I believe that children should have a lot of say in how they learn. In the world of traditional schooling, creative input in their own learning path is not nearly as important as prompt and unquestioning obedience to the assigned educator. WE decide what they learn. THEIR job is to do as they’re told. Shut up and learn, more or less. I believe that following this rigid, non-adaptive structure is very damaging to the natural joy of learning that all young children innately have. When we follow THEIR interests instead of forcing them to follow our imaginary timeline of when and what they have to learn, then everything just clicks into place and connects better.
In our home, we talk about how we will spend our time and my 3 year old has a major say in the activities we do. I don’t care how old he is- I genuinely respect his ideas. His game plan is often more successful than the one I’d had in mind- of course it would be, children know what their interests are! Don’t we all?
We should allow them to explore those interests, just as we should be free to explore ours (so long as they’re not harmful, of course). I want my children to grow up to follow their dreams, to think for themselves, to think outside the box, to be creative, and to respect others. I don’t think the way to do that is to raise a child to be submissively compliant and without a voice.
I will blog more in the future about peaceful parenting as a lifestyle for our family and how it looks in our home on a day-to-day basis.
For this post, I want to explain that Rocket decides a lot about what we do. If I introduce an idea and he rejects it, I listen to why and either adjust how we’re doing it or don’t do it at all. And if he introduces an idea, I also listen and it often becomes very exciting for both of us!
Rocket chose this ABC Flower Shop activity out of a book we checked out from the library- The Giant Encyclopedia Of Learning Center Activities.
I think flowers stood out to him because my mom had recently brought us this beautiful Amaryllis plant:
They hadn’t bloomed yet when she gave it to us and she’d told us that there would be 4 flowers – one to represent each member of our family (me, my husband, Songbird, and Rocket). We checked daily until each and every one of us had blossomed!
It turns out there is a 5th flower on the way. We call that one O Pho (my mom).
So flowers were on Rocket’s mind. When he saw the ABC Flower Shop sketched out in the book, he really wanted to give it a try. And when my child is eager to learn, I’m certainly not holding him back!
So I set the thing up for him in our open living room, right by the fireplace:
A close-up of the flower shop:
I cut flowers out of construction paper and taped them to Popsicle sticks. Then I wrote the lower-case letters on them and stuck them in bowls full of “dirt”.
Behind them, I lined up Styrofoam cups bottoms-up with the upper-case letters written on them. On the closed end of the cups, I cut a slit so that the flowers could be stuck inside and matched to the right cup. These Styrofoam cups were the “flower pots”.
The flowers were stuck in the “dirt”, which was actually composed of black beans!
Don’t be fooled by all the letters and matching. There was no pressure to perform; this was 100% dramatic play. The matching was just part of the important work of the florist! We traded off being the florist and the customer.
Matching the lower-case letter flowers to the upper-case letter pots.
This activity was great for developing Rocket’s fine motor skills.
As always, Songbird was very curious about what her big brother was doing. Unfortunately, because her ultimate mission in life at that moment was to put the beans in her mouth, I held her for most of our play at the flower shop.
But every once in a while, I put her down and she went straight for the beans- stopping only to look back and give me this sly, mischievous smile! She knew she was being a troublemaker!!
Songbird WAS involved in a different way, despite that babies were not allowed to roam freely in the “flower shop”. Rocket decided that when each flower was purchased, he’d bring it back to his house- this bench on the opposite end of the living room:
Arranging his newly purchased flowers!
And for whom was he buying all these beautiful flowers?
She loved her bouquet of letters.
Mostly, she loved all the hugs, kisses, and lovin’ from her big brother and her mama!
I didn’t have a whole lot of anything planned for the day we did this, so I’m grateful for Rocket’s awesome suggestion. Through this activity alone, we:
- reinforced letter recognition. He knows his uppercase and lowercase letters, but reinforcement is always a good thing- especially since we’ve been working on the early reading skill of blending.
- worked on fine motor skills. Fitting the Popsicle sticks in the Styrofoam cups required deep concentration!
- used creative energy through dramatic play. Going back and forth from the bench to the flower shop, we “drove a car”. We also had to close the shop a few times, once to use a baby walker and “clean the carpets” and several other times because it was nighttime and the shop was closed.
- got the wiggles out. We did a lot of running back and forth from the “house” to the “flower shop!”
- emphasized a message of love, compassion, and kindness to others. The entire dramatic play was about buying flowers to show someone you care, and it was even all inspired by the fact that my mom did just that for us!
We spent our evening practicing letters, fine motor skills, gross motor skills, and love for others! And it was Rocket’s plan, not mine. An amazing thing happens when we trust our children to teach themselves and commit to fostering their growth with their own interests leading the way.
It’s also been so nice to be surrounded by colorful flowers in the wintertime- even if they are mostly construction paper cut-outs!