Kids are adorable, but they can stretch one’s patience at times. However, we can still learn from those annoying things kids do.
Here are some of them and what we, adults, can adopt to enrich our lives.
Anyone who has been around a young child has experienced relentless “why” questions. You make a statement and the child replies, “Why?” We answer with more information and more information only to have that “why” echoed back again and again. Exasperated, we exclaim “Because I said so!” or “Because it just is!” to shut down the process.
But this relentless seeking of answers is what propels scientific inquiry, which has taken us from caves to high rises and even the moon. But even on a personal level curiosity keeps life alive.
As we morph into adults acquiring knowledge along the way, we assume we know the answer to many “whys.” The world becomes less enticing, less full of mystery and wonder. We stop seeing fully because our lens is cloudy with presumptions and prejudices.
We need to look again, look beyond what we believe we know, looking from the side, rather than head on, refreshing our view. Reclaim that vital ingredient of a child’s active mind: ask “why,” try new things, explore new things; get out of the comfort zone. As we widen our horizons, stretch our mental muscles, we rediscover excitement.
Kids are always in motion, driving us to distraction: “Sit still!” “Stop fidgeting!” “Play on your tablet!” Kids seem to feel, ”Why walk, when you can run!” They skip and hop, moving their bodies constantly. Time drags for kids, yet they move fast, little dynamos of energy.
As adults, we feel that we have too little time but are less physically active as we rush through our days. I chuckle when I see gym-goers circling lanes in the parking lot to get the closest spot to the door.
Exercise begins beyond those doors, not before. Move more. Walk more. Take the stairs, two by two, and skip the elevator. Tap your feet, swing your arms.
Moving activates not just muscles but minds. Movement releases endorphins that help relieve stress. When we stand our perspective changes. Interrupt sitting with stretches, a walkabout, ideally outdoors.
We’re always telling kids to keep their hands to themselves. “Don’t touch!” “You can look, but don’t touch.”
But a child’s impulse is to make contact. We witness infants grabbing and putting whatever is grabbed into their mouths. They are learning through their senses. In primary grades there is an experiential component with most lesson plans inspired by Maria Montessori. She created her entire pedagogical system on “Through the hand into the mind.”
Believing that children came from God to teach us, she upended the idea of little pitchers needing to be filled. Instead of passive instruction she invited the manipulation of real objects to grasp abstract ideas like the decimal system. She believed innate curiosity would allow progress to greater complexity. The child’s mind was encouraged to open like a flower.
When we pay attention and allow ourselves to be stimulated by sights, sounds, textures, smells, the richness of the world enters us. Nature, like art and music, has the ability to evoke responses that transport and expand our experience of being alive.
There is no question that kids have vivid imaginations; seeing dragons in clouds and hearing boogey men under their beds or hiding in their closets. We tease them, sometimes encouraging their gullibility, sometimes mocking it. “Don’t be silly, you’re only imagining.”
But what a wonderful resources to create images. And we never stop doing it: Imagining outcomes, how other people feel, losing ourselves in books or movies. We can forget how activating our imaginations can enrich our daily lives. Asking “what if?” questions helps us solve problems and invites out-of-the-box thinking.
Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge; for knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.”
Imaginations create endless play for kids. “Stop playing with that! A candlestick is not a plane!” We may shut down inappropriate actions but have to marvel at the ingenuity and openness that spark them.
We need that, even as adults. We need to lighten up for the responsibilities that come with adulthood can weigh us down. We work.
But we work better when we also play. Play allows spontaneity, surprises, fun. When we play we let go of our serious adult self: our solemn, well-behaved, buttoned-down self. Expressions like “let your hair down” suggest loosening something tied up, wound tight. Play allows a balancing release to stress. “Playfulness is the greatest anti-aging treatment and a breath of fresh air for your soul.” (Elena Notara)
Next time kids try your patience take a breath: it may be better to join them. When the endless whys come, bring out the dictionary or Google. When kids are running through the house, consider adding jumping jacks. Be conscious of colors, textures while cooking or gardening. Dedicate a cupboard or shelf to art supplies to stimulate imaginations.
When you face these annoying things kids do, suspend judgment: paint, collage, dance, sing. Join the stick sword-play or dolly tea parties. Play horsey Have fun. Invite your kid self to come out again.
About the author:
Joan Stanford is a board-certified art therapist and full-time innkeeper who has been facilitating creativity groups for over twenty years encouraging people of all ages, especially non-artists, to expand their awareness through playing with art materials. She is also the author of The Art of Play: Ignite Your Imagination to Unlock Insight, Healing, and Joy. She has been recognized with the Soroptimist “Making a Difference For Women” award for an art-based curriculum she co-created and taught in local schools. Her poems have been published and her art exhibited. She lives in Mendocino, California with her husband, and offers imagination playshops and creativity retreats at their inn and wellness center.