My 18 month old daughter loves to dance. At mother and toddler group every week she watches and tries to mimic the hand movements that the older children & mums do as they sing all of the nursery rhymes. She claps loudly at the end of each song and jumps up and down excitedly waiting for the next to begin. When we get home we sing silly songs and do even sillier dances as we try to remember all the different moves.
We also occasionally go to a toddler’s singing & dancing group which has its own special songs. Yesterday, during bathtime, I started singing one of these songs to her, it was about stamping on bubbles and clapping bubbles to make them pop. She stood up in the bath and started to stamp her feet along with my wonderful singing and then she clapped her hands along with the next verse.
What amazed me was the fact that we haven’t been at that group in about 2 months, she hasn’t heard that song in 2 months and yet the minute I started to sing it she jumped up to join in with the dance that she remembered.
Our children are like sponges, it is truly amazing how much they notice the world around them and how they store the seemingly irrelevant little details of life for future use. I once heard a wonderful description which was “play is the child’s work” and it’s true, every minute of every day as you sing songs, dance dances, bounce balls and push carts with your child, you are nourishing them and helping them with their important work, their play.
It is these little games, where the only props they might have are a dishcloth, a cardboard box and a wild imagination, that will give your child the tools they need for life. It may look like they are “wasting” time by playing pirates or shop, however they are actually hard at work developing crucial life skills, including concentration, problem solving and self-regulation. A report on NPR entitled “Old-Fashioned Play Builds Serious Skills” explains more about these skills and their importance in the child’s future adult life. This report also highlights a worrying trend in many schools today (even preschools), the reduction of playtime in favour of more study time.
It seems that in the rush to give children every advantage — to protect them, to stimulate them, to enrich them — our culture has unwittingly compromised one of the activities that helped children most. All that wasted time was not such a waste after all.
We should all make time to join in with our children as they go about their daily work and sing a silly song, dance a silly dance and, most of all, have lots and lots of fun together!