By Kim Barnes, Head of Early Childhood
Like our Director of Academics, I am gifted daily with times to observe children. Through these short snapshots of time, I learn so much about individual children and children’s behaviors.
Last Friday was no different as I watched a few children on the Explorer Dome. Two children piqued my interest as they seemed to be very purposeful with their play on the climbing net. There, indeed, seemed to be a plan unfolding as each seemed to be questioning the other as they pointed down to the moon swing just under the middle of the net area. About the time I realized there was a plan, one of the girls dropped down on the swing. It seemed their plan was to climb far enough above the swing that they could easily drop down between the ropes to safely land on the swing. The first kindergartner dropped down easily and confidently, the second it took a bit more time and she moved a bit more gingerly as she continued to talk with the child on the swing. But, hooray, she landed well and they swung happily together for a few minutes!
The importance of teaching children to plan out their movements and even to help them break down what a task requires stood out. How often do I do this for children? Am I missing any tasks or jobs or skills that require a plan and would provide a model for future endeavors? In early childhood education, this type of planning is often called scaffolding and is probably most frequently used in social and literacy development. (Have a few stationary minutes in carpool? Google Lev Vygotsky.) However, scaffolding can be used in all aspects of a young child’s life and, frankly, in adult life as well. Take time to think about something that is difficult for you or that you might be afraid to try that you can break down into steps, which can be shared with your child, and then have the plan unfold step by step. Modeling this type of behavior will help a child accomplish things in small chunks and provide personal gratification as she/he moves forward with a skill.
Note – The operative phrase in the last paragraph is difficult for you. With any new endeavor, the gift of patience on the part of all parties is important as there is always struggle, even though that struggle may be short-lived. Scaffolding walks hand in hand with struggle as does the feeling of satisfaction and gratitude (hence the word gratification). Struggle is normal, healthy, and important to the development of each human being. Take time to embrace the struggle and scaffold what struggle in a particular instance might look like.