Kids at Play at Work at School Series pt 2 — Toddlers

“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning.  But for children, play is serious learning.  Play is really the work of childhood.”  –Fred Rogers

The work of toddlers (18-36 month olds) is developing autonomy.  These kids are into everything, giddy with locomotion and the independence it brings.  They learn to do things by themselves and play not just to find out how objects feel in their hands or mouths, but to figure out what can be done with them.  

They’re stubborn about ME, MY, MINE.  They love the word NO, because they’re learning to make decisions all by themselves.  Watch them build up, knock down, put in, take out.  They are easily excited, easily frustrated, very active, and have a short attention span.  They pretend, they imitate, they are learning to express themselves with language.

In other words, they become quite interesting as human beings, at the same time as parents and other care providers might be panting to keep up and dreading the many perils of their existence!

In all of this autonomy centered play, there is serious brain and body growth occurring.  This play is vital to a child’s brain and body development.  Creating new neural pathways, integration of previous learning, branching out of cells, tissues, organs, systems — all these functions are occurring rapidly.

Creating a mini academic program for kids in their twos, threes, and fours is far less ideal than placing them in a social environment with interaction, guided play and free play, and plenty of physical activity.  Kids receive much more benefit from following their own fascinations than in being exposed to automated information with worksheets, drills, and technology.

Play and encouragement to discover more in a chosen direction (for example, we have a kid who is fascinated by bugs) is the way to create a lifelong love of learning for kids.  Serious learning is fun!  Fun runs through serious learning.

We’re excited to introduce our Little Big Kids (2 – 4) to an experiment in seed germinating tomorrow.  Video to come!

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Kids at Play at Work at School Series — Intro

Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning.  But for children, play is serious learning.  Play is really the work of childhood.  — Fred Rogers

As a kid I watched Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood on television.  I found it both soothing and stimulating with its mix of gentle reminders about good manners and how to treat others, the songs and stories, the colorful characters of imagination with their interactions, and the relaxed alertness of Mr. Rogers.

He taught about self-esteem.  He talked about valuing your unique self.  He showed how to play nice and be a good neighbor.

As a daycare onsite provider working with young children –infants, toddlers, preschoolers — I think back to the lessons I learned about sharing and caring from this gentle man with his mild manner, his soft voice, yet firm insistence on doing the right thing.  Mr. Rogers could be tough and tender.  Of course, he did not have ten or so energetic little beings racing around making a hullaballoo…

“Tough and Tender” is the simplest expression of the ideal mix in dealing with child behavior, growth, and development.

Tough in this case enfolds myriad meanings.  A caregiver must say no, establish boundaries, protect the kids from themselves and one another.  Caregivers provide structure, schedule, order.  We promote discipline (the forming of helpful habits) and self-regulation.  As professional child care providers we do these things with other peoples’ children.  They are small and sensitive and we must be tender.  This is not the military!  We must regulate kid behavior with grace, art, patience, and a playful attitude.

Tender means gentle guidance.  Tender is the mode of choice.  These kids are innocent.  We know they are not “misbehaving,” because misbehavior implies intent beyond innocence.  (Of course, this doesn’t mean their behavior is convenient for adults!  Nor always pleasant!)

Kids less than 5 years of age develop rapidly as they explore, expand, discover, test the limits of their bodies and minds — and the limits of their caregivers.  Their agenda is growth and development.  Kids accomplish their agenda through play; play guided by care providers, and free play as they build big brain power inventing games for themselves.

Our days with the kids include music, song, dance, jumping, running, climbing, coordination, craft, social skill building, and delight in connecting with them as they bloom before our eyes.  This is serious work!  It just happens to be a lot of fun a lot of the time.

See you in the playground!

Too Much Magic Bus

Not being a parent personally, I’m allowed a different view of kids.  For one thing, I get to be a sort of “soul mate” to them and I get to guide their actions in a friendly manner, being passionate about their development, yet detached and a bit more objective than the average mom or dad would probably be about their wee tike.

That said, I can still get triggered!  I am human, after all.  A crying baby is a strong call to action.  A kid in the process of boundless expansion can be inconvenient in the modern world of small spaces and tight schedules.  And a dozen of them all hollering for lunch at once is a big noise! The unreasonable things they do and don’t do can be so crazy-making!

