As a Mother Duck Kindergarten teacher, I know firsthand what it can feel like to have fifty things to do and only two hands to complete the tasks with. I can often become distracted by the more frivolous tasks for the day and as a result, sometimes miss some of the vital moments where I needed to slow down and be present in the lives of the children I am so passionate to teach.
A phrase I came across recently which has helped me to value the little moments in my day and encourage me to slow down and remain in the moment is by an unknown author and reads:
Children are so naturally curious and in awe of the world around them, the small moments that we may deem unimportant are when they are learning the most. Taking the time to teach children to care for themselves can sometimes prove difficult, for example having the task of putting on shoes add an extra ten minutes to the morning routine. It is, however, in these moments that children are able to concentrate and learn as they are focused on a purposeful task.
As teachers and/or parents in our fast-paced society, I can see how it is easy to become caught up in social media threads and mindless videos, that are perhaps entertaining, but are actually distracting us from the little moments the children in our lives are living through. The moments that are ultimately shaping them into the strong, successful, intelligent leaders and thinkers of the future.
Truly slowing down and being present with children can look different to everyone. I have compiled a list of a few ways we can become more focused on the now with children in little ways throughout the day.
1) Language: The first on the list is language. Slowing down and talking to children, taking the time to engage in conversation, and actively listen can be so beneficial and valuable for both adults and children. In these moments we can laugh together, share stories, encourage curiosity, and impart wisdom and advice all while modelling correct spoken and body language which children pick up on subconsciously.
2) Movement: This may sound like I am challenging you to go for runs with your children or take up soccer on the weekends. I assure you I am not forcing physical movement on anyone, just asking that you simply become aware of your movements around children, slow them down and explain them. Encourage children to move as you do in a way that is appropriate for the context, walking slowly on slippery surfaces or watching your step on uneven surfaces. While your first instinct may be to scoop them into your arms to protect them from falling or slipping, it is more beneficial for them to watch and listen to the way you move so that they can learn to do the same.
3) Senses: A simple way we can slow down in the moment with children is to take the time to appreciate ways we can excite our children’s sense of touch, smell, taste, sight, and hearing. Listening to the birds in the trees, the cars going past, the music in the shopping centre. Stopping to notice the bugs in the shrubs, the ants marching on the pathway or the shapes of the clouds. Inviting them to smell and taste the ingredients when cooking dinner or smelling the flowers on an afternoon walk. These small moments can lead to valuable opportunities for teaching and learning and encourage children to become more aware of the world around them.
I understand that taking these moments can be a challenge and I’m not claiming it is easy, but it is imperative, and it is worth it. Working with children every day I can see the positive impact that slowing down and engaging with them can have and I would not trade the small moments I have had the privilege of being present in with my Kindy children, for five more minutes to complete a mundane task. Some of my favourite memories come from tiny moments in the day when I have taken the time to stop and engage, and the smile on the children’s faces are forever imprinted on my heart.
I encourage you, if you do not already, to slow down, take a breath, smile and take a moment with a child today.