Letting go and letting them lead

I always say children need to be trusted fully to guide their development. It is an important part of Sunnyside’s values. We – their educators, their parents, their families, and society as a whole – need to step back and have some confidence in them.

Let’s stop micromanaging them and instead, let’s treat them as little humans who are learning to find their place in the world. They deserve the time and space in early childhood to work on their whole-development skills, before they go to “big school” and have to work on academics!

At Sunnyside, this means letting go and letting the kids take the lead! Today is yet another example of how the children took the lead and knew what they needed to do!

We spent the morning preparing to play in a fancy new rainbow sprinkler. The kids changed into their swimwear and had sunscreen applied, they watched me blow it up with a pump lent to us by a parent when ours died, and when I finally brought it outside and attached the hose to start the fun – it popped.

What a let down. Or so I thought. I lugged out the old semi-broken sprinkler and set that up, thinking the kids would be disappointed.

Here’s where the letting go comes in. As I think most adults would have done, I piled the broken (& non-returnable) rainbow to the side with the intention of not letting the children touch it. But why couldn’t they touch it? What were they going to do? Break it more?

So when they came out and saw the broken sprinkler and kept asking to play with it (and yes – they knew it was broken), I let go, stepped back, and gave them the go-ahead.

The kids didn’t just see a broken rainbow… they saw something magical and exciting and used it to create their own games! They worked together – the toddlers up to the preschoolers – and had loads of fun.

And they did way more than just have fun. You may just see a bunch of children carrying something around. You may just see chaos or a recipe for disaster. But let me tell you what I saw!

I saw kids who don’t speak yet communicating with their peers; children who tend to shy away from water or large groups joining in the game; children showing patience to the others who were not up to the same level of physical abilities. I saw teamwork, active play, language skills, problem solving, and more.

I saw children working on the skills they are lacking – without being told what or how to do it. I also saw them dealing with the disappointment of the broken sprinkler – by turning it into a fun experience.

This all happened naturally. All instigated by the children themselves. All through play. Just play.

There is nothing that will prepare them for school – and for life – better than actually living and experimenting with their surroundings; of course with the support of strong adults. All the workbooks and stencils thrown at them at this age will not help them develop these skills.

This is why we do what we do at Sunnyside. This is why I do what I do!

Categories: Development Outdoors Summer

Tagged in:

About Stefani Ilkic

Stefani Ilkic is an Early Childhood Educator who is passionate about protecting each child's right to play. She believes that children can lead their own development and early learning when we trust them and support them, rather than direct them.

Leave a Reply