Yet in career child care, it’s all about skills.  We fall back on our deep knowledge that this sweet kid is just pure raw human animal, constantly adding layers of habit and identity.  We know that each and every one of the kids is “normal” and progressing at a pace that comes from an unquestionable internal logic.  We also know that any attribution of complicated intent on the part of an infant is pure conjecture on the part of the adult.

The penchant for predictability is powerful; every parent wants to know if her child is “on time” and doing what a baby animal “should be doing” at any given time.  Adult anxiety about the fantasy of normalcy can be a real drag to a kid.  On the one hand, yes we want them to be progressing at light speed (they are!) and on the other, we harbor dread that something will go wrong at some critical juncture and all will be lost.

I think we just like to scare ourselves.  Honestly.  The kid is fine.  Yes there are horrible things that can and do go wrong all the time – life is fragile and a lot less solid than our sense of certainty of safety would like.  But, most likely, as a reasonable and instinctive human being, you are fine.  You are not breaking the baby.  You are a good parent, you are doing your very best, and it’s most certainly good enough.  Remember, that child belongs with you and you belong with that child!  You are together for a reason.

They want what every human being in the history of conscious evolution wants: to be seen, to be noticed, to receive your attention, to be recognized and celebrated for exactly who they are.  Just do that and you will raise a healthy happy human who contributes to life and the world.  That will be quite enough indeed.

All this being said, there are times it’s just all too much.  At those times, please find some version of Wheels On the Bus, put it on, sing along, and let it all go.  Take it easy!  This bus ride is short and it’ll be over before you know it.  Enjoy yourself!

Bodies in Motion

For a bunch of years, I’ve focused my professional attention on human soft tissue, how it works and doesn’t and what to do when it’s all glued up and stuck.  This work is rewarding; it’s hands on, it’s effective.  People get unstuck.  It can take a while, but it happens eventually, if they stay with the work of re-educating the body to be free.

I see freedom as the ability to use what you have to do what you wish, when and how you want.  Naturally, responsibility for the consequences of your actions is implicit!  Our choices determine our lives.  Our thoughts, beliefs, and habits shape our destiny.  We choose our lives, our attitudes, our outcomes.  We create our way through this mysterious maze.

Over time and space I have come to see how we are free and how we are not.  There is a wealth of understanding on the topics of human choice, science and spirit, conscious evolution, and where we’re all going.  It’s well worth a person’s time and energy to explore deep within herself for the answers to life’s persistent questions.  In fact, inside is the the only place she’s going to find them.

All these years into this infinite discovery, I have turned my attention to humans in their formative stages.  I am fascinated by little kids, by their freedom, by their honesty, by their noisy messy impulse-driven compelling exploration moment to moment thing, by their opening and expanding into the world at light speed.

There is nowhere else I’d rather look right now than at little miracles.  The little faces and forms of tiny kids.  How did this happen?  Well, a child blessed our family and I have become very close to him.  As I watch my brother’s child grow, I’ve come to see that the real wonder in life is its endless variety of expression.  This baby boy (now in Kindergarten!) has shown me things I could never see before and it makes my heart leap to experience the world through his being – as much as that is even possible for anyone ever – yet being with him lights up my life.

So, over here in family land Park Slope Brooklyn, we started a little place called Kids Run Around Daycare.  It’s a Group Family Daycare home.  We set it up for maximum kid fun and joy.  We have a sunny front room with soft floors for playing, we have a nice kitchen where we prepare fresh food for our little tikes daily, we have a big backyard with fun things to climb, ride, slide down and run around.

I’ll bring the fruits of my own long explorations in the realms of health and healing, psychology and development, science and spirit, art and commerce, plus acceptance and hope, into this sweet place of witnessing kids learning who they are and what the world is and how it all goes together.

I’m thrilled and happy about it.  I’ll be posting all about what goes on, what these little ones teach me, and all the joy of exploration.  Yeah there are diapers and spills and moments of ancient animal emotion, so what else is new?  There’s more to life than fatigue and tunnel vision, so let’s remember ourselves and have a splendid time!  We’re here to help.

See you in the neighborhood!