Monday, January 25, 2016

Eyes Trump Ears

     In preschool nothing catches on fire faster than a bad idea.  And the corollary principle to that is “Eyes always trump ears.”  What the teacher says becomes white noise compared to what the child sees.

     Just this week a little boy sat at the table where we were doing craft projects.  He immediately took a toothpick and used it to wipe glue all over his paper.  Several other little boys who had already started with the right steps quickly did the same.  When I explained that they needed to color the paper before gluing, they picked up crayons and tried to use them in the gluey areas. Immediately there was glue on the table, on hands, on crayons and on art projects, and none of it where it needed to be. They seemed puzzled why it wasn’t working. 

     Fortunately, there really aren’t many genuinely bad ideas when you are four years old, just experiences to learn from.  Paint, glue and markers can all be wiped up or off or replaced.  But there are good things to learn from watching all of this. Some things I’ve realized as I observe children include:

1.  Children are quickly influenced by what they see the people around them do, especially if it appears that there is a short cut involved.  What is in front of their eyes can plug up their ears, so they don’t even hear adult instructions, nor do they need to see the outcome before they try it.  Some children have a natural self-confidence or eagerness, and jump into things even if they have no idea what they are doing.  Those are the children who are the most influential of all to onlookers. Note to parents: be cautious about what your children see in movies, on TV and on the computer.  Those self-confident people on the screen may be more of a powerful role model for your child than you think.

2.  Children are like most big people and want to do the fun part first and the hard part later, but that doesn’t always work well.  They usually want to paint first, because painting is fun.  They want to procrastinate writing their name on it or cutting it out because those things take more time and skill and can be hard.  Note to teachers and parents: all the parts are fun when you have skills, so taking time to teach skills isn’t being hard on them or taking away the fun. Skill building actually makes school and life more fun in the long run.

3. Learning the sequence of doing things can be as important learning what to do.  Shortcuts often are just bad ideas in disguise.  Note to self and anyone else interested: Learning where to start and then what to do next is important in conquering so many of life’s challenges.  Asking for help and listening to instructions can be a good start for everybody.  Some things that sound like a hot move are just a bad idea catching on fire.

© Diane L. Mangum 2014