I spend a lot of time around young children. I have my own, who is 4 years old and he attends a preschool 4 days a week. I serve on the Board of his preschool which means I spend quite a bit of time at the school, interacting with other families, teachers and administrators. Since I have an extraordinarily extroverted, social child, we tend to be around other children and their caregivers a lot. We also have a large network of extended family that we interact with regularly.
One thing that I always am conscious of is how children blossom when adults allow them to lead.
Children can lead you in conversation when you ask them open ended questions.
If a child holds up a drawing and says : “I drew this picture for you!”, an adult can let the child lead by saying something like: “Wow, tell me all about your picture!”
This type of response can lead to all kinds of interesting discoveries. Perhaps the child will tell you about the lines and circles she made. Perhaps he will tell you a story he thought of he was creating the picture. And perhaps she’ll say, “I don’t want to tell you all about my picture.”
That’s okay too.
Young children enjoy and focus on the process of creating rather than the product– what is actually created. Many of us adults, experience life in the reverse- we tend to focus on what we create as opposed to the learning and feeling that happens as we create.
We can learn so much about children by allowing them to lead. And surprisingly, we can also learn a lot about ourselves.
Last week my son and I were at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens enjoying the warm afternoon, running in the grass, climbing trees and exploring in the grass and dirt. At one point we were walking and my son said to me “Mommy, I don’t want you to tell me the names of any more trees okay?” I laughed and realized that I had put on my “educator hat” and was trying to engage him in the study of all the wonderful aspects of nature there.
What I was actually doing was drowning out the beautiful sounds of nature and interrupting the sound of the cool breeze in his ear. I shut my mouth and we walked along holding hands and I was reminded, in a most concrete way, that if we let children lead us, most of the time they will take us exactly where they need to go.
How do you feel about letting your child lead you?
What feels challenging about it? What feels rewarding about it?
What do you wonder about when it comes to letting children lead the way to their own learning and experiences?