You’ve probably seen the wonder in young children’s eyes as they interact with their world. Engaging with everything and everyone is fun, challenging, educational, and engaging. Everyday is an adventure.
Play is the best way to teach children. Children learn best when they’re having fun, engaged and excited, and when they have an adventure. Everyday can be transformed into an adventure if a parent is careful. You can make even the most mundane of experiences an adventure by encouraging curiosity, excitement, and investigation. A grocery shopping trip can become a hunt for small product containers. A trip to the Laundromat could be transformed into an artistic inspiration by watching the washing machine drum mix together. If the parent encourages curiosity, investigation and engagement, every experience, from gardening to cooking, to folding laundry to setting tables, can be a learning opportunity.
Adventure is synonymous with excitement, thrill, and intrinsic motivation. This strong emotional inducing factor can motivate children to achieve greater success than learning that is just handed to them. A child’s effort and accomplishments in an “adventurous activity” are greater than those he achieves through a forced activity. Anyone who has ever seen a child working on a task he picked can attest to that fact. It is evident that the child works hard, has concentration, and finally achieves their goal. Daniel Goleman is a well-known psychologist and innovator in behavioral and social science theories. He says “… mastery of any skill should naturally occur because the child is drawn towards the areas that she enjoys – in essence, her passion. As the child discovers that the field she is passionate about can lead to high achievement, it can also be the catalyst for pursuing other fields, such as math, dance, or music. It is a great motivator to get better and better, as it requires pushing oneself beyond the limits of your ability to sustain that thrill.
Any teacher’s goal must then be to inspire and not to dictate. Yes, skills must be acquired, even though a child might initially be resistant to them. If the teacher is passionate about the adventure and if she has genuine excitement, it can ignite similar enthusiasm in the child. However, if the skill is not attained, it will drive the child away.
Adults often see playfulness and adventure as the antithesis of learning and work. When viewed as the self-motivation required for learning, playfulness can be seen as a child’s expression or passion. Adventure and playfulness are complementary to learning. Dr. David Elkind is a respected psychologist and advocate for early childhood education. He says, “Play must be reframed and viewed not as an opposition to work, but as a complement to it.” If you don’t use your curiosity, imagination, and creativity, they will be gone.
A teacher should be able to inspire the child while still respecting their motivations and enthusiasm when creating learning experiences. Although a teacher-caregiver should be organized and well-informed, she shouldn’t let her goals and order stifle the fun and joy of the daily adventure. While a teacher-caregiver must have a plan and developmental goals in place for each day and experience, she should also be able to let go of her worries and follow the flow of the moment. This is what often happens on adventures. The white water rafter may have a map and a paddle to guide her, but she doesn’t know the exact timing or the flow of the water. That is part and parcel of the adventure. A teacher-caregiver’s ultimate goal is to avoid rigid, controlled and forced teaching. Adventure and excitement are the best way to go.