My 40th birthday is just a couple of days away. I've spent more than half of my life working with young children. My first inkling that I wanted to work with young children came to me when I took the American Red Cross babysitting course one summer when I was 12 years old. From then, I spent my weekends and summers babysitting, went to college and got a degree in child development, worked in a lab preschool, went back to college for a master's degree in ECE, taught other adults about best practices, had my own three children, and opened my own preschool. You get the idea. Wow, that feels like a lot when I list it out like that. I really am getting old.
I've been thinking about turning 40 and what that means for me personally, and for my career. Personally, I am on my way to being in the best shape of my life--both mentally and physically. I feel at peace about returning to homeschooling my own children.
Professionally, I am without a doubt on the right track to being exactly where I want to be. Helping moms and educators create spaces that serve children in the best ways. You want to know who the people are that have shaped me the most over these past 40 years of life? The people who have given me the best life lessons and had the greatest impact?
I want to share some of what I have learned from them over the past 2+ decades.
- Children are brutally honest ("Ew your breath smells!").
- They are sensory beings. They learn through all of their senses. Which means...
- They are loud,
- they are messy,
- and they have to touch everything.
- Children need to be outside (we all do, but especially children).
- Children forgive easily. So when you make a mistake, it's usually a much bigger deal to you than it is to them.
- Sticks are the #1 best toy. They turn into swords, lasers, oars, and so many other things.
- Children are simple beings.
- All children love books. Until we force them to read too early. Then they lose their love of reading. Don't push too hard too early. Which leads me to my next point....
- Children are capable beings. Let them be and they will show you.
- All children are brilliant in their own ways.
- No two children are the same. Let me say that again. No two children are the same. Even children with the same DNA are usually vastly different. Once our society stops educating them as carbon copies of one another, I believe the world will change for the better.
- Remember what I said about sticks? Cardboard boxes are a close second.
- Children gravitate towards natural materials. And as a result, toys made from natural materials are actually better for their development. Read more about that HERE.
- More about toys: Less is more. Quality over quantity. Because...
- ...children are easily overstimulated by too much stuff. And...
- ...babies put everything in their mouths. Would you rather your baby put a bamboo teether in her mouth or a teether made from toxic plastic? Moving on.
- Young children respond to songs. Clean-up, toothbrushing, helping them to sleep. Songs are magic.
- Children thrive with a rhythm to their days. Not a rigid schedule.
- Children need down time.
- Children need rest.
- When children are upset, especially babies, give them water to play in (or give them a bath) or take them outside.
- Young children are not here for us to "train" into mini adults.
- They are unique individuals who deserve respect and nurturing.
- Children learn more in the first 5 years of their lives than they do the rest of the years of their lives combined. Let that sink in.
- Children and animals are best friends.
- Children learn best through PLAY!
- Children shouldn't be entertained by adults.
- They will learn to "entertain" themselves if given the time, space and materials to do so.
- All children have the desire to climb. Let them climb the tree.
- 3 words. Macaroni and cheese.
- Pacifiers won't ruin their teeth. Nor will milk. Instill good tooth brushing habits and the rest is genetics.
- The laughs of children are the most wonderful sounds in the world.
- Young children remind us what life is all about. Being present, appreciating the little things. Keeping it simple.
- Children have a sixth sense for kind-heartedness. They gravitate towards good people.
- Children know how to listen to their bodies. Trust them if they say (or show you) that they are full or hungry.
- When children spend time in nature, they grow to love it. And will, in turn, want to take care of it.
- Young children give the best hugs.
- They grow up way too fast.
Cheers to the children and everything they've taught me over the years. As I approach forty, I couldn't be more grateful for my time with them. Mine, yours and theirs.