance and synchronicity walk closely in young children’s relationships.  Mutable dramatic play scripts pouring out of collective imaginations require sophistication to sustain.   Incorrect assumptions assign malice where none is present in block tower topplings.  At one moment, my friend and I are destined to remain friends forever, wedded bliss assured.  At the next, the mere sight of each other elicits stomping and yelling.  Consider the high-level social skills required for relationships: the ability to read body language and tone of voice, pick up on the subtleties of a heavy march or a raised eyebrow, or recognize internal states of being and a working vocabulary to aptly describe those moods.  When day-to-day business revolves around pair and group play, consistently reading what my friends are verbally or non-verbally communicating insures that I am either in or out.  And out is about as bad as it gets. (more…)