Have you seen the new cute little alarm clocks for babies, toddlers and preschoolers?
No. No you haven’t. I hope you never will.
If not interrupted by a full diaper or falling out of bed, small children will wake up when they are finished with their sleeping. They know when they are ready.
Upon waking children immediately go to work doing just what they want to do, all the time—that being, figuring out how the world and the people in it function and how to become an active agent in creating their own lives.
Our roles as friends, relatives, teachers and neighbors is to make a safe and nurturing environment within which wee ones can maximize their learning. An immense part of that is showing children what we know, how people interact, communicate their wants and needs, and generally share what’s going on in our lives. The most important part these lessons is best fueled by a constant shower of singing, laughing, listening and, of course, reading, but most of all by conversing about anything and everything.
This all happens concurrently, so there is no first and next. If children aren’t eating or napping or accompanying busy parents while they run errands, the entirety of children’s activity largely is random. Even when carried or ferried about, they locate things within their grasp or sight lines to work on and with. They are learning about their own limits—how far they can reach, throw or see, what they can lift and move, who they can’t influence, who they can and how that is done.
Little ones also are most comfortable when going from one object or person to another without taking half a breath in between. Poking, tugging, waving around asking a thousand questions. Sure, we can enter their field of vision with something new to distract them from what they are currently working on, but try to remove them from a toy or a pet or a noise maker before they are finished and you’ll get the same response you’ll get if you set a wake up alarm: “Stop bothering me. I’m busy.”
When they are finished with whatever they are doing, they move on to a more interesting engagement. Nobody rings a bell. No one decides what they will do next. They decide, moment to moment.
The alarm clock for small children is LIFE whispering in their ears to come out and play. If we are lucky, they’ll let us play, too.
We just need to feed them well, give them lots of hugs, and try to keep up.