When I was a classroom teacher, in a public school, I was constantly reminded of the fact that our structured educational plans were often interfering with the glorious creative chaos of our children.
Now that I am a “Stay at home Nonni”, watching two or three toddlers (depending on the day), my thoughts have changed. Now I have become even more convinced that if we truly want to foster creative thinking in our kids, we adults need to shut up, back off, and be willing to clean up the mess when it’s all done.
Today was the perfect example of this educational philosophy. Today I was home with 18 month old Johnny, who is completely 100% focused on pushing buttons, opening doors and placing items into various containers.
I was doing my best to corral his curiosity and keep him engaged in socially appropriate activities. Those activities are mostly cleaning (he can use a broom and push the dirt into the dustbin and throw it into the trash) and cooking (he can crack an egg, use a garlic press and add flour to a working mixer.)
Meanwhile, three year old Ellie and four year old Ella were engaged in some kind of pretend play in the living room. This play, whatever it was, involved a great deal of shrieking, a lot of dramatic cries, and a “treasure map”(my tossed out mail) that had to be followed in order to save some vague hero from an even more vague bad guy.
While Johnny and I minced onions and stirred our pot of chili, the girls raced around the house. A bridge of pillows was built. A blanket was tossed over two chairs to create a caste. An old cardboard box became a baby’s special bed. And a bookshelf was emptied to make a hidden cave for a fairy.
To be honest, I didn’t really follow all of the action. I was busy trying to make a batch of chili while keeping Johnny from getting into the bathroom plumbing.
But when it was all over, and it was time for me to sit the three kids down for lunch, I realized a lot of learning had taken place while I was busy.
I learned that the kids had figured out that one size had to be smaller than the other if something would fit into something else. They had worked out a truly creative way to merge the stories of two royal sisters (Frozen) with the story of a magical pony (My Little Pony). They didn’t just travel on parallel tracks; they managed to mix the two stories into an entirely new adventure.
While creating all of this magic, the three and four year old girls had managed to cooperate, negotiate, take turns and share their ideas.
All on their own.
This isn’t magic, although I have to admit that seemed like it to me.
It was simply the power of the young, unfettered human mind when it is left alone to do what nature has always intended.
Kids are magic. Kids are our problem solvers.
Kids are everything that we always wish we could be.
This aging educator is learning that the less I try to teach, the more these children learn.
But don’t just believe me. Look at these videos produced by people who are far more educated than me.
Thanks to my wonderful niece, Erin Eberle, for these links, for getting me to think about this topic, and for sharing her wonderful little ones with us.