I had the rare pleasure of sitting in on the first half of my Daughter’s preschool class today. It is parent participation but my wife is the one who takes her to the classes so this was all new to me. My daughter was so excited to see that I was there and immediately grabbed my hand beckoning me towards the toys she was playing with. She had me build her a family of mixed Mr. Potato Head dolls before grabbing both of us pairs of binoculars to go exploring the room with (those Diego episodes are really sticking with her). Teacher Mary then started singing the clean up song which was the sign to put all the toys away and most all of the children followed suit, except my daughter. The song starts and she tries to disappear.
After cleaning up, we all sat around in a circle for song time. All of these memories from my preschool age start coming back and I can’t help but look to my daughter slightly envious of the time in her life she is at. Learning is fun and fun leads to learning. Every experience is new and great, which is reflected often in her screeching giggle. We sing songs with bells, drums, and shakers while all the kids beat, shake, and ring nowhere near the rhythm of the songs being sung but to the rhythm of joy and laughter. What I like most about preschool, from a parent’s standpoint, is the secret structure of everything that happens. Its tricking the kids into learning structure to any activity. It’s one of those things that I, as a parent, struggle with daily; how to keep my kids on task with helping me but keeping them interested at the same time. Mary Poppins got it right,”For every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find that fun and SNAP, the jobs a game.” Turn chores into activities and the children are much more receptive to helping. I knew this, but seeing it done in a different way from someone who is with children of all sorts everyday, definitely helps give me more ideas.
Moms are the masters of child care. Face it dads, for the most part, we do not like watching the kids by ourselves for long periods of time. While moms do a great job including the kids in their house work, us as men have a lot to learn. They have also figured out that bringing their kids to a place with other moms with kids multiplies the amount of eyes to watch your kid exponentially. Us dads tend to lock ourselves in and/or away from others making us the only ones around to watch them. Watching how the other moms interact with their own kids really did give me ideas on better solutions for stubborn kids, cranky kids, or like most of my time with my daughter; a kid who can’t focus long enough to actually accomplish anything with daddy. It’s more about creativity at this age than rigidity. Structure only seems to work if presented in a way that sparks interest in the kid. Singing songs every time the current activity was changing is a great way to spark the child’s interest in the activity that is to make way for the next structured bit of fun.
Snack time came and all the kids gathered around the little tables to eat before they go outside for their recess activities. Every announcement of the next activity brought more joy to my daughter. “Really? For me?” seems to be her favored response for things she enjoys… followed by a crazy/excited giggle. At this point, my son was getting fussy which meant it was time for me to depart and take him home for his nap. I may have to attend another class with my wife and daughter to learn some more creative ways to get these kids to listen to daddy more than when they are in trouble. Plus I have to admit that a part of me enjoys playing with toys with my kid when I don’t have to worry about getting anything accomplished around the house at the same time I am playing with them. I can just enjoy the experience with my kids and they can get a not distracted dad to enjoy. I love being a dad.