After all, it's a child's world

GIVE THEM A FREE HAND A child's learning depends on his active exploration of the environment around him

GIVE THEM A FREE HAND A child's learning depends on his active exploration of the environment around him  

Do your children tend to put their fingers into everything?

You are busy making dosai in the kitchen and your child comes in and says, "Mummy, what are you doing?" and before you know it, she has put her dirty fingers into the dosai batter. You take your toddler to the playground and he cannot resist playing with the mud. You go to visit your friend and your child wants to touch the glass curios.Parents are always asking why children touch everything. "When I have explained to the child that this is something that will break if you drop it, why does she still insist on doing it? When I have told her that we will all get sick if she puts her dirty fingers in the dosai batter, shouldn't she understand? And how can I allow my child to play in the mud in the playground which is so full of germs?" We need to understand whether children want to touch everything just to be defiant or is there a meaning to their actions? Maybe human nature drives them. Dr. Matthews, paediatric neurologist, CMC, Vellore, says children are driven by the need to touch and explore. They have an inner need to develop and their brain sends messages that direct them in their quest for knowledge. Hence, he is unable to "obey" because the instructions we are giving him are in conflict with his natural urges.

Exploring the environment

The child's learning depends on his active exploration of the environment around him. He wants to drop objects because the effect of releasing his grip and seeing them fall is a learning experience. Touching different objects teaches him textures and gives him an understanding of different materials. Banging vessels and spoons teaches him about sounds.What does this mean to parents? Does it mean that children should be given the freedom to do whatever they want because that is how they develop? What about their safety? And parents'sanity? Children who are curbed and protected will lose out on opportunities to develop their skills and self-confidence. Remember what the Mahatma had to say: "Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes."As parents, what we can do is make sure that those mistakes are not harmful to the child. Manage the environment - not the child. Don't leave breakable objects lying within the reach of a child. If we had an elderly person coming to stay with us, wouldn't we make adjustments for his comfort such as easy access to his clothes, a hand rail, a non slip mat in the bathroom and so on? Why can't we take the same care of our children? Create an environment that allows them to learn, without us developing a vocabulary that is peppered with "no!", "don't!", "stop it!". An environment in which we do not have to keep a constant eye, watch over or grab away objects of such obvious interest.If you do not want to be in constant conflict with your toddler and yet want him to be safe, here are a few suggestions: Seal off open plug points
Place electronic equipment on higher shelves
Put away breakables in locked cupboards - allow exploration of other cupboards
Place non-breakable kitchen vessels on lower shelves
Keep masalas, knives, glass on highershelves
Keep balconies grilled/covered
Keep harmful cleaning agents, medicines out of reach
Keep the handles of pots turned inward on stoves
While keeping him safe, provide him with plenty of materials to explore without minding the mess - chapatti dough, paints, mud, water... it is all food for the brain!
And however tempting it is to slap those daring little hands, remember children's hands are tools for exploration.UMA SHANKER &


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