I took Baby Bu to the beach today. Not on purpose. We were at a venue that happened to be by the beach, and Baby Bu literally jumped with excitement when she spotted the sea. I couldn’t resist those big blue eyes, so we took our shoes off and wandered down for a paddle.
While we were playing on the sand, I witnessed something special: individuality. I looked down at the sand, and pointed out the beautiful, colourful, stripey shells, and asked whether she’d like to collect a few. She exclaimed with joy and readily started collecting. But not shells. She started collecting small, brown pebbles. I hadn’t even really noticed them; they were jaggedy, dull, plain. In my eyes. She was delighted with her little hoard and clutched them tightly in her hands until we could wash them and put them in her little backpack for safekeeping on the journey home.
Janet Lansbury is one of my favourite parenting gurus, with an approach based on RIE (Resources for Infant Educarers). She would love this story. So often, we try to guide our children to follow in our footsteps, see the world from our perspective. We take a toy out of it’s packaging and immediately show our children how to use it. We stop them mixing odd combinations of foods on their plate because we know it will taste bad (Baby Bu’s most recent concoction was plum and egg). But allowing our little ones to make these discoveries by themselves allows them to develop their own interests, perspectives, personality. It helps foster exploration and inquisitiveness.
So what if they use their animal puzzle pieces to build a tower rather than fit into the matching slots? They’re still using and developing their fine motor skills. One day they’ll figure out the ‘correct’ way to use the puzzle. And the sense of accomplishment they will feel will be more than worth it. Perhaps they’re not developmentally ready to use the puzzle correctly. But they will be, in their own time.
I have had to sit on my hands on so many occasions, watching Baby Bu play. Wanting to point out that the pencil is the wrong way up, or that the blocks won’t stack upside down. But it gives her that little bit more freedom to be herself. And I was delighted to see her pick up those pebbles and see their beauty. What a beautiful world children live in – one where even a jagged brown pebble is a treasure.