November 8, 2018

Every Moment is an Opportunity to Learn.

Contributed by Toni Berrafato, Program Evaluation Specialist

Childhood is a developmental journey of amazement and wonder. The simplest experiences are the most fascinating, and every moment is a moment to learn. Just the other day, I watched my little one quite literally discover her hand. Her hand! They’ve been attached to her since birth, and she literally just one day noticed they were there. As she rotated her wrist in front of her face as if she was watching something spectacular, it reminded me of all the moments I encourage parents and teachers to slow down and soak up every moment.

We describe this—at Doodle Bugs!—as “take a moment to make a moment”. This is the idea that it only takes a few seconds to create an experience that will help to build the foundation of childhood learning, amazement, and develop a meaningful and lasting relationship.

At the beginning of my teaching career, I didn’t know any better. Much of my perception of learning had been shaped by practical experience in a high school music classroom during my college education. Working with toddlers opened my mind to a whole new world of classroom management and learning. I remember very vividly trying to establish a classroom routine and asking the children to place their hands on their lap prior to my setting the plate down in front of them during lunch (with the help of my superiors, I would soon learn that there were much better ways to manage meal times—but that’s another blog entirely). As I grew more puzzled with each request (why aren’t they listening to me?), it struck me that little, 2-year-old Danny did not even know what his lap was. How could he possibly follow my request?!

This moment was a defining moment in my early childhood education career. Luckily I had the realization very early on – literally everything is new to a young child. From that moment on I was very careful in the way that I explained activities, routines– everything to the children in my classroom. We narrated even the small moments — turning them into big learning opportunities, including:

  • Handwashing– Have you ever talked a child step-by-step through washing their hands?! It seems common sense to us, but small children literally need you describe how to turn on the water and apply soap—over and over and over again.
  • Playdough play—“Can I eat it? Does it taste good?” Children need someone to show them how to use the playdough, with their hands.
  • Nature Walks– Describing that whooshing sound overhead as the wind or that loud, kinda scary noise as an airplane helps children to appreciate the outdoors.

Over the years, my education, classroom experience and time as a mother, I’ve learned that in any situation, the adult can:

  • Slow Down How can you notice every little detail if you’re moving quickly in a world that demands time? Practicing mindfulness in our adult lives can work wonders.
  • Narrate Experiences Each experience is an opportunity to develop vocabulary and an understanding of the world around them. Keep talking!
  • Show them that you love them. When you take the time to notice what children take the most interest in, it tells them “I see you, I hear you, you are important”.