Just like adults, children need a chance to immerse themselves in calming activities, to engage their curiosities, to physically exert and stimulate themselves, to express independence in choosing activities, and to reflect in order to foster growth. Some of these overlap, but unfortunately many children don’t have equal exposure to these needs, and thus may have a difficult time internalizing their essential place in life. Encouraging children to explore and engage in a variety of activities allows them the opportunity to identify their purpose.
When I plan for a day in my classroom, my goal is to foster a balance between activity and reflection. Demands of the day, however, sometimes take hold, and the balance I intend quickly deteriorates. To foster adjustments and bring the day back into balance, I have to ask myself a few necessary reflective questions. Do my students have enough time interspersed between planned activities to be kids and express themselves freely? Do they have opportunities to sit in a calming space and just be? Do I allow them time to explore their curiosities without being right or wrong? And do I allow them to exhaust excess energy that is developmentally part of their makeup?
While my profession allows me the time to focus on what children need to foster growth, most adults don’t have the luxury to plan days that balance the needs of their children. To get in the habit of developing days of balance, consider how your children can experience some version of activities that encourage calm, curiosity, physical exertion, independence, and reflection. To get your children on board, be up front about the purpose of this variety in a day, and present the opportunities with frequency and ease. Be prepared to answer the frequently asked question of “Why?” For example, don’t be scared to explain that a designated quiet time is essential to recharge their battery before taking on a new task, and a few minutes of quiet time is purposeful for transitioning from one thing to another; it isn’t because you just need them to be quiet so you can get things done. Prove this by taking your own quiet time simultaneously. This kind of variety in the day offers balance and a clear head.
Creating a habit of a planned day of balance allows children to internalize their place in life. Bring this balance into the lives of your children, and subsequently into your home!
- Follow-up conversations. Thinking reflectively can be difficult. At the start of each day, ask your child to express their goal for the day, and always follow up to see how they progressed toward that goal later that same day. For younger children, ask them to describe their mood in the morning with a color, and ask them if that color changed throughout the day. It is the follow-through that encourages children to be aware throughout the day.
- Go to a museum. Infuse learning experiences that engage curiosities outside of school to teach that learning and questioning is an ongoing life experience. By experiencing learning outside of the classroom, children further value education in all aspects of their life.
- Don’t overbook. More times than not, children have overbooked schedules. Allow them time to be playful, and explore something they enjoy without structure.