“I need help," said the young three-year-old.“ She showed me exactly what was needed in order to begin her creation with recycled cardboard. Asking that I hold the pieces in place, she taped them together. Previously, she had used recycled paper tubes that were connected vertically with colored tape. This time, I noticed she had chosen the cardboard insert from a wide roll of tape with the plan of connecting several toilet-paper tubes at right angles, like rays of a sun. It was an ambitious project connecting the tubes to a curved surface. I observed her cutting and carefully picking up both ends of the sticky tape.
When children first begin connecting with tape, they are challenged by the cutting and handling. There are many frustrating attempts in learning to master the art of keeping tape from tangling.
The next challenge was placing the tape on both pieces of what will be connected. I was amazed as I watched this three-year-old place the tape with expertise.
With narrow tape and still-developing fine motor skills, very young children may want to temporarily give up or give in to strong emotions. Our task, as teachers, is to allow them the space to practice; know the children and their capacities; and determine if and when to help them.. There is also ample opportunity to offer tools for naming and managing the emotions that arise in the process. Emotional literacy is best taught “on the job.”
This child was a very capable three-year-old. Early on, looking at her older brother’s art on a "save it" shelf for all classrooms, she had figured out how to make a rocket ship of her own.
Now, she was designing something very unique. Because her skill level was on par with what she had imagined and planned, she needed very little help.
In month four of this new school year, I notice that many other children were also stretching and taking risks with their art making. As a teacher, it’s very exciting to observe the children as they explore. Their concentration and focus expands and their fine motor skills increase with their continued efforts.
GUIDELINES FOR TEACHERS:
How do we encourage independence while letting children know it is alright to ask for help? I find this to be a delicate balance. Many skills only develop with hundreds, even thousands of repetitions. We want children to be able to practice and learn to deal with frustration and other strong emotions as they are mastering a skill. We also want to be able to offer help or meet a child’s request for help so that they feel supported while they are learning.
Whether as a parent or a teacher, and I am one of many who wear both hats, focusing on and encouraging our children is one of our essential tasks. The gift of our attention blesses both the giver and receiver. I am finding that in observing the efforts of the children, as well as assisting them when needed, the love I feel for them grows. At times, the depth of this loving connection and appreciation surprises me. I do my best to be aware of the ‘"visitation" of love when it arrives, allowing it to linger and expand. While we may not be able to measure emotions, we can see their impact. I often notice a calmness or sense of peace move from one child to the next when loving responses are expressed.
This is the season to expand that love that we give and receive in the special relationships we are honored to have with the children in our lives. In the midst of the holiday multi-tasking chaos, let’s remember to sit down and BE with our children. This may be the greatest gift we can offer them.