Month: June 2011

“Patience Young Grasshopper”

Is the secret to great architecture simply a matter of patience? Today I watched a 4 year old channel his inner David Carradine from “Kung Fu” as he attempted to build several complex structures only to be “helped” by some other less focused individuals ranging in age from 3 to 22. Charlie is our resident “Bob the Builder” at school and while I always knew he was capable of making some amazing train tracks and buildings, I never knew he literally had the patience of a saint.  When I first pulled the tubes and wooden stands out, of course all the kids on the playground hustled over and were very excited (because if the teacher’s pulling something out, it must be good, right?). So a little chaos ensues at first and Charlie (in blue striped shirt) waits patiently for his cue to intervene with some advice.

and just to give you an idea of what kind of “help” he’s working with…………………..

Not surprisingly, the less architecturally inclined kids lose interest and start to give Charlie some building space and wow, he’s quick with the ideas!

But of course, we hear from the peanut gallery “Let’s bust it!” It was all I could do not to intervene (and I almost did), but with a voice and tone of someone much wiser than 4, Charlie simply says, “No, I’m building” and the catastrophe is averted. As I spend the next couple minutes marveling at both the social-emotional development of this architect in waiting, and the magic of play-based curriculums that teach these kids how to handle situations like this, Charlie decides to move the entire structure over to another side of the playground where he can utilize the rocks and logs in his design.

He still has one “apprentice” with him and one well-intentioned teacher decides to come help too.  The teacher offers some advice and in one of the funnier moments of the day, Charlie tactfully replies, “Um Sean, I think that cannot work. I have a better idea”.

Are you kidding me what this kid can build?! He’s like MacGyver in a 4 year old body.

The 3 year old apprentice is still hanging around and I will completely throw myself under the bus and admit that he was even annoying me. He had an innate ability to knock down what Charlie had just put up so carefully. I’m starting to wonder if it’s Charlie’s complete and utter confidence in his own ability to fix and build a structure that gives him so much patience with the other kids? I would be throwing a tantrum of insane magnitude in this situation!

This whole afternoon reminded me of the first time I heard Lisa Murphy, aka “The Ooey Gooey Lady” speak at a conference in Denver. Among the many nuggets of advice and wisdom she doled out that day, the one that really hit home for me was “It’s great if your kid can count to 100 in French, but if they can’t get their shovel back from another kid, it won’t help them much”. So cheers to Charlie for being able to build skyscrapers out of plastic tubes, some wood and duct tape. But immensely more impressive to watch this 4 year old demonstrate an adult level of patience, persistence and concentration. Life lessons, young grasshopper.


The only instruction: “Please try not to whack your friends in the head”

Wooden ramps make great swords! But wow, they kinda hurt when you catch one in the face……much safer to use as a “reacher thing” or a shovel:) We heard “I tall!” and “I can touch the tree!” over and over with such excitement. I definitely wouldn’t have imagined this as a use for them but admittedly, we’re a little short on the wooden balls that go with the ramps. So rather than potentially argue with a friend about wooden balls and try to share (boring social skill that no adult has actually mastered, admit it), why not just use them to try and touch stuff?

It’s so fun to imagine the dialogue in their little toddler heads……………..

“Does this part fit into this red tube thing? Will it stand up by itself?”

“But wait! These things are kind of like shovels! We can dig with them! And pour!”

                            “and hmmmm if I lay it across the table like a bridge, it’s fun to pour sand into it………….

                                                                                                                                              but whoa! really fun to make it like a slide! The sand goes down into the table!”

“So what if I step on the little bridge? Wonder if it’ll hold me? Been seriously chugging milk lately and bustin out of my size 4 diapers………”

“Suzy just turned on the water! I’m SO taking this thing to the water table!”

“Did you see how the water goes down the ramp? Our teacher’s like a magician! I wanna try that!”

and 2 hours later, no ramp injuries and not one fight over the balls- a successful day in any Toddler classroom. The lesson of not interfering with kids playing or experimenting just never gets old for me as a teacher or a parent. Our old minds have definitely lost a step in the creativity department compared to these little ones and if we impart too much of our “wisdom” we’re liable to stifle their play and imagination. I am constantly amazed at the way these not-even-2 year olds can play with something like a bunch of wooden ramps and manage to go several hours without hurting themselves or anyone else.  As parents and teachers we need to give them so much more credit than we do!