Let them be Little

The Image of a Child… let them be little ‘cause they’re only that way for a while
Give them hope, give them praise, give them love every day
Let them cry, let them giggle, let them sleep in the middle
Oh just let them be little”

These are the words to a song by Billy Dean, and every time I hear them, something stirs deep within me.

The longer I live, the less I understand the rationale behind the “rushing,” the “hurriedness,” the “sense of urgency” that accompanies everything we do today. Why the fast lane? Where are we going? What are we racing to?

Many of us today are preoccupied – we are multi-tasking. There is too much to do, too much to know – all of it overwhelming to the spirit. Life is passing by and we are missing so many of the ordinary moments – moments that, as we know, are anything but ordinary! These are the moments that will tell the stories of our lives; but, if we are hurrying through life, we are likely to miss them.

I am most concerned about what this “hurriedness” does to the youngest of our children. They are often swept along in the current of the adults in their lives. They have no control, and no say in the matter.

But, this “rushing” does go against children’s nature. There is certainly a disconnect to their own sense of time and their personal rhythm – which is, in a word, leisurely.

For them, can’t we slow things down? Can’t we let them be little? Can’t we follow their lead?

I marvel at children’s powers of concentration and focus when they are thoroughly absorbed in something. Nothing can move them from the task at hand. And we celebrate that the children are so engaged, and are learning so much from the experience.

Yet, we disturb all of this by ringing a bell, clapping our hands, turning off the lights, or (one of my pet peeves) yelling across the classroom that “it’s cleanup time!” We tell the children that we need to hurry, so that we can get outside on time. And, we begin to hurry – in our voices, in our actions – as we disturb the child’s activity and the tone of the classroom.

The damage has been done – the magic of their moment has abruptly ended. Abruptly. No winding down; no opportunity for the children to figure out how they can continue their activity later in the day. No thought given to their interests, their imaginations, their conversations, their problem-solving – and their JOY!

We have to move on – now!

We know this happens every day in our classrooms. But, does it have to?

Couldn’t we just let the play, the children’s work, continue – for those who are so engaged? Must we interrupt their focus and make the transition to snack at exactly 10:00 – for everyone? Couldn’t we think about another way to make snack available to the children – when they are ready for it?

Couldn’t we intentionally slow down our adult pace and consider the children’s needs (their sense of time and personal rhythm) when planning and carrying out activities and projects? Couldn’t we re-visit the amazing block structure later in the day – and not tear it down right now?

Couldn’t we provide sufficient time for them to be together with friends? to get things done with satisfaction? Couldn’t we allow the children plenty of time to complete their drawing, their book, their make-believe, so that they control the start and the finish.

Couldn’t we provide the time for our young children to enjoy the process of learning? to experiment? to make mistakes and readjustments? to complete a task? to laugh? to engage with others? to have fun? to be little?

Lots to consider and reflect upon.

To my way of thinking, nothing is more important. I’d love your thoughts.

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One Response to Let them be Little

  1. Jennie Fitzkee says:

    Oh, you always make me think and ponder all that you say. I thank you for that. You are so right on all levels. This is the ideal learning environment for children. How can teachers do this? Baby steps. Look at one thing that you know you can change for the better; a rotating snack to allow children to finish their work, or ‘saving’ that block structure by taking a photo along with the child. Perhaps it’s just being so tuned into the child that the time and schedule isn’t locked in stone. Any step to make that change, now matter how small it might seem to you, is a big step for a child.

    I was struck by “children’s powers of concentration and focus”. This is what happened this week (thank goodness I paid attention!) We were painting some serious art preparing for out Art Show. That day we painted Early Renaissance art. I stained flat pieces of wood, had plenty of gold acrylic paint on hand, plus other colors and sequins. Liam watched the first two painters, when it was his turn he asked for black paint or dark colors, a little gold, and no sequins. Liam did not care at all about the art we were painting. He wanted to paint Starry Night, and he did. On his second go-round he asked for red paint. Red? Yes, there is a tiny red house at the bottom. I’ve never noticed, but Liam did. He was so focused, and I allowed him plenty of time to work. When children are focused, we have to pay attention. My latest blog post gives this full, important story.

    Then, you talk about satisfaction. That’s what drives children (and adults) to go to the next level. A teacher’s praise is terrific, yet nothing beats what a child feels when h/she has ‘done it’. Satisfaction.

    Teachers, all it takes is a baby step, then another. Do what feels right and comfortable for you, and you will make a huge difference for children.

    Marcia, thanks for a wonderful, spot-on blog post.

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