Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Giving up the perfect!!

It has been a while.

I would like to be able to say that I had writer's block and then reached some big profound epiphany and am now about to enlighten you with some of the greatest insights ever blogged. But, I can't. I did have writers block, but not in the typical can't think of what to write way. Wonderful children gave me great ideas every day and I was excited to sit down and put them on paper. Instead, I was blocked by my own desire for perfection. I didn't post, because I wasn't sure what I wanted to say was good enough, grammatically correct and entertaining.

In short - I was afraid of not being perfect.

How did I overcome it? By spending quality time with preschoolers. I watched these little people work hard at just doing. They find joy in the process and do not look for perfection in their results. They are the epitome of creativity and by watching them take risks I have become a risk taker.

For example...

In the 3-5s class I watched a child at the easel. She grabbed one paint brush, painted a little on the paper and then moved on (her painting was placed to dry). The next child came up and took a paint brush, used it on the paper for a while, grabbed another color, painted, grabbed another color painted some more - and then moved on (his painting was placed to dry). The third child came up stuck her hands in the paint, and proceeded to paint using her hands in swirling motions on the paper until she was finished.

All of these children were experiencing art, colors, sensory and CREATING without concern for the how, or the what.

A group of preschool girls, when given the opportunity will put on a "princess show" that doesn't follow and play writing class's version of an accurate script. But will in, their minds, have a beginning, middle, and end.

A preschool boy, can take a dollhouse, add some blocks and "cannons" and then invite you to play in his pirate ship.

Give any age preschooler a musical instrument and you will be gifted with a concert.

I am amazed and a little envious and this freedom, this passion for process that too quickly disappears and becomes a strive for product.

So...I am back at it. Like the children that I have the pleasure of spending time with. I am going to jump in and take chances. You might have to have patience will my commas, periods or dashes and you might be a little put off by my lack of perfection, but I am taking my cues from the experts on creativity and striving for the best in process I can create. I am hoping that good will come from my observations and that parents,students and friends will continue to find value in what happens "at the playdough table."

To play with a quote from "The Early Learning Challenge: Raising the Bar" — Secretary Arne Duncan's Remarks at the National Association for the Education of Young Children Annual Conference

I am not going to let "perfection become the enemy of the good."

Today's lesson - BE CREATIVE. Just go for it. Try your hand at something just for the pleasure of trying it. Add chopped Heath bars instead of chocolate chips. Start a journal or blog. Grab some markers and paper and play. It is the New Year - make your resolution to just "try" Don't worry "if its not good enough for anyone else to hear..." or see, or read - just do it for your self and the sit back and enjoy the GOOD that resulted when you defeated perfection and didn't let it get in the way of your success!!

Today's parenting lesson - Let them CREATE. Try your hardest to stop asking, "what is it." and commenting on what they do. Yep, maybe they are going through a million pieces of paper and each has only one line on it, but perhaps they are trying to figure out something we have yet to understand, or they could just like it that way. This time in life, this freedom to do, without concern for the outcome lasts only a little while. Lets see what we can do as parents to extend it and let them explore without the limitations of expectations.

Friday, September 18, 2009

And then what.....

News flash!!! Today I was transported to "Hotland".

There I was minding my own business, playing in the moon sand with some new friends at the sensory table. When, two masked beings (I think they were 4 yr old girls) came up to me and said.

"We're taking you to Hotland"

I could have answered any number of ways. "AAARRGGGHHH, help!!!!" wouldn't have been appropriate, "Um, I'm working now, but I can go with you later, say after 5" probably wouldn't have worked either.

I am in the rare circumstance of not having to focus on anything else at the moment children in class come up to me with ideas. I don't have to watch any particular section, I'm not, as I often found myself with my own kids, trying to multi-task the laundry, dishes and story listening. I am there for them and able to fully concentrate on what they are saying. I am also able to really think about what I want to say. Today, since it was my first day in this class, I wanted to get to know them. To see how they interact, see what ideas they can come up with and see how far this could go. This was my moment to build a connection. So I said.

"What happens there?"

If you think about it, this is one of those rare moments when you actually say what you wanted to say when you wanted to say it. Asking questions is the best way to get minds in motion.

They looked at each other, and one said.

"You get put into an oven"

Who knew? I was thinking Hotland was like a beach area or some other resort. Glad I asked. I didn't want to say how awful that would be, or how much that would hurt. I knew that would be looking at things through my own adult perspective and maybe adding things to the story they hadn't intended.

So I ask another question.

"And then what?" (This question is one of the great ways to encourage children to stretch out their stories and really work their minds.

"And then you get cooked." said one.

"And then what?"

"And then you get burned." said the other

"And then what?"

"And then we take you out of the oven and take you to Coldland" Said the first while looking at the second who nodded her agreement.

"And then what happens?" (okay I switched up, but I needed a little variety)

"And then you get to swim in the lake and cool off" said the second. Then they looked at each other, and headed off. The story was over. They had ended with me in Coldland safe and cool and delighted.

Imagine how that could have gone differently if I had interjected my own ideas. I learned so much by listening and they learned they had the power to tell a story. They also learned about taking turns as each child got a chance to add something to my adventure in Hotland.

