Digging in my utensil drawer looking for a cake server that I don’t often use, I came across an old child’s spoon – our daughter’s when she was a toddler. I had forgotten about it. It was short handled with a slight curve to it so that when a child scooped some food onto the bowl of the spoon, it would be successfully headed, right on target, to an “open-mouth landing”. Looking at that spoon and reminiscing for a few minutes made me recognize how helpful and encouraging this simple tool made a challenging task for any beginning utensil user.
I like to think that many of the tasks and skills we want our children to learn and adopt can be helped along more readily by subtle and gracious assistance. There are myriad “curved spoon” strategies that can help make their learning more positive and successful – training wheels on their first two-wheeler, velcro sneakers, elastic-waist-pants, easy and defined places for toys to be put away (more on this in another post!), low hooks to hang jackets, chubby crayons for little hands to hold, sippy cups for beginning cup drinkers. Children thrive on learning to be independent and competent. Many of you can relate to experiencing the thrill a child displays as he arranges his jacket, just so on the floor, sticks his arms in the sleeves and pops it up over his head. Bingo! He’s put his jacket on all by himself and his spirit grows!
But sometimes there’s no better “tool” than a kind and loving adult – who offers to start a child’s jacket zipper (because zippers can be tricky), who asks their child, “Can I help you?” when faced with a seemingly overwhelming clean-up after a vigorous playdate. Skillls are learned through practice and repetition, plus a little help, a little encouragement and lots of trust in the learning process.