Learning on their own.

by Deb on September 21, 2009

The other evening we went outside after dinner and big girl (about to turn 4!) announced she wanted to play the jumping game.  After a bit of explanation (you put a rock down and jump on the numbers) we worked out she meant hopscotch.

Fair enough, she had obviously played it with someone else so was capable at some level, so I drew the boxes with chalk and off we went.  As an aside – do not play hopscotch barefoot on concrete.  Put decent shoes on. Now when I was playing hopscotch at school there were all sorts of rules that I knew an almost four year old wouldn’t be able to handle, plus I was interested in what she’d been taught, so I just let her go.


It was hard.

I seriously wanted to tell her the rules, then correct her or at least encourage her to do it ‘properly.’ And I did that quite a few times.

But as we kept playing and I watched her I realised the words were just getting in the way.  There were little improvements all the time, and they weren’t the things I was telling her about.

She started picking up the rock then jumping over that square on her way back.

She started putting on foot in each of the 4/5 and 7/8 boxes.

She started jumping to turn at the top.

In other words, I had a vivid and pointed example that little kids don’t need to be ‘taught’, they will learn just by watching you.  It’s like when she started brushing her teeth and kept putting the toothbrush under the water, I realised I do it.  It’s like baby girl emptying the potty in the toilet and saying “Yay!”  Since having kids I’ve been shown that I prefer to use a certain cup, open my drinks in a particular way, and put my glasses on first thing in the morning.

We all know about these ones, we’ve laughed about our toddlers with their hands on their hips telling us we have two choices.  We know they copy us.  But how often do we think to harness the power of that mimicry and forget telling them what to do, just do it yourself and let them watch and copy.

I have a challenge for you – sometime this week when you are doing something new with your child, it could be a craft activity, cooking, sport, anything.  Don’t tell them what to do.  Let them watch and do it with you and see how quickly they pick it up.  Then let us know!

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