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As I mentioned in my last post, my youngest child began Kindergarten this week. She is in a part-time program, and attends in the afternoons. I teach Spanish two days a week, leaving me 3 mornings to hang out just with her. I know this one-on-one time is short-lived, and so despite having a new classroom to set up, lesson plans to create, or grading to do (let alone laundry to fold and the kitchen floor to mop), I’m trying to set some time with her each morning I’m home to play.
My new favorite parenting book, Playful Parenting, (about which I’ve written before, here), talks about following our children’s lead when it comes to playing. The author, Lawrence Cohen, Ph.D., says:
“Following a child’s lead means that every once in a while (as often as we can handle it), children need us to be hugely enthusiastic, to say yes in a booming voice instead of the constant parade of no. . . . Try counting how many times you say no to children in an hour, or in a day. I think you’ll be shocked. We often feel compelled to jump in and say no when they are doing something or suggesting something that we know is a bad idea. Unfortunately, jumping in does not help them develop their own good judgment. They simply have to discover certain things for themselves, and the best way for them to do this is with our encouragement and support” (pg. 154).
In Kindermusik, you will hear your teacher say to follow your child’s lead. The heart of the Kindermusik philosophy centers on children. From the very structure of the Kindermusik curricula (keeping each class developmentally appropriate) to the way this plays out in class (allowing kids to play with instruments in ways that appeal to them), following our child’s lead helps them experience music-making in a way that is fun and exciting. It also allows them to use music to grow in other ways—developing connections with their loved ones, understanding cause and effect, or developing balance and coordination.
Dr. Cohen continues, “Just saying yes means having a basic attitude of acceptance rather than rejection, approval rather than disapproval. Be animated as you play: use gestures, your voice, and facial expressions.”
But, yes, sometimes all this play and following our child’s leads can be exhausting—this is what gets us into wanting to say “no.” The games kids play are often terribly uninteresting to us. We may feel stupid, or out of our comfort zone. For this reason, Dr. Cohen also notes that, “The best way to recover from an emotionally draining PlayTime is to talk to other parents about it, especially other parents who are trying out the same thing,” (pg. 166).
This is one of my favorite parts of the Song of the Heart studio as it is currently situated—there’s a park nearby and a coffee shop upstairs. It provides great opportunities for our Kindermusik families to develop connections outside of class—going to the park together after class and letting the kids play a little more. We grown-ups can recover by chatting with the other moms from class over a snack from Big Dog. If we take care of ourselves, it can be far easier to tend to our children’s need to play.
With a new Kindermusik year approaching, and a respite from our rainy August, we find ourselves with an ideal situation to make new friends at the studio (and meet old ones again). At any rate, it’s also a great time to remember that, in all of the chaos of a new school year, our kids will benefit when we take care of ourselves, too.