|Photo by: Holger Zscheyge|
Give a 6 year old kid a pencil, piece of paper, and 15 minutes and you'll have a vision of a masterpiece. Give the same to an infant and you'll have a poked eye, crumpled paper in the mouth, and 14 1/2 minutes left.
It's pretty obvious that we can't expect older-kid-output out of younger kids. We know they don't know certain things yet. They aren't ready. This is a very important point when it comes to teaching them. Knowing what they are working with and expecting is key across all age stages.
'Hope' - Are These Big People My Friends?
From Womb to 18 Months, infants are trying to deal with the onslaught of information going their way. New sights, sounds, colors, shapes, textures, temperatures, tastes, smells, feelings, thoughts, and oh so much more. Surely, you can understand their frustrations at times.
This is the time where they work on trust. "Can I rely on this guardian taking care of me or not?" This is a wonderful time to start working on the building blocks of learning. That pun is probably intended. We'll see in a future article. Set out the foundations here for the stages to come.
Where There's a 'Will' There's a Way
From 18 months to 3 years, kiddos are trying to figure out what the can and can't do. Whether or not they always need to rely on you. Work with this. Gradually give them more and more responsibility. Enable them.
Sure, they can't wash the knives, mow the lawn, or use bleach on the toilets. But they can set the table, pick pillows up off the floor, and hand you ingredients. They want to feel involved. You may think that little involvement is insignificant - they think it's the world. See it from their perspective. Get them involved and interested early on. Who knows, it might stick through teenager-dom.
Time to Work on 'Purpose'
From 3 to 6 years, they are trying to figure out if they are bad or good. They are working on their initiative and guilt. You should, as much as possible, opt for descriptive language instead of judgmental language here.
Junior has mud on his face. Does he "look like a mess" or does he "have mud on his face." One is a simple statement that leads to cleaning. The other is a hit to self-worth. Exaggeration, you wonder? Does the kid know you're talking about mud when you mention it on his face? If he did, would the mud be there? He hears, from his loving parent, that he looks like a mess. Period. Try to cut back on the judging style.
You know what works for you and it won't be easy, but it makes a world of difference. Picture Him as the child Jesus, knowing full well what He will be when He gets 'older.' Talk as if you were in His presence or at least try... I know some days are super-rough. But you get my drift. You can at least *plan* for the best.
Ages and Stages and Learning, Oh My!
Kids go through so many changes in the first couple of years. You must be prepared to change your game up, too. Using the same tools you did when they were in the 'Infant' stage as when they are 'Preschoolers' will only end up frustrating everyone.
Grow with the kids. Be as interested in life, love, and the awesome world around you as they are. It becomes second nature if you see through their eyes. Love them kiddos.
Here's a chart I made that splits out the expected stages across the ages for development. (based on Erik Erikson's research)