Friday, September 25, 2015

Reaching Out: How Young Children Connect

How do young children connect? How do relationships form? We observe that all children want to connect with each other, and they go about it in nuanced ways, using eye contact, body language and, of course, a smile, to forge new friendships. It is the second full week of school and we are already seeing these children reach out to one another with joy.                                                                         

Without using words, these children shared strawberries, delighting in their communal play.

Laughter is a great connector.
Acts of compassion, even those from pretend play, foster positive emotions and strengthen bonds. Here the children are helping each other out of the "mud."

These children mirrored each other's actions for several minutes, becoming more engaged with each motion.

Finding connections fosters a sense of security and increases self confidence.

Stepping Back: Watching Children Solve a Problem

Uh oh. A ball got stuck in a bamboo pipe. How could we reach it? Of course the children's first idea was to come to a teacher, but I put on my best innocent, quizzical face and said, "Oh dear. It's stuck. Does anyone have any ideas for getting it out?"

Many children assured me they could help, but their hands were too big to fit in the pipe. They also tried to push it out with another ball, but that didn't work either. They could think of no other way to solve the problem. Since they were stumped, I suggested we write a note to another classroom of older children to ask for help. They wrote a note to the Garden Room.
Another ball did not push the stuck ball out.

It's really far down in there.

The Garden Room children were eating snack, but one child had an idea right away. "I know how to get it out! You need something smaller to stick in it. We could try my sword."
A Garden Room child pushes the ball out with his sword, while a Forest Room child watches.

After watching the Garden Room child carefully, this Forest Room child promptly came back to our classroom and stuck the ball back in the bamboo pipe. I watched as he started to put his hand in, then stopped. I could see him thinking. Was he remembering that his hand didn't work? He looked around the classroom and found a magnetic wand, which he used to push the ball out. He was so pleased with himself that he repeated the process many times.

Magnetic wand in hand, ready to pop the ball out.

How capable young children are! By not interfering, but only supporting, I was privileged to watch an older child help a younger one solve a problem, and watch the younger one apply this new knowledge in his classroom. We love these cross-age learning opportunities, and the constant ways children show us their thinking, if we only step back and allow them the time and space to do their work.