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Certified PreK-6. Masters in Child Development. Advocate for play, teacher & children choice, & the family's voice. Believe in volunteering as social justice.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

a child's perspective

At the beach earlier this week, the three year old and I saw this scene.  The clouds had centralized over the Hancock Center in sort of a bubble.  I found it breathtaking and a reminder of why I love the city.

The little person had a different reaction.  He was very worried.  He stared at the skyline for quite a bit and finally said, "the cloud is disappearing the city!"  To him the clouds were sinister and were covering up the part of the city where his parents work.  

I'm always so intrigued by the perspective of little people.  It's never predictable, never boring, and always fresh.  

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

the wonder of curiousity

One of the reasons that I enjoy working with little people is their complete sense of wonder about the world around them.  They have the ability to immerse themselves into ordinary events and places in a way that is so complete that they get lost in their observations and investigations.

A little person can spend an incredible amount of time investigating the way a bridge feels as they walk across it.  They take the time to watch their feet react with the materials, wondering why it sounds and feels differently than the sidewalk.  Little people question the boundaries and take risks as they play with the way their bodies press up against and move away from railings.  They pause and gaze across the sky, not worrying about a pending appointment.  They joyfully stomp as they bridge slopes downward relishing in the clanging made by the impact of their shoes on the metal.

A little person is able to step past inhibitions and experience the glee of splashing in a fountain.  They splash in different ways, watching the pattern of the ripples as their feet hit the water.  Little people can see the complexities in the way the water flows and moves as people run in and out of the path of travel.

And this?  This is where learning occurs.  Learning begins with the wonder and curiosity of the little people.  It begins with their questions, their joy, their observations.  Learning happens when children are immersed in the world around them, in their natural environment, in the places that call out to them.  

Rather than working so hard to control their environment, what would happen if we spent more time observing and documenting the learning that occurs every day, in everyday locations?  What would happen if their was more respect given to the wonder and curiosity of children?  

I suspect that their would be more joy, more amazing days in the lives of little people.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

a magical space created by nature

There was a huge storm earlier this week and as a result Mother Nature left some destruction across the city.  Rather than focus on the chaos caused by the storm, I'd rather like to think of it as opportunities to explore.  Yesterday at the park the little person made an amazing discovery!  A large tree had uprooted and fallen to the side.

This of course needed to be investigated!  This perspective gave the little person the perfect opportunity to examine the roots up close since they are usually buried deep within the ground.

Once the outside of the tree had been thoroughly investigated the little person was ready to begin his adventure in the underbrush.  Armed with two large sticks, the little person bravely entered the secret space by walking under a large fallen branch.

Once he had taken the risk to enter this new space, the little person began exploring the new terrain!  Because the tree had fallen naturally, the branches were tangled and out of order.  This randomness provided the opportunity for the little person (and many other children at the park that day) to problem solve as they figured out the best routes to move about under the brush and to be daring explorers as the entered hidden coves unseen by the outside world.

Magical spaces like this are often a rarity in the over designed, over plastic world our children live in and I am grateful that, at least until the park district removes it, the children had the opportunity to be bold adventures in nature in the center of the city.

Monday, July 11, 2011

we are adventurers

Little people are constantly learning about the world around them.  Every day brings a new experience and a chance to be an adventurer.  Children have an innate capacity for discovery and learning and will play their way through countless discoveries a day.  (If we let them!)

As caregivers, it doesn't take a lot to allow the little people the opportunity to be adventurous.  We don't need to buy expensive toys.  We don't need to spend large amounts of money on enrichment classes and trips.  We simply need the ability to stop and see the potential for adventure in the every day.

And we need the willingness to be adventurous ourselves.  If we want to encourage the little people's curiosity and adventurous spirit then we too need to step up and be willing to explore the new and unknown.  Caregivers and little people engage in meaningful adventures when in relationship with each other and their environment.

The children see the potential for adventure and joy in the little things and in unexpected places.  The good news is that if we stop and pause throughout the day, we too can be adventurous!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

the wagon: embracing the "what ifs"

Little people are far more creative than adults.  Whereas adults see an object and immediately visualize the object being used as it is intended, little people see an object and visualize possibility.  They are not bound by actualities and instead focus on the "what ifs".  They are filled with the desire to explore, engage, learn.  They play.  And through their play with the "what ifs" they discover their world and they discover their own potential and capabilities.

Wouldn't it be great if as adults we kept that curiosity and wonder and allowed ourselves to explore the "what ifs" rather than cling to the actualities?

Think of the joy and confidence that would thrive in the world.

infant paper study (part 4)

Sometimes inspiration hits you in unexpected ways.  Most often ideas on new ways to challenge and engage the little people come from thoughtful reflection and observation.  Sometimes they come through the mail.  I received a box of books recently and it was full of a large amount of packing paper.  I was on the way to the recycling bin when I realized that this would be the perfect provocation for the infant to investigate.

I set up the box with a bit of the paper sticking out on the littlest person's play mat.  I then set the littlest person near the box and he quickly began to explore.  This was an interesting invitation for the infant; it allowed him to explore the paper with the entirety of his body.  Not only that, but as he his reach has continued to develop over the course of this study he was able to pull the paper out of the box and manipulate it around his body.

As I observed the littlest person explore I thought that I would introduce a new challenge.  I set him inside the box to provide a new perspective.  This invitation turned out to provide him with the perfect opportunity to experience risk as I set him inside and sat back.  Inevitably he fell out of the box and though startled continued to explore and engage.  The very beginnings of learning to take a risk, fall, and get back up!

At this point his older brother became curious about what was happening.  His older brother loves to put things inside of boxes and so he took the box and put a few of the infant's toys inside as an invitation to play.  Not only did this provide the littlest person with another way to engage with the box, but as the brother was near and talking to the infant it was the start of a (small) learning community.

As the infant became more excited about the noises and textures the relationship with the paper and the box were providing him, eventually the older brother decided that he too had to experience the box.  In the spirit of community learning, the little person took a cue from the littlest person.