As a mom of a boy and a girl, it is interesting to observe how children perceive their genders. As a boy, to a child of 4+ years, what matters is energy and vigour. They want to get into dynamic plays like running and jumping. By the time they are five, it is even more fierce like in deep play. If you observe the playtime of girls of 4-7 years of age, you’ll agree what matters to them is learning to grow to responsible adults. Of course, their perceptions are going to change with years. There is much scope in parenting and education to make boys understand it is alright for them to cook and make girls realize they are stronger sects of humans as well. I believe their generation is not going to see as much inequality in gender roles as our’s or our parents’. Beyond the heroism and stunts of my boy, I do see a tender and understanding side of him when he sees his mom tired after a long days’ work. Amidst the cooking and dolls plays of my girl, I do see a bold and daring version of her springin up when her brother tries to fight with her. While it is still our responsibility to dissolve the stereotypes, when it comes to young children, it is beautiful to observe how their gender tends to matter to them, and often admirable.
To children, DIYs are interesting, especially when it is done in partnership with an elder. It feels very precious to them – the whole process of discussing an idea, setting up a work place, procuring the materials and tools, outlining the work and working on it step by step. There’s excitement and anxiety as they wait for the completed work. There’s a sense of achievement and a sense of appreciation as they see a finished work. Not to be missed, there’s a special bonding that develops during the work. It’s a special time for them because their team is focussing on that one thing which is extraordinarily amazing to them. To my boy, his mom is the best carpenter for him, because she made his first house ever!
Children’s collectibles are more an extension of themselves. To children, discovering something that’s unusual is interesting. Small things that we normally don’t use at home are intriguing for them. The thought of a potential use they can associate with the newly-found thing is highly exciting for them. A shiny stone my boy found in the park sand area immediately sent a spark in his brain to use it as a diamond in his pirate play. How exciting an idea – for him! To us, children’s collectibles may not always carry meaning. But to them, it is an interesting part of their childhood. It satiates their need to constantly explore something. If you can remember bragging to your classmate as a child, about the goli your dad gave you after opening the soda bottle years before, you will relate to what it feels to a child who is anxious to announce to his friend the latest lego figurine he added to his lego men collection.
For many of us, seeing boredom in children is something terrible; something unacceptable and something unnatural. But, boredom in children is not as bad as we assume! Over the years, I’ve come to terms that allowing my boy to feel bored is alright; just like how I’ll allow him to experience anything else nice. It has been long since I sat on the floor to play with him. I’ve almost outgrown that stage of mothering to him. On most days, he is on his own. If he feels bored, I allow him to be. I don’t interfere with his boredom. I consider it as an opportunity for him to deal with yet another thing in life. But I listen to him – he may complain; he may feel frustrated – but I listen to him without interfering. With what I’ve observed, when children come to us with a problem, they more often want us to listen than offer a solution. But listening to them with full ears is just all enough to them, for they find a way to sort out their mental anxieties by the way of explaining it to us. What really matters to a bored child is a grown-up who have their ears for them!
Children like to test what happens when they try to dab paint on the paper, on the wall, floor, books and their own bodies; they like to fill paint boxes with water; they like to colour the doll’s hair, the car wheels and the bedspreads; they like to scribble wherever possible, walls being their favourite; and they like to make colourful footprints and fingerprints anywhere and everywhere. What matters to children is the freedom to explore and experience the medium of art!
This April, I am going to blog about a collection of 26 things that really matter to young children (0-7 years). Some of it might matter to your children as well while some might only to my children. But at the end of all, I hope we, as parents, understand the things that really matter to children – your children, my children and all the children in the world! At the end of it, I hope we take added interest in their stories behind their scribblings. I hope we understand their eagerness to get wet in the mud. I hope we’ll redefine the things we value in their learning!