“I wish someone had told me” is a series of posts that feed into our inquisitive nature at CN&CO. Each week we hear from someone in our network about something interesting or surprising that’s recently happened or occurred to them – or lessons they learnt. These blogs are a way to pay it forward and form part of CN&CO’s belief that the world can be a better place – and we all have a responsibility to make it so. This week’s post is by Rachel Carey – An OT, a mum, and a friend of Josie’s.

Rachel and her boys

Today did not go well. And at first I couldn’t figure out why. I’d woken up and gone for a run. I’d nailed getting the children fed and ready for school. I’d collected them from school with an afternoon of fun developmental play activities planned. And yet I’d ended up frustrated. They’d ended up belligerent and crying. And by bath time, we’d somehow all lost.

So what went wrong? 

The obvious answer is that Benji cut his paper plate ladybird into about 17 pieces, Joey sprinkled the glitter on the trampoline and jumped on it until they were covered head-to-toe and looked like tinsel, and then both of them ate the liquorice spots instead of sticking them onto said ladybirds.

But if I’m honest, that’s not what really went wrong; none of those things were really the problem. 

I had an idea of how things were supposed to go and how cute their little ladybirds were going to be and they just wanted to have fun – like all two and five year olds should. I had a plan and they didn’t play ball. That was the problem.

Kids will be kids!

And it’s not because I’m some controlling, neurotic mother. I just wanted them to take part in some great beneficial developmental play. For their own good. And I wanted the ladybirds to prove to me that they had done that. 

And therein lies the problem. As a mum I forgot what I know as an OT. As a mum I needed to be told that the ladybirds were inconsequential. That the process is the important part.

We are primarily experiential learners, sensory learners. Particularly so when we are young. So it’s the doing that’s the important part. And play is the medium children use to do. Fun, spontaneous, energetic, fiddly, messy, sometimes chaotic play. That’s how they learn.

If I’d remembered this as a mum, I would have been really chuffed that my two year old was effectively manipulating a pair of scissors and cutting card repeatedly. I’d have been able to see that my five year old was getting a whole heap of energy-expending body awareness jumping on the trampoline and that it was actually really clever to cover it in glitter and make the glitter bounce all over his feet as he jumped. I’d also have been thrilled that they’d both tasted the liquorice making it a truly multi-sensory activity.

Had I been able to see these things, think how different it would have felt at the end of the day?

Being aware of the process instead of the outcome would have allowed me to join in exactly where they were and to follow them on a different journey. One of fun playful learning. One that didn’t result in perfect little ladybirds, but which involved laughter, and happiness, and connection with my children.

What freedom there is in child-led play; in just letting yourself follow your child and learn along with them. What a gift to remember to enjoy the silliness and the fun and to know that in it they are reaping even more rewards than when they are rigidly listening to instructions. How special to know you are helping your child to be the creative, innovating, clever child that they have the potential to be. 

We are such an outcomes driven society. Grades, accomplishments, accolades, wins – these are highlighted as important. These are what we are told measure the extent of our success; of our children’s success.

But the truth is simple: for children, the process is the important part. And if you focus properly on the process, with time, the outcomes will come.

If you are a mum of young children follow Rach here for amazing activities and developmental fun for your kids.