The Art of Noticing

She was standing by the slide. She put one foot on the rim of the slide and then the other, taking care to balance so that she wouldn’t fall. Then she looked at me.

“I see you balancing,” I said.

She hopped down onto the slide, and then put her feet up on the next rim. And then looked at me again.

“I saw you hop down. And I see you balancing again,” I said.

She hopped down onto the second slide, and then put her feet on the final ledge. After a second of balancing, she jumped down onto the ground and then looked at me.

“I saw you jump down,” I said. “That was a big jump.”

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She ran around the slide and climbed up on the rim again. She kept looking at me when she repeated an action and I kept telling her what I saw. At one point a boy tried to join in her game. “Let’s do this!” he said. “No,” she said. “I’m hopscotching.” I took note of her verbiage and used it the next time she looked at me. “That was a big hopscotch!”I said when she jumped down.

There was an amazing thing happening as I continued telling the girl what I saw her doing. She smiled and she seemed to become more confident in her actions. She also became more careful in her actions, as she discovered that the boots that she was wearing were slippery against the surface of the slide. Each time she slipped I noted that action as well, highlighting in my own way her need to be careful. I kept noting and acknowledging her actions for about ten minutes, until she became tired of the game.

Later in the day I noticed her acting more open towards me. She has always acted shy around me, and sometimes has actively ignored me in favor of other teachers in the room. It has been hard to develop a relationship with her because she has been so cautious towards me that it almost comes across as hostility. But after I actively noticed what she was doing and acknowledged her actions for an extended period of time, the cautiousness seemed to start to melt away. She started talking to me more, and when she looked at me a light danced in her eyes that I hadn’t seen when she looked at me before.

Sometimes all it takes to develop a relationship is to notice what the other person is doing and acknowledge it. It is almost like a support that the other person can use to grow and expand. And it lets them know that you see them. Sometimes that is all that children need – to know that you see them.

Bug Stew

This afternoon when I took the class outside, there was water on the slides. This presented a great opportunity for the kids to throw every kind of greenery, mulch, dried leaves, and dirt onto the slide, and stir the entire concoction up with sticks. The dirt, by the way, was salt. When I asked them what they were making, they stated that it was “bug stew” because it was too nasty for us to eat, but the bugs would come and eat it up. When asked what kinds of bugs were going to eat it, they replied, “Bees and beetles!” So apparently the bees and beetles are going to be well fed tonight! I enjoyed watching the kids work together to make their concoction, though, and the thought process that went into deciding that only bugs would be crazy enough to eat the mess!

We did another color mixing activity, in which we mixed red, blue, and yellow playdough in different combinations to see what we would get. They had fun with that, even though I made the playdough a little too stiff for them to mix very well. After we mixed the basic combinations, I let them go to mix away in whatever combinations they wanted to. Of course, they loved that.

I did an art project this morning that I once again can’t give proper credit to for the idea. I thought I had saved the post in my reader this time. I feel like this is getting old and I need to apologize for it! But anyway…the project required coffee filters, water colors, and medicine droppers. We used water colors in red, green, silver, and gold so that the project would be somewhat Christmas-y. The kids basically just put drops of paint on the coffee filters, and the filters soak up the water (as long as the kids don’t use too much – if they do, it is a bit of a mess!). I found that trying to teach them how to control the flow of paint coming from the dropper was a bit of a challenge, but it gives us something to work on the next time we use the droppers. A few of the kids discovered how to control the flow of the paint, but not many.After the paint dried the colors on the filters were amazing, especially with the silver and gold paint mixed in.

Right before I started this project, the other three-year-old teacher set about working on a Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer project. You know the one: three popsicle sticks glued together in a triangle shape, a red pom-pom nose on the bottom of the triangle and two eyes at the top. She had started the project with both of our classes while I was out yesterday morning, so I couldn’t very well take my class and not let them finish. I pulled out my project to do at the same time because of the amazing amount of stuff I had planned for all of them to do in the afternoon. As soon as I got the materials together, the reindeer table cleared out and headed to the coffee filter table. In fact, the whole room was gathered around the coffee filter table. And I thought to myself, “Here is a prime example of why child-directed art is so much better than the typical cookie-cutter, ‘everything has to be the same and look like this’ type of art that is done in most centers – the kids actually enjoy it and flock to it!”