Walking briskly on a warm, sunny, winter day offered so much to enjoy that I almost missed the little voice saying, “Look Omi, an ‘oh’ and a ‘ss’!” A little finger pointed to tree flowers (catkins) shaped by happenstance into “sounds” after falling from the tree. She was inviting me to participate in her discovery of sounds!
A child’s interests show up in a lingering gaze, a slight pull of the hand in a new direction, a pause to examine a detail, or an explosion of glee at a sight or activity. I have seen a little one want so badly to stop and watch a musician performing along a sidewalk as the parents, unaware, pulled him along, never noticing the physical plea of the child to stop and absorb the moment. We try so hard to get them to listen to us; imagine how hard they work trying to get us to listen to them.
Be ready for surprises! Follow their lead! A walk can turn into so many adventures: comparing leaf shapes, little hands tracing twisted roots, or following an insect into the crack in the pavement. Since I didn’t miss the little voice on that winter’s walk, I stopped and we examined the many shapes on the sidewalk under the tree. We found so many sounds waiting to be discovered, sounds only a child would have seen.
Observation of a very young child shows an endless stream of exploration: input, input, input to a developing brain. Watch the eyes followed by the hands followed by the mouth. A spot on the rug is intensely explored. A smooth painted geometric shape is examined, moved from hand to hand and to the mouth until interest is diverted to another child doing something nearby. All eyes, hands, feet, mouth, ears feeding the brain by engagement with the environment, examining every detail with attention rarely matched in later years.
Look at the toys in this morning visit. All designed for little hands and minds to explore: geometric shapes and letter shapes; stacking toys and building toys. “This is an /o/.” “That is a rectangle.” “Thank you for the red ball.” Simple comments, short, gentle, and to the point leaves space for the child’s mind to consider the information in their own time.
It is very interesting to watch creative little hands try to stack and sort in a very personal way. It is in our patient watching that we are able to see the learning happen. We must be still and not interrupt the direction of the play except to keep children safe. A surprise presents itself in every visit if we observe and let the exploration happen. “The brain is never not learning!” I love those words of Patricia E. Wolfe in Mind Matters.
“Yes, little one…that is the letter for /i/!” They find so much confidence in just KNOWING!
Intentionality at its best! Souns games can look like this with little people, finger paints, sunshine, and water. Soooo much fun! Warm weather is an invitation to play outside with messy things in big ways. Setting out plates of individual colors about six feet apart and turning little ones loose to do as their little hands desire with color on themselves (and sometimes a willing parent) was so delightful. We used primary and secondary colors plus white. As one would expect…sensorial wins out! Paints were squished together between the fingers and spread like butter all over their little bodies. Giggles confirmed a good day for all. Cleaning up with the hose was as much fun as the painting.
Finger painting letter sounds on little backs tickled, but each could tell you the sound they felt being written… play is the best window for learning. All so GOOD!
What is a kid without mud pies? What if there was no dirt for digging holes, building ramps for little bridges, making designs, or planting a seed. It is so sad to visit preschool sites and train for Souns, suggesting the teacher write letters in the dirt on the playground, only to receive that vacant look that says, “There is no dirt on the playground.” Not even a spot of dirt.
A child’s construction! Tomorrow’s yurt builder or city planner.
Literacy began on a cave wall and progressed with playing in and with the dirt. We may live in different times and wear different clothes, but children are quite the same. They need to use their hands to move and shape and create worlds from their imaginations. Dirt is the natural medium. Creativity is, indeed, being stripped of its roots.
Our lives are so busy and our children are captive in our harried schedules, spending their days on playgrounds that are plastic coated, shrink wrapped, and stamped “sterile.”
Children need a spot of dirt to dig and play and build their world!
So THAT is how much fun a Souns kid can have? Meet Prince, and his marvelous mother Nikolai. Prince has had Souns since his mother and I met on TWITTER and she ordered Souns materials (January 2011). The journey has been furiously fast moving and engaging. Within two weeks of Nikolai seeing the impact Souns had on her young child, she was compelled to change every child’s life in Puerto Rico. She spoke to everyone, trying to build a resource for getting Souns into the hands of the children in her community. Finally, a Rotarian from Rotary District 7000 heard of the effort and suddenly, a Matching Grant was in the making.
Where are we now with this vibrant mother and one little boy who loved his Souns? Mix such passion and commitment with Rotary and the world really does change. Currently, the Head Start program of San Juan Municipality is the recipient of a grant from The Rotary Foundation, a Matching Grant sought by Rotary Districts 6990 and 7000. One mom and the experiences of one little boy on a mission now impact 4000 children in Head Start. The ultimate goal is to change the world for children in all of Puerto Rico. That mission is not to be denied, at least not for Nikolai .
And what about the star of this story, our little Prince? Prince is now building words with Souns letters, writing words with his hands, and sounding out phonetic words in two languages. He is not even old enough to be in kindergarten. What do you think his world will be like as he enters school? He loves learning. He is curious and inspired. Family matters to children. Souns has powered a relationship with a family and their community and has spawned a future for 4001 children. Nikolai is taking that even a step further – surprise! She has written, published, and is traveling and speaking about the power of family. Ring the Alarm: The Hope of Black and Brown communities: A Zero to Five Parenting Guide for Low Income Black and Latino Caregivers. Nikolai Pizarro (Author) http://www.amazon.com/Ring-Alarm-Communities-Parenting-Caregivers/dp/1468146963
It started with a TWEET between @counterpane and @Be_Pure! It is now a major literacy project in Puerto Rico thanks to The Rotary Foundation and the support of Rotary Districts 6990 and 7000 (inspired by the dream of one very passionate mother and her child). Today’s communication tools combined with service-above-self organizations such as Rotary build amazing opportunities, linking minds, hearts, and purpose.