Observe More, Do Less: Lessons I Learnt During Water Play.

Children Playing with Water

Toddlers and a Water Hose a Recipe for Magic

I love watering the many plants around the centre with the water hose.  I find the task of tending to plants and watering them to be incredibly peaceful and grounding.  It is during this peaceful state of being that I always seem to attract the infants and toddlers.

Water is something that fascinates our young ones.  I love watching them test out their working theories in their rapidly developing brains. The children were drawn to the irresistible urge of placing their hands under running water.

On this particular day; one child was figuring out ways to get the water from her hand into her mouth. There was another little scientist working within the transformation schema. She was turning dirt into mud, and then repeatedly dirtying her hands so that she could wash them clean under the water.

During this time we  chat about the water – how nice and cool it, the scientific processes that are happening and about taking care of plants.

Once I had finished watering the plants I placed the trickling hose on the grass and sat back to watch the magic of play unfold. It wasn’t long before a group of 4 children had congregated around the hose, they ranged between 16 months and 2 1/2 years of age.  There was a bit of squabbling about who would hold the hose.  My immediate response was to intervene and “help” them sort out their conflict.  However I forced myself to sit back and observe how they solved their own problem.  There was a bit of grizzling, but soon the group decided to let one of the children hold the hose and while another children went off to find a bucket to be filled with water.  Once again there was  bit of conflict about the bucket, but soon the one of the children saw that there was another bucket nearby and went off to get it. Now with the conflict resolved, the children happily continued filling buckets, tipping them and then filling and tipping.

Observe More Do Less

I could have so easily intervened and robbed these children of the rich learning of resolving their own conflict. Teachers often fear judgement of being seen to be “not doing their job” by standing back and allowing children to resolve their own conflicts.

Magda Gerber teaches about seeing infants and young children as unique, capable, confident people worthy of respect as individuals.  If we rush into intervene we risk teaching children reliance on an adult to solve their problems and teach them learnt helplessness.

These children did not need a rescuer, they were fully capable of solving their own problem.

According to Alison Gopnik, psychologist and infant brain researcher, infants are born with phenomenal learning abilities, unique gifts, deep thoughts and emotions.

They were capable of solving a problem that some adults find challenging.

Would I have intervened if the situation had escalated and the children had needed my support? Yes, definitely, but it is our job as mindful practitioners is to observe sensitively, look and listen closely and carefully before we respond.  We need to see our children through the lens of being the beautifully, capable human beings that they are.   We need to”be” instead of “do”. Be heart led and intuitive instead of reactive and doing what we perceive others think we should be doing.

We empower our children with our respect and trust in them. They in turn grow up to see themselves as capable, empowered beings.

“Children learn more from what you are than what you teach”  W.E.B DuBois.


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