Trust, Opportunity, and Time

Trust, Opportunity, and Time

Aldo Fortunati from Tuscany has spoken at a few Early Childhood Ireland events, most recently in Carlow last September. I am always taken by his mantra of Trust, Opportunity and Time.

He says children need to be trusted to lead their own learning and experiences, must be given the opportunities to do this and have the time to become involved in their play and learning, rather than being scheduled to go from one activity to another, led by adults.

Over the past few weeks I have been mulling this over again. It seems to me that the gift of Time, and lots of it, has been handed to us due to the impact of Covid -19. Many of our usual leisure pursuits have been taken away. This means different things for all of us, but these activities that matter to us and that we look forward to each week are now gone from our lives, albeit temporarily. We can feel bereft without these. In some families, trusted, reliable supports are missing due to physical distancing and/or grandparents cocooning and with parents either losing jobs or working from home pressures can build up. The fact that out-of-home settings such as creches, preschool and schools are closed can exacerbate this. And educators are missing work with that vital connection and joy that working with young children brings. And we have to ask ourselves, if we feel like this, what is this like for children?

Children went to creche, preschool school or college on March 12 as normal, came home that day and never went back. In some cases there may not even have been time to explain to children that they would be off crèche or pre-school for a while, as the announcement was made around 11am on 12th March and they went home at 12 noon, before their educators had time to absorb the news or decide on a plan.

As we come to terms with this surplus of time on our hands, we can try to see this as an

Opportunity…an opportunity to do things we didn’t have time for previously. I have seen and heard of people learning new languages, doing online courses, taking up knitting, spending time in the garden or cleaning out that press that has been a dumping ground for years! For many children this is a lovely time they can spend with their parent(s). Time baking, walking, making jigsaws, drawing, playing cards and board games. These are activities that there perhaps wasn’t time for previously; time eaten up with commuting, homework, and hobbies and activities outside the home. Some parents, while naturally finding it challenging to juggle working from home with small children, emails and WhatsApp’s from school with activities and resources to be done, trying to have a conference call without small people looking for something or dogs barking are also finding this time good to enable connection, fun, games and laughter. It might bring us back to a simpler time, where play was more open-ended and less scheduled. I’ve seen tweets from parents telling of their children wishing the virus wouldn’t go away because they like spending time with mammy and daddy. Maybe we need to learn from that…children want time more than dancing classes!

And where does Trust fit in to this new normal? For me it is trusting that this too shall pass. Trusting that children will catch up in school, because everyone is in the same boat. Trusting that many children will look back on this stage of their lives with pleasure and fond memories. And trusting children to occupy their time, by having access to open-ended materials and leave them to create, play and imagine. And of course, trust that this all ends soon, and we will come out the other side safe and well, relishing the freedom, with lessons learned as we move forward. As Seamus Heaney said, ‘If we winter this one out, we can summer anywhere.’

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