As predicted, I left my first time hosting a toddler art playgroup with things I’d like to improve. But, I also left with a real sense of accomplishment. The parents who brought their children all seemed genuinely appreciative of the chance to have their child experiment with a bunch of materials, in a short period of time, in a new space that someone else would be cleaning up. The time passed quickly but I never felt rushed. I had scheduled a program that was well-timed and sequenced. Noone cried and nothing spilled.
My reflections are still blurry. I’m looking back as a parent and educator. I’m looking back through my previous experiences with, and limited knowledge of, the participants. Here are a few emerging points of focus.
I remember that all the kids were engaged for the duration of our time together. I’m not sure I can say that about any teaching experience I have ever had before. Of course, everyone left when they had had enough, they didn’t have to wait for a bell to ring to tell them it was okay to move on.
The kids bounced around from station to station for the first 20 minutes and I bounced around with them. Giving brief introductions to the materials (beads, lightboxes, and oil pastels). Cora got pretty clingy when she realized I wasn’t giving her my undivided attention, and this made me feel I had to refocus, to step out of the facilitator’s role and back into the role of Cora’s mom. Like I wrote this morning, it’s all a grand performance and I had two parts to keep track of today. This kind of multitasking isn’t really that great for meaningful teaching or parenting.
I wish I had done a bit more in the way of basic explanation of the activities I offered. These would have been directed at the parents, while the children were working. I intended to have some simple recommendations for engaging and collaborating with kids at each of the opening stations, but didn’t get to pulling anything together. (Goal #1 for next week.) When I introduced the main activity, I should have said more to clarify my intentions, to share some insight about my choices and how parents can translate the experiences we had together to their homes. As my friend Alison reminded me, and as I wrote about here before, that’s what our music teacher does so well.
I want to go into the galleries with these kids and their caregivers. I think it is important, given that we are meeting at the museum, and something really special to see. Amanda and Susie from the education department have some ideas for how to do this that I would love to watch them try. I so value the conversations I’ve been having with them – it feels rewarding on various levels.
While I knew that the majority of people knew one another from our local library’s storytime, there were two families I knew from elsewhere. However, Columbus being a mid-sized city with a small town feel, it turned out everyone knew a few other people in the group, and there was a lot of catching up between folks who hadn’t seen each other in awhile. I’m wondering about the importance of that social interaction for parents with young children and whether it benefit what we did with children or got in the way. There were lots of times we were interacting with one another’s kids in ways we might not have if we didn’t know one another in advance. (It takes a village to raise an artist?) But, with those connections established and re-introductions now out of the way, there might be more space for the kind of instruction I hope to share.
I’m already looking forward to next week.