Look at Me! Look at Me!

“Becoming a careful observer of young children reminds us that what might be ordinary at first glance is actually quite extraordinary.  A string of “ordinary” moments for a child becomes like a bead on a necklace, each one unique, though related to the others, combining to create a work of wonder.” – from The Art of Awareness by Deb Curtis and Margie Carter

When you look at your child, what do you see?  Perhaps it’s the shiny blue eyes that mirror your own.  Maybe it’s that familiar nose or the dark, wavy hair.  And maybe you see a budding teacher, artist or musician.  But what else do you see?

Every day your child is doing something or saying something that provides a beautiful window into her developing traits and personality.  During the preschool years, your child’s wondrous individuality is truly beginning to form.

Christopher was thrilled about the classroom “trip” to the imaginary Grasshopper Park.  When the children were asked what animal they saw in the park, the other children responded with bird, squirrel, dog, cat, skunk.  Christopher, on the other hand, saw a dinosaur — the same dinosaur he saw on a recent family trip to Science City.  And that’s how it goes in class, whether your child is 6 months or 6 years, we want to encourage a lot of individuality, creativity, and personal expression as we work to foster a classroom that truly “follows the child.”

Following the Child is a Montessori concept expressing the idea that children learn best when they are allowed to lead and even direct the learning experience.  What does that look like in the classroom?

  • A baby claps his hands at the start of class leading the teacher to say “Are  you ready to clap hello today, Will?”
  • Teachers constantly monitor and choose to extend activities, repeat activities, or move on based on the reactions and inclinations of the children.
  • Babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and big kids are all given the opportunity to explore and discover how props or instruments might be used on their own.  “Look at how Sarah is rolling her sticks on the floor.  Sam likes to use his sticks to tap his knees.  Eli is making the letter L with his sticks.”  The kids ideas are then incorporated into the following activity.
  • Older toddlers, preschoolers, and big kids begin to add to stories and songs creating new ideas and verses.
  • Movement exploration is often built from the kids’ ideas and extended from there.

And the kids love it.  Not only does it mean class often moves in a direction that interests them, but the validation is satisfying.  Listen to the rising confidence in your child’s voice as she expresses her opinions during class.  Such expression will help her as she begins to pick out different sounds while listening to a song and then describe which sounds she likes and why.  Take note of his original thoughts and ideas – and how he relates a concept to a previous learning experience.  Then watch his face light up as his idea is utilized in class.  Sometimes the teacher even thinks their ideas are important enough to write them down!  That must mean his ideas are really special!

Kindermusik allows your child to express his thoughts, actions, and imagination in his own way.  There is no right or wrong.  By soliciting and incorporating a child’s ideas and feelings into each lesson, we are affirming that their thoughts and ideas are important and worth exploring.  Each little success is noticed and celebrated.

And you can “follow the child” at home, too.  Now’s the time to “stop, look, and listen” as your child begins to cross the street of independence and individuality.  More importantly, you can cross the street with him by taking some steps to help nurture his budding originality.  For example:

  • Let your baby take the lead as you play peekaboo, determining how long the game goes one, whether you hide or she does.  When her interest wanes, let her show you what she wants to play next.
  • Listen closely and respond to your toddlers thoughts and ideas – let her lead the way when it comes to navigating around the zoo…or let her make up the rules to the game.
  • Encourage the “process” by allowing your preschoolers to “try,” then offer positive reinforcement for his effort.
  • Solicit your big kid’s opinions on various subjects – why does she like or dislike a certain song or type of music?

Not only does “following the child” provide greater creativity, independence, and problem solving skills, but it also helps you stop and tune in more fully to all those moments you share together helping you make memories that last a lifetime.

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