I’d like to say this post will be about all of the beautiful nature and outdoor learning we did together on our family trip to the Arboretum, but I won’t lie. We spent most of our time at this gate. Open and close. Open and close. Open, go through to the other side, and close. Repeat.
While we did spend time discussing the flowers, vegetables, and Bonsai tree exhibit (aka”baby tree” according to him), we really did spend a lot of time at this gate. One thing I know that is important to do with young children and sometimes really challenging to do as an adult is to follow their lead.
Right now he loves learning how things open and close. Car doors, house door, gate to the dog park, bathroom doors when I need to pee, and on this day the largest gate he has ever seen. This giant gate was leading into the children’s garden which I knew had marimbas, climbing tree stumps, nature trails, a child’s size stage, and more. While I was trying to get from point A to point B, this little guy reminded me of something really important: he has no idea what is coming up next, he’s excited about what he sees right now.
So, we followed his lead. He wanted to explore how this gate worked, what made it move, could it swing in both directions, was anything different if he changed the side of the gate he was pushing, etc. We watched and quietly waited until he felt he sufficiently understood the giant gate and was ready to explore something else.
While this may seem like something so simple you’re wondering why I made a post about it, it’s because I know it’s not so simple. Adults tend to have an agenda whether we realize it or not. Coming from days as a teacher, I know adults have a list of things to do and places to be, typically on a timed schedule. Kids don’t have this kind of extensive pre-planning, they want to explore what is fascinating to them right now! Logistically no, we can’t always stop to explore the world around us (especially when we’re already running late), but it is super important to find the time to just follow their lead.
And we found a surprise friend! While rehydrating on a bale of hay in the children’s garden, we were surprised to see an old colleague with her little guy show up at the same time, completely unplanned. See, maybe this little guy knew the bigger plan all along. If we had rushed past the super exciting gate and made it to the children’s garden on my schedule, we may have left before our surprise encounter with a friend. So glad we followed his lead to learn more about the gate and were able to climb bales of hay with a friend!