The box, still wrapped in shiny plastic, was like a gift waiting to have the wrapping paper torn off of it. He opened it just like presents on Christmas—with sheer delight and anticipation. It was something new and exciting, full of pictures and many pieces he was able to take out and spread across the table. My three-year-old son looked at the new ULEAD Junior card deck the same way our team did, with eagerness at all of its possibilities.
My plan for the afternoon was to use the cards to help him practice his shapes, and the activity I picked seemed foolproof: pick a card, look at the shape, go around the house and collect as many items as you can find that match the shape. A shape scavenger hunt if you will. Educational—check. Hands-on—check. Fun—check. There was only one problem—he didn’t want to do it.
No matter how I spun it, he had no desire whatsoever to do anything associated with the shape element of the cards. All he seemed to want to do was look at the full image pictures. As I sat in frustration, thinking of how I could employ a fifth new tactic for selling him on a shape related activity, I stopped my scheming and simply observed him.
He was now looking at both the icon and the image and telling himself stories of how the two elements on each card go together. Some were simple conclusions, “If a chick can’t see, you need to give him glasses,” while others took on a much more creative storyline such as something about what an astronaut has to do while working in space to get special treats and earn a crown. But no matter how straightforward or complex his stories were, he was certain that each of them were “correct,” and upon completion of each, he would set the card into a special pile as he worked his way through the deck.
Now as I sat watching, all I could think to myself (in my biased opinion) was first, how adorable and creative my child was, and second, how many times have my plans and goals of structure and organization stifled such creativity? In what other situations have I wanted him to follow my rules or do what I say without giving him a chance to voice his own thoughts and ideas? I wanted my son to do an activity that I deemed had all the necessary components, but what he ended up creating was full of its own imagination.
How often as adults do we do this? We think about the great potential of children, what they will do and become, but do we underestimate their current abilities? Or, are we so focused on our own thoughts and beliefs that we don’t allow kids the freedom to express their own? Do we suppress the curiosity that children naturally possess? Like most people, I would like to assume that I don’t do this too often, but this experience taught me I may be doing it more than I think.
I recently came across these words from Rachel Carlson:
“If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder … he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in.”
I hope I can be this person for my son. Instead of preventing him from expressing his creativity and imagination, I hope I can inspire it. Luckily, if I forget, he’ll be there to remind me.
Bekah Finch, Detail Specialist at ULEAD