As adults, probably our most important ‘task’ in the world is to guide and love the little ones. It is entirely our responsibility to provide a safe, nurturing environment in which toddlers can embark on the journey that is life.
In turn, toddlers are often our best teachers. They show us boldly, and without hesitation, what we are doing right or where we are going wrong. Toddlers learn from observing. They follow the role models we aim to be. They mirror the environment; we look at them and see ourselves.
Toddlers embody a selection of wonderful qualities. Fearlessness, curiosity, endurance, and the ability to absorb knowledge openly and willingly are but a few of the wonders of being a toddler. Toddlers are equipped with the valuable tool of non-judgement, which allows them freedom from viewing others as obstacles to their success. In all areas of development, toddlers stumble and fall. They get up. They continue. They persevere. They tackle challenges – sometimes head-on and bottoms up! That strong sense of determination needs to be nurtured and supported as we don’t want those precious gifts to weaken or even disappear. Toddlers naturally trust their decisions. Endless questioning and futile doubts have not yet made their unwelcome presence.
Toddlers never lose sight of the important things in life – to be loved, to be nourished, and to have old cardboard boxes with which to get creative. Hot chocolate and an abundance of fresh Play-Doh are important too!
Toddlers are free of body issues. They enjoy living in their bodies and use them as a powerful tool for exploring the world around them. They learn best through physical sensation – an ability we adults unfortunately often lose the more we rely on our ‘thinking heads’ for learning. Toddlers are mini-packages of joyful energy. They move for the love of movement. Observing the ease with which a toddler performs the five stages of physical development – embryonic, creeping, crawling, standing, and walking, one realizes the limitations and fears with which we approach our own bodies and movement.
Life is one great fascination after the next for these little human beings. They possess the gift of laughter. Rather than spending their energy regretting the past or worrying about the future, toddlers live in the now; the now is all that matters. For now, I need to be warm, safe, fed and loved; they are the important things in life. With their strong, innate belief in themselves, toddlers don’t pay much attention to boundaries and limitations and see the world through enthusiastic eyes – the world which is theirs to discover. At 2 years -old, a toddler can be anything he or she wants to be. Every great leader in the world was once a toddler!
When we provide toddlers with valuable life skills, opportunities, and the support that they need, we open the doors of possibility for them to become the next leaders of the International Monetary Fund, Olympic athletes, concert pianists or, who knows, death metal band members! While observing our toddlers, we often stop and wonder, Which one of you little darlings will be responsible for solving the next world crisis, or perhaps for creating it?
The toddler spirit lives within each and every child born to us. It is nurtured and developed through play, unconditional love, and support. It grows within the encouragement we give, in order for them to extend their own learning capabilities. The toddler spirit dares to take risks, stands firm in its greatness and, always, in its stubbornness!
Toddlers are the future. We need to care for them, love them, protect them, and sometimes, we need to save them from themselves! The toddler setting is where we get to witness the beginnings of greatness – unique human beings unfolding and exploring their potential.
This article is written by Ingrid Van Ginkel, an Early Years teacher who has spent last 12 years working with the youngest students at Dulwich College Beijing. This summer Ingrid is moving to Dulwich College in Myanmar to continue her adventure with, as she calls them ‘the incredible and, at times, totally terrifying little creatures called toddlers’. To learn more about the Early Years Programme at Dulwich College Beijing please click here or contact Admissions@dulwich-beijing.cn to find out about our new afternoon Toddler programme for 1 – 3 year old.
This post is paid for by DCB.
Photos courtesy of DCB