Improving my Teaching Practice · SLOW DOWN: Quality Time with Children

Quality time: giving our full attention

Quality time: giving our full attention
Quality time: giving our full attention

I can recall times when I’ve observed a child at play and my thoughts start to wonder. Just recently I remember thinking, “oh I need to call to make a hair appointment. I really want to get my haircut.” Before I even knew it, I’m looking at and playing with my hair. Instead of watching the beautiful learning process that the child right in front of me is embarking on. I can also remember times when I’m changing a child’s diaper and I start talking to my co-teacher instead of talking to the child I’m changing. These are moments I’m most defiantly not proud of. I think that in order to change something in your teaching practice you first have to be aware of it.

Giving my full attention can be really hard for me and I think that it’s hard for just about everyone. Our society values busyness and multitasking which is not what we want in our classrooms. Giving our full attention to a child lets them know that we value them and that the time we spend together is meaningful and special. Think about a time when you were with a friend or family member and they spent the whole time texting, paying more attention to the TV or sending out e-mails. How did that make you feel? Unimportant, not special, maybe it felt like they didn’t value the time with you? Is this the message we want to give the children in our care?

Giving my full attention all of the time feels extremely overwhelming. We actually don’t have to this, Deborah Solomon states “it’s far better to give a baby 100 percent attention part of the time rather than fractured attention all the time” (32). The times that we do provide our 100 percent full attention to a child allows him “to be emotionally refueled so that he can then contentedly be on his own” (Solomon, 32). By giving our full attention to a child in bursts it fills the child’s emotional need and then allows him to explore on his own. While he’s doing this we can take care of all of the multitasking we need to do. I’m not suggesting that every time a child is playing independently to go off and do the things you need to do. After you have spent, let’s say, 15 minutes observing your child play or there was a care routine you did together and you gave them ALL of your attention the WHOLE time, then it’s okay to say “You can play here for awhile, I’m going to do the dishes in the kitchen and I’ll come back to check on you.”

Irene Van der Zande says “for a toddler, many little special moments every day count more than big events now and then” (33). I really like this quotation because, for me, it makes giving my full attention to a child feel doable. If I provide multiple little moments of my full attention to a child then I will be meeting their emotional need. These little special moments would constant of care routines, (feeding, changing, rest time) and also when I sit down to observe a child play. This last one is more difficult for me and practicing giving my full attention to a child while they play will help me get better at it. Maybe I start with 5 minutes of this every day and slowly work my way up. If this is something you’re working on too, leave me a comment! We can work on it together. Also, look for my next post on wants something/wants nothing time.


Gerber, Magda, edited by Joan Weaver. Dear parents: Caring for infants with respect. 2nd/Expanded Edition ed. Los Angeles: Recourses for Infant Educarers, 2002. Print.

Solomon, Deborah Carlisle. Baby knows best: raising a confident and resourceful child, the RIE Way. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2013. Print.

Van der Zande, Irene. 1, 2, 3…The toddler years: a practical guide for parents & caregivers. 3rd ed. Santa Cruz, CA: Santa Cruz Toddler Care Center, 2011. Print.

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