Managing our own discomfort

Babies are fascinating.

They learn so much, so quickly and absorb their surrounding environment with all their senses.

As parents, practitioners or educators, one of our responsibilities is to ensure the environment is suitable, stimulating and accessible for children. However, this can mean very different things to different people.

For example, a stimulating environment may be considered to be somewhere full of toys, colour, noise and moving objects. Although this may stimulate all the senses, it may not necessarily be a suitable environment for babies or children. Deborah Carlisle Solomon reminds us of this during her Early Years TV interview, where she explains that a rattle may be over-stimulating for a baby because the baby can’t let go of the rattle.

Another aspect that Deborah reminded me of was ‘not solving problems for babies’.

This is illustrated in the lovely video ‘Ruby reaches for a Toy’, where you can watch 6-month-old Ruby stretching and wiggling and moving until she reaches the toy she wants on the blanket.

As an adult, you may experience the almost overwhelming desire to move the toy closer or simply give Ruby the toy. However, if you do succumb to that temptation, you are not allowing Ruby to solve her own problem or encouraging her to keep trying. At the far extreme, you could be unwittingly teaching babies that they are unable to do things for themselves and must wait for adult intervention without even trying.

Babies and children must be allowed to have uninterrupted play and to allow them to solve problems themselves to encourage tenacity.

Managing our own discomfort at the baby’s attempts and struggles – and not jumping in too soon – is an essential part of this.

This is easier said than done, especially as practitioners and educators primary roles are to care for children, to scaffold learning and to make the environment accessible for them. So this is a tricky balancing act, between making the environment challenging but also still manageable.

Skilled practitioners and educators will be able to see when a baby is becoming distressed or anxious and will be able to intervene before this is a problem, but it is something we should all check from time to time – is my ‘helping’ hindering the baby’s own learning, tenacity and problem-solving abilities?

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