Children are wise beyond measure. Their bodies, their souls, their intuitions know what to do. You cannot teach exploration or wonder, you can only hold space for it.
Before Groundwork sessions, I send out an email with all of the details for the week, including a section called Expectations. There I write:
“My expectation of the children is simple: that they be children! They will have lots of time for free play and will be invited but not pressured to join during simple group activities... To facilitate the children’s play and exploration, I ask that all adults please try their best to be quiet observers during play, rather than playing with the children.”
To observe play quietly but not get involved is a huge change from how modern caregivers are often expected to interact with children. There seems to be this idea that children need our help to bring attention to what they’re doing, how much they’re learning from play. I think a lot of this is also tied into the amount of cultural pressure put on full-time caregivers to perform, to treat their caregiving like a job, to show results. Doing your own thing and trusting your children to do theirs can feel and look like you’re being uninvolved or unsupportive, even though it is better and easier (in the long run) for everyone.
Here’s the thing:
Your children will learn more and be more well adjusted if you allow them to play free from commentary or query. Trust me. They will learn of the verdant green of new leaves, the brilliant vermillion of the setting sun, the placid blue of a calm ocean without you asking them “what color is that?” They will listen to bird song and dogs barking and be filled with curiosity and wonder, absent an adult asking “what does a doggy say?” They will delight in building block towers or watching a silk dance in the afternoon breeze and discover movement and mechanics all by themselves if you sit back and drink your tea and don’t ask them what they’re making.
This is not to discount the endless energetic work of holding space, holding rhythm, observing their perfect uniqueness and offering them opportunities to play with it. This is not to promote absentee parenting or a dismissive attitude. It is to promote TRUST. Trust your children that they know what to do, they know what they need. Trust yourself that you are the perfect person to be with them in this moment, that your presence and mindfulness is involvement enough. Our work is to create a safe space for the children, then let them just be in it.