If you’ve ever struggled with living in the moment with your kids, our partners at Kinderberry Hill share small ways we can seize the moment especially this summer.
Children are masters at teaching us how to live in the moment. This is their natural state- almost all the time. As our adult minds race about time, schedules, commitments. . . children are simply eternally ready to follow curiosity and joy. Honestly, this can take practice, for our over-busy, cluttered adult brains, but these memories and moments are priceless.
As a teacher and parent, this is probably the most important lesson I have learned from children! They truly enjoy the process of creating, building, and discovering. This is play! Adults focus more on the end point.
When children ask to have a lemonade stand, adults quickly go about thinking how to “set this up” for them. However, if we take the time to listen to their thoughts and support them to try their own ideas, learning and confidence grow. Offering to build them a beautiful lemonade stand- though tempting- actually limits the full value of the experience, leaving them only a small part to enjoy.
As a mentor to new teachers, I most enjoy helping them understand that they have the freedom to let children lead. It is ok to stray from planned themes and even typical routines and schedules when fascinating play surprises us. The beauty of play is that no matter what form, children’s brains are making all sorts of connections, discoveries and decisions. This gives our teachers a sense of freedom, knowing we trust them to offer a rich and engaging learning environment to the children they know best. This freedom brings less urgency, angst and worry about getting everything done, and allows teachers to relax and enjoy the moment with the children.
One afternoon, I watched a teacher diligently set up an activity on the playground. Just as she finished setting it up, the children began excitedly showing her land slugs they had found under a rock. They began eagerly digging for worms and other creatures in the damp dirt. I watched this teacher pivot in the blink of an eye. She was immediately “in the moment” with them. Her original activity was still set up, but she was capitalizing on the learning opportunity taking place right then. She began to share their interest, listen to their ideas, and encourage curiosity. Their joy and excitement was absolutely contagious! More children started to gather and turn over rocks. This was where they wanted to be- in the present- discovering and learning together. Eventually, they built habitats for a few critters, used magnifying glasses to list characteristics, measured them, researched what they ate. . . and much more. This is how children learn best, with curiosity and joy.
What if we follow this lead with our own children? Is it possible to put down our phones?
It seems unfair these chiming little machines can pull us out of the moment at any time. Break free from this burden from time to time. Leave your phone on the counter while you and your child explore the backyard. You will not regret it! More than likely, you will enjoy some much needed, conversation, eye contact and wisdom from one of your favorite people on earth!
Tips to seize the moment:
- Get ready to pivot! We have plans and expectation- children do not. Get ready to shift gears quickly. You may feel as though you are fleeting from one thing to the next with your child, but what you are actually doing is sharing in their curiosity and joy.
- Be comfortable with quiet. Often, we feel the need to ask questions of children. Enjoy the quiet sometimes. Let them share ideas or questions and follow their lead.
- Look at their eyes. Eye contact is the most important component for connection. Look at your child’s eyes when they are talking. This let’s them know you value their words and opinions. This will build their confidence and your connection.
- Schedule one-on-one time every day. Our schedules get so busy, but even just 15 minutes can make a big difference to a child. (and you!) When children know they are guaranteed time to connect, their stress levels lower. This also shows, you value time with them. Use this time well! Make sure it is uninterrupted and your child can take the lead as to what to share, talk about or do.
Remember, when you are feeling pulled in a million different directions, look at your child. I dare say, they may be more balanced and content than many of us adults! Then, remember, ten years from now, when you hear their voice on an old video clip, you will not believe how small it sounds. Go! Soak up every minute and enjoy seizing some beautiful memories with your child.
While we try to teach our children all about life. . .our children teach us what life is all about.
Sara Reichstadt is the Education Coordinator for the seven NAEYC-accredited Twin Cities Kinderberry Hill Child Development Centers. Sara earned a bachelor’s degree in Child Psychology from the University of Minnesota, where she trained in the Shirley G. Moore Lab School. Sara, who has been with Kinderberry Hill since 1999, has taught in infant, toddler and preschool classrooms as well as serving in management positions. As Education Coordinator, Sara helps implement curriculum, offer classroom support and conduct teacher trainings. Sara is also a MNCPD (Minnesota Center for Professional Development) registered trainer in the SEEDS of Early Literacy Program. She is passionate about early education and helping children, teachers and families. Sara has two young children and knows firsthand the importance of a quality early education.