Few things are quite as entertaining and amazing as the mind of a child, where imagination and reality can coexist. Children are so present to their emotions, are so quick to forgive, and who could forget that ever present curiosity?
In February, I helped out a preschool as they found a full time teacher. Having spent time in the college setting for the last four years, a return to early childhood education was quite a change. The kids might have been small but they had some big things to teach me:
We are all smart in our own way.
They are all so different. One who is learning to share, one who loves to be the line leader, one who always has a story to tell.
And there are different kinds of smart. The one who has a hard time cutting with scissors is the one who is an expert with the blocks. The one who struggles to name the letters of the alphabet is an impressive engineer with the legos. The one who can’t seem to pronounce her words clearly is the one who dedicates real time and care to a friend who is suffering. The one who is oblivious to others’ feelings is a wiz with math. The one who can’t sit still at Circle Time is the king of games on the playground. The one who could care less about the daily schedule has a deep, inherent wisdom about her.
Dedication, curiosity, thoughtfulness. We are born with our positive qualities, they need not be learned.
Do you see me?
Sometimes the positive quality was hidden underneath a counterproductive strategy, like whining, teasing, or not sharing toys. I found that if I acknowledged the quality the child was exhibiting beneath the behavior, they seemed to light up, as if they felt seen. This was a much easier place to adjust the negative behavior. For example, “I see that you are really curious about how those blocks fit together! Did you know that your friends are curious, too? That’s why they need blocks, too.” Or, “Wow, you’re really focused on building that tower! I think it is probably important to you to have enough blocks to make it, right? It’s important for your friends to have enough blocks, too.”
I am here to play and I do not care what time it is.
Morning playtime usually set the tone for the rest of the day. Some would come in a little groggy or cranky, just as morning playtime is nearing its end. Without knowing that they’ve missed something, they either jump right in or take some time to settle in. Some kids have been there since 7am, oblivious to how long it’s been since they’ve been playing with those blocks, or that floam. (Yes, floam, it’s a real thing, look it up.) In either the early arrivals or the late comers, time is suspended in their little kid minds.
One morning, I kneel down and ask two friends what they’ve created. The young architect responds, “it’s a bounce house for dinosaurs.” The playful excitement in his eyes was unmistakable.
I love that about preschool – it is a time for exploring and play. Why do we ever stop?
p.s. Shout out to the talented and caring teachers at TPA
p.p.s. Check out this awesome wall of hearts, a creation by art teacher Christina Crutchfield, showcasing handmade hearts by every student in the school, from PreK to 8th grade. (Inspired by Alison Fowler’s Wall of H’Arts
MAKE IT REAL:
What have you learned from the kids in your life?
How are you still a kid inside, ready to play?