I’m currently studying a distance learning masters module in Learning Outdoors in Early Childhood, and during our most recent face to face days we were encouraged to take some valuable time out to refect on our own practice, and I was introduced to a wonderful term which reminded me of the importance of stopping to take in the view, ‘slowliness’. So often as parents and in child care, we get engrossed in results, targets, next steps, plans,destinations, milestones, and getting from A to B, that we forget to just ‘be’. If we stop making plans, stop hurrying children along, then we open up the possibility to foster the amazing potential of slowliness, allowing children the valuable time and space to lead their own learning. It is only then that the true value of play and exploration shows itself. I’ve come to realise that in making plans for children’s learning, as well intended as this may be, we are all too often unwittingly or unknowingly nudging their learning and experiences towards that of our own adult led direction, influenced by our adult perception of what the children need or want. In doing so we and the children are missing out on discovering the amazing potentials of child led play.
I experienced this recently during a walk with the children I work with. We had planned on taking a group walk to the nearby farm to visit a newly born calf. The children were all excited to meet the new arrival so off we went. During the walk I soon began to feel frustrated as I noticed that we, the adults were hurrying the children along, ensuring they kept to the path as we had our destination and time restraints in mind. When the children stopped, not for the first time, to play in an area of trees off the path I realised that they had made other plans, the prospect of meeting the calf was no longer their purpose or drive. While we adults had been keeping our eye on the end goal, we failed to see that the real goals and potential were all around us, the children reminded us that there is beauty and adventure in the journey. This is when we stopped, we followed the children’s lead and allowed them the time to explore the wonders of the old tree which had become their (current) new destination and focus. In doing so I observed some wonderful discovery-rich play and exploration. One child took herself off to sit on a tree stump away from the other children, she began investigating a clump of dead plants and examined the tangled roots, breaking them up in to smaller pieces. Two children went ‘fishing’ in a pool of water which had formed in a crevice of the tree. Another climbed over the large exposed tree roots while his friend made herself comfortable in a ‘bed’ which the base of the tree had provided.
On reflection, by adopting slowliness we had truely allowed the children to shape their own learning, they each took what they needed from that tree, whether it be a place to relax, to climb, to play, or to investigate, they had all managed perfectly well to find this for themselves without any planning or nudging from us adults.
We never did get to visit the baby calf that afternoon. But there’ll always be other opportunities, and in the mean time, who knows where slowliness and the wonder of children’s play will take us! 🙂
Posted by Home Grown Play