Yesterday, I participated in a workshop on the 3 year old child with my friend and colleague, Connie Grawert. One of the key focuses of this workshop was to learn practical ways to manage three year olds by understanding their very different experience of consciousness to that of an adult.
To give us some idea of what it is like to be a three year old, we spoke of dreams.
In a dream, our world is limitless and vast. Anything is possible.
We can be whomever we want, and do whatever we want.
In the dream, there is often a place of resolution, or a prod from the world of something we need to resolve.
And it can be very difficult for us to recall and share with others (and ourselves) just what has occurred in our dreams when we leave the dream. In the dream, we are in a pure state of ‘flow’- golden fields of creative ideas and imagination pour out of us easily.
Not only that, but the world of dreams is a pictorial one.
There are strong images, and time and space can be very distorted.
Kind of what it is like to be a three year old, don’t you think??
Three year olds act out their dreams, adventures and explorations in free play.
In play, they become whomever, or whatever they need to be.
They become doctors, nurses, pilots, space explorers, horse-riders, olympians, mummies, daddies, shop keepers, cowboys, indians, business people, tradesmen- in fact, they transform into whatever role they wish.
(This absolute belief in themselves can remind us that we too, once thought we could conquer the world.
What has changed? We still can!)
Three year olds see the world anew.
Everything is full of wonder and joy, and they themselves throw themselves bountifully into the world, wanting to jump into the experiences.
(We really should take note! Our daily habits, beliefs and fixed thinking really do colour our world- no wonder we are all so tired. Bored=tired. Wouldn’t it be great to leave all this behind and jump back into ‘wonder’ and ‘awe’ for a while!)
But one of the key tasks of early childhood is to begin to put their world in order.
A child begins by naming his world- dog, cat, mum
Then, adds action: Dog goes, cat eats, mummy kisses
Then adds descriptions: Big dog, funny cat, pretty mummy.
They do this to gain meaning and comprehension about the world they live in.
This helps them to gain a sense of safety and security.
They also seek a sense of predictability in their daily lives.
So, our role as parents and caregivers is to play a role in MAKING ORDER for the child.
(I really like this simple direction of Connie’s for parenting. It is a golden key)
- We can set up our homes in a predictable manner, presenting their toys and household items in such a way that children know where things go. (Everything has a place, a place for everything)
- We can provide children with a daily rhythm, helping them to see that a day has a predictable pattern- breakfast follows sleep, morning tea follows play, lunch follows morning tea, dinner is last, followed by bath, story, a lullaby and bed.
- We can help give them a sense of past/present/future (Yesterday, today, tomorrow- Monday is cleaning day, Tuesday is library day…)
- We can also give them an opportunity to express their inner being ; to ‘play out’ a persona without fear- to be the boss, the leader, a mummy or daddy, a nurse, a helper.
- We can provide a space for them to take their ‘outer experiences’ (of seeing a postman, or sister doing her ballet class) and transform them in play- to explore, to discover, to problem solve and interact socially.
but most importantly of all, we must provide a space each day for their imagination to grow unhindered by the fast tracking of academics and government regulations and national curriculum prerequisites.
All of these things help us to manage three year olds, don’t they?
All they are seeking is a bit of stability, a bit of regularity, a bit of predictability and a space to play out their ‘worlds’.
Their tantrums and disagreements and grumbles are just outward expressions of inner confusion.
That makes sense to me.
What do you think?