John is the Dean of Happy Cow, the children’s education division of Evam. He creates modules and syllabi for workshops and year-long theatre curricula that have been implemented in schools across India for children.
My daughter is 27 months old now. But she is talkative and talks in long sentences which none of us understand. If we tell her that we didn’t understand, she gets frustrated and screams.
The other day, I was taking my daughter along for the regular walk. There was a pile of gravel on the roadside put for road work. There were some scattered stones on the road which she started picking and throwing back on the pile. It went on for the next half an hour and around three hundred stones.
We were cleaning the house and the sofa cushions were piled up on the floor. She wanted to climb on the pile and was getting frustrated that she couldn’t. She threw the cushions across, threw tantrums wanting to do it. That’s her favourite game now and she climbs the tallest pile and over my shoulders too.
It was raining and there were puddles all over the road. She wanted to step into a puddle and I said no. She suddenly jumped in and gave me a ‘what can you do now’ smile. I too jumped in and our dresses were painted brown. We came back home and had a nice hot water bath; of course after all that screaming from her mother.
We were in the park and she wanted to collect all the sticks and twigs on the ground. When she could not take more sticks in her hand, she handed the thicker sticks to me and collected thinner ones.
I gave my phone to her to talk to her grandma. She threw the phone right on my eye and I was bleeding. She got scared and started crying.
She has her favourite story book and I tell stories out of it every day. I haven’t told her one complete story yet. She loves to see the monkey in the last page as soon as I start the story. But she loves story time.
Like always, she ran on the road that day, tripped and fell. And she cried.
I call myself a children’s educator and I train children from when they are toddlers. What I did to my daughter in all the above instances is “Nothing”. Literally nothing because I know that is the way to teach toddlers. It is a wonder of nature that toddlers actually can’t be taught anything, but they learn a lot of things. They have a unique mechanism through which they learn 60 times more than what an adult learns. So what is our contribution to their learning? Simple. Just don’t teach them. Or in other words, don’t impede their learning process.
When I urge her to talk, I am making her angry. When I ask her not to pick and throw stones, I am stopping her from doing around three hundred sit-ups which she wouldn’t if I ask her to. When I ask her not to climb the cushion because she’ll fall, I will have to put her in a toddlers gym or I am preparing her for a bigger fall later. When I stop her from getting into puddles, I am depriving her of the immunity to germs which will affect her later. How long can I keep her in a sterile atmosphere? When I stop her from collecting sticks in the park, I am prepping her to join school to learn sizes and shapes. Now she knows thick, thin, long, short etc. When I punish her for throwing my phone on me, I stop her from knowing how it hurts to hurt others. When I ask her to listen to my storytelling, I am disturbing her wandering and absorbent mind that is already learning: from I don’t know what. She loves story time after all. And of course when I keep her safe by not allowing her to run or be careful and walk slow, I am preparing her to panic and be scared to face pain when she grows up.
I keep following these online milestones that a toddler should be doing at this age. I am happy she does all of them and more. Did I teach her any of these? Did I send her to school to get these qualities? No. She learnt it on her own and me as a parent and a ‘children’s educator’ did NOTHING.