“Stand aside for a while and leave room for learning, observe carefully what children do, and then, if you have understood well, perhaps teaching will be different from before.” ~ Loris Malaguzzi
As nannies we have all observed what happens when children are given autonomy to play. While doing nanny work I was very often left astounded occasionally at how rich young children’s imaginations could be. I would watch as my little friend who was three years then immersed himself in the company of his friends, Woody, Buzzlight Year and Jessie. These very sacred times during play gave me a glimpse of what this child was feeling. Through his independent, non-directed play I was able to recognize the things he was happy with and likewise the conflicts that existed in his little mind.
I often overheard how Buzz didn’t share with his friend Woody and I would watch him teach Buzz about the importance of sharing with others. Coincidentally, the voices he used to convey these messages were very often that of his mother and sometimes my voice. It’s weird how he was able to mimic my southern Caribbean accent. Then there were the days that he would have it out with Jessie because she apparently kept saying “go away” to her friends. I would hear him tell her that she needed to be considerate about other people’s feelings and how it was unkind to use words to hurt others. These were the very simply life lessons that we were teaching him everyday. To hear him use them so appropriately during his independent play, when he was free to go into his own imaginary world, is one of the most beautiful experiences I’ve had working as a nanny.
Although I was not directly involved in his play during these times I was an observer to something very beautiful and in many ways I was a silent participant. I simply enjoyed watching him and feeling proud that collectively as the adults in this child’s life, mom, dad, grandma and nanny were all helping raise a beautiful boy who was free to play independently; free to go on all the great explorations his little mind took him on especially while he was wearing his Batman cape. But most importantly, this child also benefited by having very engaging adults in his life who understood when to interact and direct his play likewise when it was time for him to play independently.
I believe that caring and raising children requires balance. It’s certainly not a one size fits all model. While I’m in no place to judge parents who advocate hovering over children at all times, I must say that “sometimes we must step aside and allow ourselves room to observe children; room for us to learn more about them.” Giving them the ability to make decisions about play and to be able to play independently without us initiating that play teaches them about decision-making and helps foster a sense of independence in young children. A child that’s independent and one that’s able to take initiative are usually very confident children. I hope we all can see how important it is to have balance when caring for children- to be able to give them space to explore their creativity independently and to know also that it’s very important to spend time fueling young children’s imaginations through our participation during their playtime.
To My Augielicious, Delicious….I hope you keep playing and having fun! I hope you remind Buzz how important it is to be kind to others. I hope you remember to choose your words wisely and to know that words matter, I hope when you feel totally frustrated; like your little world is crashing- that you take time out to go into a Turtle Pose and while you are there-I hope you remember how much Lene loves you!