Life rarely goes as planned and often throws wrenches in our carefully placed gears. Whether it is an unexpected thunderstorm, late bus, or even spilled oatmeal, it can set an ominous tune to the day. Working with children exemplifies the odds of plans being derailed. At Green Apple, we not only learn to roll with it, we learn to embrace it. One of the most important lessons I have learned working with children is to let go of my plans or preconceived notions and observe the situation for what it’s potential is.
A few weeks ago we had a stormy morning that halted our plan of going outside. I carefully prepared invitations for my group based on our theme and eagerly waited for the children to jump into them. I watched as they bypassed the feathers, beads, and magnets and headed straight for the dolls. They then proceeded to crawl under the tables acting out a “family” and adding picnic supplies to their collection.
My instinct was to redirect them out from under the tables and try to spark their interest in what I had set out. Instead I observed. I watched as they ducked in and out bumping their heads but not minding as the created a secret place only they could fit. Ah Ha!
I grabbed a blanket, the extra pillows, and some tacks and headed to a corner. Intrigued the group soon followed. We quickly assembled a blanket fort and they took over. Soon there were 8 little bodies bobbing in and out with dolls, pillows, and pretend food completely immersed in their own world. This engagement continued the entire morning and again in the afternoon as my carefully planned invitations sat untouched on the tables.
Instead of being discouraged at the failed attempt to perceive their interests, I realized that I had projected my own enjoyment of loose parts onto the group and was glad I could let go of that and find what the children were really intrigued with. I was able to read into their actions and act accordingly; embracing spontaneity. It reminds me to be flexible and ready to switch whatever I had in mind as it may lead to a more valuable experience. Not being able to go outside felt at first like a disappointment but revealed a possible new theme.
I encourage you, as hard as it might be, to enjoy the possibilities and not to get held up on plans. Life throws countless obstacles at us each day and often gives new opportunities. You never know what you or your family might gain from those surprises; whether it be a new route to school, a chance to practice autonomy and independence, or even an unexpected new interest.