Welcome back to school, everyone! As we move into the month of January, we are constantly noticing all of the ways in which our Crickets have grown since the fall. Every day provides new surprises and milestones. It is so exciting to see children grow and master things that they have been working on!
As this process of mastery occurs, children begin to set new challenges for themselves. With these new challenges, calls of "Help me!" echo across the play yard and classrooms. These calls of "Help!" provoke an interesting balancing act for us as teachers. We want the children in our care to always feel supported, comforted, and held by the adults in their lives. We want them to feel that we are always there for them when they need us.
At the same time, we also want the children in our care to feel confident and independent. We want to send them the message that we believe in their abilities, that we believe them to be competent and capable individuals who can find their way through all kinds of challenges and overcome all sorts of obstacles. Experiences with setting one's own challenges, then figuring out a way to accomplish one's own goal foster resilience, creativity, and persistence. They are also a big part of the benefit of open-ended play. Motor challenges are a huge area of learning about problem-solving, particularly for our very youngest Crickets. The challenges that children set for themselves are not necessarily the same challenges that adults tend to value, and so observation and a shift in perspective can be necessary to really understand what a child is attempting to do, and to allow them the space to move through their process.
What happens when they really can't do it? This may involve a joint judgment call between the teacher and child. Teachers attempt to provide just enough assistance for a child to accomplish the goal on their own. But sometimes, children decide that they are finished with that particular challenge, and move on to something else. At times, teachers might give a little push, but at other times, we choose to respect a child's decision to walk away from something that no longer feels important to them. Through self-determined challenges, children learn their own limits, and figure out how to work with them. For this reason, we do not always lift a child onto a swing, climber, or tree branch that they quite do on their own yet, even if other children are doing so. They learn to make choices, to decide what is worth spending their time on. They learn to be comfortable with who they are, where they are at, and to be ok with the fact that while some things come easy, others may require a lot of work and effort.
So the next time you see Wheelhouse teachers watching and smiling while your child cries "Help!" or grunts in frustration, please know that it's not out of cold-heartedness! It's because we have seen firsthand the pride that come from figuring something out on their own, we treasure those experiences for the children in our care, and we want to do everything we possibly can to provide opportunities for that joyful thrill. We wait, and are often rewarded by another cry echoing across the play yard... "Look! I did it!"