How to: Follow the lead of the child
How many times have you pinned the perfect play activity for your child? You gather all the materials to make that cool sensory box you saw on Facebook, put it all together excited to share it with your toddler and then five seconds later your toddler is playing with your phone. Try this instead: take a deep breath and just follow the lead of your child. Although this may seem simple to do, it is often difficult to let go of control and just simply be with your child. Before embarking on your next playdate with your child try to keep these simple tips in mind:
1. Let go of what “it” is supposed to look like
a. It is easy to get swept away in what playing with your child should look like. Take this playground. I took my daughter Taylor to the playground and yes my thought was that we would climb up the steps and slide down the slide. Nope. Take a look at that lonely playground. Here is Taylor instead playing in the dirt. But this is what is beautiful about childhood, they are brought into this world free of those notions of what they “should” be doing. With this freedom they are giving you a new window to the world. Take the time to look through their window and you too might discover that awesome pile of dirt right next to the playground you have often ignored.
2. Remind yourself you are doing a great job
a. We all want to be the perfect parent for our children. But we can’t and people are going to judge us for it. Oh well. Yep, people passed us sitting there in the dirt. It would have been easy for me to have been embarrassed that my child was pulling pine needles off of the tree or ashamed that I (gasp!) had my phone out taking pictures of my child instead of just being present in the moment. Guess what? I am a great parent. Even if I don’t make my child go the “right” way up the slide or if I let her pull leaves off the tree or even if I responded to a text on my phone while I was playing with her. And although I may have never met you I am sure you are a great parent too. You love your child, your child loves you, you do your best and that’s all you can really do.
3. Your child is doing what is appropriate for his or her developmental level at this moment
a. Taylor would not walk on her own until she was 17 months and never really crawled. I meet other babies who have not stopped moving since they got out of the womb and were running by 10 months. It’s all normal. Some babies and toddlers like to sit and look at books, others prefer to throw them. They are each cultivating the skill that is important to them. Again, that is what is great about childhood. They instinctively go to what attracts them, they are not bound to what society thinks they should be doing. Let them explore, let them be their own unique individual. The world will try to push them into society’s norms soon enough.
I hope next time you are playing with your child you will give yourself the time and space to just sit back and observe. Cherish those little moments, the spaces in between where your child is just being, because that is where the growth and learning is truly taking place.