I spoke today with a room full of students mid way through their course training on play and brain development. During this hour and half session I presented some information on the major theorists who have and continue to, influence me on how I relate to and with the children and families I work with.
One of my favourite theorists is Lev Vygotsky, and I have included one of his powerful quotes that resonates with me and the power of how now is the only time to learn.
Do you let a person finish before you respond – or do you try to anticipate what they are going to say and perhaps jump in? It is not because we aren’t interested but it is worth considering if we are interrupting because we are enthusiastic about our reply.
It takes time to organise and arrange our thoughts in a shared exchange with another person as a speaker. It also takes time to organise and arrange our thoughts as responses as a listener.
When I ask how well you listen it is because there is a wonderfully respectful technique I was taught that I would like to share with you that could quickly and easily change the way you might view conversations with others, and children in particular.
Reflective listening involves a degree of mirroring back to the speaker what they have just expressed – and shows that you have been not only been giving your full attention, but also imparts that you have taken in what was said and can easily encourage more conversation.
At first, the speaker could enquire why you are repeating their words – and this is very common in children, but when they understand that you want to understand it can become a real ‘game changer’.
Reflective listening is in effect ‘respectful listening’ and will change the way you can interact with children and it can even have the potential to limit or stop those difficult conversations that can leave the parties involved feeling heard and validated.
Recently I have been having many conversations about creativity as I am beginning to open a creative channel that I wasn’t totally certain existed before.
I know that I am not an artist in the sense that I can’t paint or draw to a level that I would be prepared to share with anyone else confidently.
However, I do recognise my creativity as I now don’t try to define it as anything other than what I choose to represent. I have begun to really enjoy writing again as it is for pleasure.
I do recall a couple of years ago not knowing where to start, and it is something that I see in my young students.
It is difficult to face a blank canvas and just expect inspiration to fly out…
having a point of reference or prompt helps with this though.
It is a total process to bring our ideas and visions to life and translate them from thought to image or product; whether that be a piece of art, writing or music or anything else that was once a concept.
I have loved watching as two of my students are falling in love with writing – they are hungry to learn and explore the power of communication. By creating opportunities for them to experiment in everyday contexts it becomes even more meaningful and I believe this to be true whatever stage of life you are at.
It is so humbling to be learning to write at the same time as the children I am guiding from the beginning and hopefully encouraging them to embrace their sense of who they are creatively.
It seems that I have been talking about play non stop these past few days though it has been at the centre of my life ever since I decided to study Early Childhood education over 25 years ago.
I sometimes forget that I know what I know when talking to others about play.
Did you know that there are stages of play?
Play actually begins from very early infancy as connections are established through the attachment of a baby to those who nurture and protect them. There are connections made as communication begins. This continues as children grow and develop as they interact with the world and the people and objects around them.
Once children reach ‘toddlerhood’ then children explore play often in solitude even though there are others around them. It is at this time that there is a desire to experience everything all at once!
Solitary play is an immersive process where the player learns to explore and connect with the things around them.
As children progress and their needs and wants change and they identify themselves as social beings play moves into a parallel experience. An opportunity to start to recognise that others may share the same interests although this does not always mean that the individual participants will have the desire to interact verbally.
Co-operative play occurs when two or more players intentionally share their ideas and experiences and often want to reach a similar outcome from their activity. This is also a time when children get to establish deeper connections with others and explore concepts like turn taking, learning that we all have our own perceptions and relationship building.
“Enter into children’s play and you will find the place where their minds, hearts and souls meet..” Virginia Axline
This, is of course, easier said than done, especially when we feel time poor, feel overwhelmed or if it is just one of those days where it feels like nothing will get done if we don’t intervene as adults. This makes it all the more problematic because the means don’t actually justify the ends.
The term “robbing Peter to pay Paul” comes to mind here, and this often ends up feeling like a haze of unintended anxiousness that permeates our spaces between adults and children.
Each and every time we ‘do’ something for a child that they could have done for themselves inadvertently sends a message that what they are doing is in some way not ‘right’ and when they observe this it can lead to feelings including :
Children want to feel confident and capable as they see modelled around them constantly by older peers and adults who have had the time and experience to develop and refine their skills.
Please let your child have the same opportunity to master tasks and the associated emotions that correlate through the journey of learning, with support, modelling and guidance they deserve.