There’s a weird predicament that happens during the preschool years. When our children are 3-4 years old we, understandably, want to maintain and celebrate the quality connection we’ve established together in the family nest. Paradoxically, this is the time period when our kids are ready to test their wings a bit and also when parents are in desperate need of a moment to themselves now and again.
So, how do you strike the balance? How do you bring your preschooler closer all while giving them more freedom to fly and explore … not to mention giving yourself the space necessary to preserve your own sanity? For me, the answer has been to “ROAM” with my child.
ROAM is a preschool acronym not unlike STEM or STEAM. It is a pedagogical approach aimed at nurturing our relationships and the time we spend with the little Readers, Observers, Artists and Musicians in our lives.
Here are 4 practical ways to use each letter of ROAM to balance the need to connect more deeply with your child while also fostering independence!
R is for Reader
Nothing empowers a budding reader more than being given the opportunity to narrate a story himself. By allowing your little reader to be the first to read a new book fresh from the library, you engage his imagination and independence! So snuggle up together, hand over the book and ask him to read you the story! Not only does this give you an opportunity to relax and be read to for once but you also get a sneak peek into your little reader’s mind. His engagement with the pictures alone is a unique expression of the narrative being told by the book’s illustrator too! Expect a unique and wonderful tale and whatever you do don’t interrupt or correct. Just enjoy this time together lost in a fairytale world of your little one’s making!
O is for Observer
Nature walks are a great way to get away from the screens in your home for some quality time with your little observer. During our walks together, I often encourage my daughter to act as our guide by choosing which path to take at a divergence in the woods. This simple choice lets her become our leader on some very exciting adventures and always we find some little item on our walk to bring home to journal about. We do our journaling in separate sketch pads but side by side, comparing our individual and entirely unique entries and admiring each other’s representations of the rock, twig or flower that we found while wandering together.
A is for Artist
Doing crafts with the little artists in our lives is both fun and rewarding but, let’s face it, sometimes mama just needs a break. Enter – easel starters! I began doing easel starters as a gentle way to transition my preschooler from nap time to quiet time. While she napped, rested or read a book I would quietly and secretly set up a series of artistic materials that, when she stumbled upon them, would never fail to engage her. These art materials could be a feather with some paint or magazine clippings with glue. No directives were necessary; I just let her take her imagination wherever it wished to go! By walking away and leaving her to it, I was truly engaging her creativity in a way that I could not if I sat next to her and gave her step by step instructions. Moreover, I was able to find my coffee in the microwave for the fiftieth time that day, reheat it and take a breather myself!
M is for Musician
“Listen! Listen! LISTEN!!” I yelled. Guess what? Nobody was listening. As the preschool years approached and my little ones gained independence, I started to do more yelling than I felt comfortable with. My daughter is definitely a dreamer, and while I do love this about her, it can also be infuriating when we are trying to do simple things like getting out the door on time. Something had to give. I couldn’t keep yelling like a lunatic – especially since it seemed to be having the opposite effect from what I intended. I decided to focus on work on listening skills when the crunch wasn’t on. During our down time, we began to make our own homemade musical instruments with stuff we had in the recycling bin, listening closely to the noises they produced. We played musical games like “find the cell phone” (while it was playing music) and “dance and freeze” when the music stops. By making listening and concentrating fun – I was slowly creating a capacity for attentiveness to instruction in my little musician and I was not yelling as much… which made me a lot more fun to be around. Imagine that!
So there we have it! 4 different ways to use “ROAM”ing in the liberal arts and nature to help your preschooler spread her wings and fly all while creating a stronger bond with you as her parent!
Do you have activities you do with your little one that help you break through the preschool paradox? Are there fun things you do together that both encourage independence and help you build a quality relationship with your child?
Rebecca Overall is the creator of Artsy Startsy and the ROAM curricula – helpful, informative curricula that enhance the time you spend with little ones. She believes that every preschooler is a little Reader, Observer, Artist and Musician! She has a great love of the liberal arts and books which led her to pursue degrees in languages, literature, education and library science. In her past life, she worked as both a teacher and health sciences librarian.When she decided to stay home to raise her children, she discovered that she had a unique opportunity to pursue her love of the liberal arts again as well as a chance to spend more time exploring the outdoors with her little ones!