SLOW DOWN: Quality Time with Children

Toddlers and Sunscreen: who knew it could be a great combo?!

The benefits of slowing down when working with infants and toddlers
The benefits of slowing down when working with infants and toddlers

After taking the RIE foundations course (if you’re interested in learning more about it or taking the course check out the website for more information) a saying that played over and over in my brain was SLOW DOWN. There are days and times when I listen and I do slow down but then there are other situations or days where I move quickly.

It wasn’t until a day this week where both of my co-teachers were out that it hit me how important it really is to slow down. Sure I have read about the importance in just about every book I have read over the past two years but I clearly needed this real life experience.

I knew both of my co-teachers would be out of the classroom a head of time and I was a little worried about how the day would go. I also knew there would only be four children but, even one toddler can be tricky to care for. I could feel my anxiety raising and I could feel my body start to speed up even before I got to work! I know that it’s important to “stay calm, because anxiety promotes anxiety” (Kovach & Da Ros-Voseles, 96). I did not want the children to feel my anxiety because I knew it would make my job that much more difficult. Once I got to work and got settled in I made sure to calm myself.

Overall the day was extremely pleasant! There are many factors that contributed to why the day felt so wonderful: small group of children, the group of children, the teachers that came into support me, the routine our classroom has, the expectations and limits we have set and the list goes on. There was one moment that could have been a huge turning point in the day, sunscreen time.

I don’t love putting sunscreen on the children; it’s very hit or miss with them. Sometimes it’s a breeze to put sunscreen on and sometimes it’s extremely tricky. Right before I started the sunscreen process I could feel myself begin to get anxious and I told myself “you can’t feel like this, it will not help.” It actually worked, surprisingly, and I did calm down. Kovach & Da Ros-Voseles (referring to caregivers) state “you make a difference when you are emotionally present with babies. When you give babies quality time, you communicate to babies that they are valued and special” (44). I knew I had to be emotional present with the children and let go of my worries. I also knew that I had to ignore my body wanting to rush and move as fast as I could through the sunscreen process. “Distractions, interruptions, and rushing take away from important valuable experiences and interactions between you and the babies” (Kovach & Da Ros-Voseles, 14). So I could have continued to be anxious, rush through the process and miss out on valuable interactions while giving the children the message that they are not valued BUT I moved extremely slow!

I have to say I’m proud of myself. I applied sunscreen to each child very slowly, telling them when it was their turn, making eye contact with them, asking what part of their body they wanted sunscreen on first and talking to them about what I was doing in each step of the process. It was truly wonderful. I could tell this experience felt different for the children because there was almost no protest at all. It was an experience I will not forget. Kovach & Da Ros-Voseles state, “when you slow down and stop rushing through the day, you can give babies your time and attention, which is what you both need to develop and maintain your relationship with the babies in your care” (41).I know that this sunscreen process did just that; it helped maintain the relationships I already have with the children. It allowed me to connect and give each child my full uninterrupted attention. I acknowledged each one of them throughout the process and was able to tell them “I’m here with you now and I value this time” even though the day was not a typical day in our classroom. It was a great feeling and it makes me appreciate the sunscreen process way more than I did before. I really did dread it and I would move quickly through it but this one experience showed me how much we (caregivers) and children can get out of applying sunscreen!

Resources:

Kovach, Beverly, and Denise Da Ros-Voseles. Being with babies: understanding and responding to the infants in your care. Lewsville: Gryphon House, 2008. Print.

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