Can you imagine, still imagining like this? I rarely, if ever give myself the freedom to let ideas roam and see where they will go. For a child this not only comes naturally but, it is an important part of their development. Telling stories, playing dress-up, "cooking" in the play kitchen; all of those wonderful fun things are actually an extremely important part of their development.

Imagination is more than just children just making up stories. It is them stretching their minds, Through the use of imagination children can learn so many things including, but in no way limited to those listed below.

1. Problem solving. Children get to exercise their minds and create solutions to all sorts of problems. Remember, I got burned in an over, and then cooled off with a nice swim? Sounds like a good solution to me. How many times have you over heard a child create a hurdle in a game and then come up with the plan to over come it? Children do this all the time and the plan might not be something we, with our adult minds, would have thought of - but you can bet that it works for them. Could this be the beginning of relience? I think so. Learning that problems can be overcome if you put your mind to it is one of the greatest things a child can learn.

2. Social Skills. Children love to create together. When they do this they are learning the many idiocyncrecies of social interaction. They have to figure out how to take turns coming up with ideas. They have to learn to compromise and sometimes let the other child lead the play. Just listen to children combining their collective plans to create it is a wonder. You'll leave that space wishing adults could work that well together. "What if its dinner time..." says one, "Then he get's sick" says another " Yeah, and we have to go to the doctor, but AFTER dinner" says the first. "What if the doctor comes to the house and has dinner?"

3. Trying on different roles. I can remember worrying with my husband about our daughter and her seemingly never ending desire for role play in which she was captured and had to try to escape. "I'm Ariel and you have to catch me and tie me up...then I get out and run away." In truth this phase probably only lasted a few weeks, but it felt like forever as we wondered, is this okay? Looking back on it I realize she was practicing rescuing herself. Discovering her own power which she now at 13yrs uses in all sorts of tricky girl drama situation. By taking on the role of the captured she was able to discover her own strength. Different roles don't always mean something that intense, sometimes it can just be trying to see what it feels like to be like mom or what it would be like to be a fire fighter and rescue people.

Today's lesson....stretch your mind. Try to remember at some point we were all like these children exploring infinite possibilities and having a blast learning new things about our selves and about the world around us. You never know what you might discover about yourself and your own capabilities. Also, as we get older it is good to keep our minds working. Remember after a while you loose what you don't use. So, treat your mind like a muscle and exercise it.

Today's parenting lesson....Ask questions. Don't interject your own ideas. Let you children lead the play. If you give them the opportunity to take the lead they will. Let them be the directors of the story and you the willing participant. Then sit back and enjoy where they take you. If you get the chance you can even write some of their stories down, and go back and read them together later.

Have fun.


Thursday, September 17, 2009

And so it begins.....

The idea for this blog came from the many everyday lessons I learn from those wonderful 2-5 year old minds. I teach parent education, which means that I get to spend the majority of my time with children and their parents. Part of my job includes modeling behavior and helping children to navigate the wonderful world of social interaction and development. More often than not I end the day learning just as much from them as I hope they learned from me.

So, on a regular basis I will be reporting on what I learned. What they learned.


Hopefully, on what ideas/concepts transferred from my parenting classes into the real world of preschoolers.

Today was my second day of classes and I was again reminded of one of the things I love about spending time with preschoolers. They have the special gift of living in the present. Nothing matters, but the here and now and when you are interacting with a child, if you let yourself, you too become fully in the present.

I sat with children as they explored playdough. They squished it, cut shapes with cookie cutters, cut it with scissors, and rolled it into balls. The moment was all about exploring the simplest of things. Did they care that they were stretching their brains, building new connections with each new thing explored? No. They only knew that they were enjoying the moments. No one stopped to show me what they did. No one asked me to "look at this". This wasn't about the product of perfect shapes or super cutting, this was about exploration in its essence. Coming up with a plan and seeing what would happen if.... I felt like a laboratory assistant. I was asked to hold my hand out and catch a dropped playdough ball. I was given shapes and the chance to see what would happen if we pushed into the playdough. We explored with pushing our fingers into it and seeing who made the bigger print. Time flew by and before I knew it I heard the sad sounds of the two minutes until clean up warning. All of the sudden I had new Lab techs. A couple of 2 year olds who had apparently waited and now realized time was running short. They quickly staked out a space and began to create. With what little time they had left they dived in and tried a few things.

When it was time to clean up they reminded me again that they are more capable than I or many others give them credit for. These children wanted to be responsible for their "lab" equipment. Quick instructions - of course enthusiastically given- " Who can put the tools in the big box?" "Looks like the playdough goes in this plastic bag, want to try it?" were taken charge of.

Today's lesson...Take some time each day to live in the moment. Do something just because you want to. Try something new, just to see what might happen and don't worry about what the outcome may be because in the process you will learn more than you ever could from the product. You'll find that in those moments life seems much simpler and when you come back to the issues the answers will be clearer or you'll realize they just don't matter like you thought.

Today's parenting lesson....Let it happen. Just sit back and watch and allow yourself the opportunity to be the "lab assistant" Your children learn so much from exploration they know what they want to do and if you let them they will lead you to spaces and knowledge you didn't know you needed to know.