Is it time to learn?
Quite some time ago, I borrowed Reuben’s childminder’s notes on child development stages and early learning. I diligently read through and took photos of the relevant pages about what Reuben should be doing to fulfil the child development stages for his age. I’ve since done very little with it. It was going to take a lot of effort fully digest what on earth it was talking about and what all the jargon meant! So, I pushed it to the back of my mind to “pick up” in the New Year.
Child Development Stages
Well, here we are and I’m still less than tempted to look back at my notes filled with child development stages ‘stuff’. I had written in my list of blog ideas that I should plan activities for Reuben on our days together that would match a certain development stage so I could then write about it. And, while this is a lovely idea, I can’t quite bring myself to do it!
Then I read an article clipping by Hattie Garlick, that my mate Cath had ripped out of her newspaper for me. Remember Hattie? I wrote about her this time last year in free games for kids as she embarked on a year of no kiddie spending and striving for simplicity. I really related to what she was trying to do. And, almost a year on, Hattie was writing her pre-Christmas tale in The Times.
The main anecdote that is stuck in my mind from this article was after Hattie had spent hours preparing an elaborate dragon hunt for a group of toddlers. What were they really interested in? The dog poo they had walked passed on the other side of the park.
This has got me thinking that perhaps all my future efforts at this stage are a little bit futile and will potentially be unappreciated. What Reuben wants more than anything is for me to stand in a bus station for half an hour so he can shout “B-BUS” at all the buses or occasionally “B-BAN” at the odd passing van. He wants to roll around in some soggy leaves, or poke a puddle with a stick. With that in mind, I’d quite like a take-away latte, a park bench and potentially a book from my reading list…so, in theory, it could be happy days for both of us. As Hattie says in her article, the dog poo incident made her realise “sub-section A of the simplicity rule: lazy parenting is often good parenting.” Amen sista.
Child Development Stages minus the jargon
And I don’t mean that in a “phew, I can just sit back and relax” way. I mean it in a “I don’t have to stay up for hours trying to decipher some jargon about child development stages or put together elaborate plots for imaginative play (just yet)” way. It is OK to go to the park and poke a puddle with him, shouting and waving at some buses on the way past.
It’s also OK to allow him to play aimlessly in and around the house – he comes up with new ways to play with his cars and toys everyday. I think he just needs me not to interfere as much! And it turns out that I didn’t just invent that myself – there’s actual fact to back this up and it’s called “Divergent Thinking”. This is your ability to come up with lots of different possible answers to a question. This is where creativity stems from. In this AMAZING talk (and animation, below) by Ken Robinson he discusses a US study in which 98% of the kindergarten kids tested for divergent thinking got top scores. The repeat tests demonstrate that as these children grow their scores, i.e. their ability to think divergently, diminishes. So guess what you and I aren’t very good at?! He talks about a whole host of things relating to child development stages, which are truly facinating and have really got me thinking, so I’d recommend you have a watch!
It seems to me that all the jargon in the child development stages book is trying to describe, is what happens anyway if you talk to a child regularly and give them loads of opportunity for independent play. I can imagine that it’s quite hard to put that into words! But because my childminder has to be accountable, according to Ofsted, for keeping track of the child development stages she is encouraging and witnessing every day, she needs a way to be able to write about it.
Which brings me on to my other bone about child development stages…you’re child might be singing the alphabet backwards but if he’s not reached a certain development stage that he should have, you freak out. Health visitors say this probably 2000 times a day, and that’s probably because it’s bloody true! ALL CHILDREN ARE DIFFERENT. So, I’d quite like to stop shoehorning Reuben into what he should be doing and let me tell me what he wants to do.
Child Development Stages plus some instincts
As a mother, I feel like I trust nature and instincts. I understand that as they get older there is a need for more structured learning (although after watching the video above, I’m wondering about that too now!) but right now, Reuben generally has little to no interest in “organised fun”. We go to my favourite music group, Piccolos, because it’s magical to me and I love a good sing song. But in all honesty, at this stage he has his own agenda mainly centring around his new found freedom (walking), the door and the buscuit tin.
I generally know that if I’m really procrastinating about something, I should put it aside a bit longer. I’m going to take Reuben’s lead and for now, and he’d rather be playing with his train set or cars, reading a book or opening and closing (read: slamming) doors. And instinctively I know he’s doing fine.
As an aside: when I started writing this, that day my childminder had had a visit from Ofsted to assess her performance. She had to prepare an activity for the children and Reuben was there so I got to hear all about it afterwards. The Ofsted woman gave advice and said my childminder needed to take Reuben away from distractions if he was going to engage in an activity, so away from toys, music, and his favourite books, to a quiet room (remind you of Ken’s video above again? The bit about ADHD?). She also said the door to the garden should be left open so that Reuben can take himself outside at free will! While I love the idea of this and, in fact, did it throughout the summer, surely some kind of dog flap would be better? You can’t leave the doors open all day…it’s her home and it’s winter!