I just had the pleasure of spending some time at the beach with my kids. I truly enjoyed watching them run in and out of the waves, jump into the swimming pool and play games that needed nothing electronic! For the first day or two, I sat idly by watching their fun and listening to them giggle endlessly. And then it hit me like a ton of bricks: I shouldn’t sit by and just watch their fun, I needed to participate in it with them from beginning to end. And so I did. I enjoyed being knocked around in the waves with them, playing water tag with them and holding hands as we strolled leisurely down the beach searching for the best seashells we could find.
Like parenting, teaching is something that we need to do with the children we encounter each and every day. We must engage and interact with the children through all of the experiences that we offer to them, be it outside time or group time. On occasion, I have seen teachers hide in the corner of the playground or stand quietly by as the children ride bikes and kick balls and create their own experiences. I often wonder, what’s missing from that experience not only for the child but also for the teacher? On the playground, children have the opportunity to use their imaginations and create games with rules all of their own making. They have the opportunity to be leaders and explorers. Teachers have the opportunity to observe the children as they lead and explore and create these games with rules all their own. They also have the chance to observe large muscle activities and have conversations with children about curious new subjects like dirt, or maybe a sound they’ve never heard before.
So, the next time you visit the playground or take a walk around the neighborhood, ask yourself, how can I enhance this experience for children? Participate, enjoy and capitalize on all opportunities that are presented to you, even if that means you get a little dirty. I promise, the memories you will create with children will be that much more meaningful because you were there right along with them, not watching from the side lines.