June 2009

June is finally here! Off come the layers of sweaters and vests, leggings and sweats. Our youngsters are bustin’ out! Letting us see how big they’ve grown, how round and chubby, agile and adventurous, curious and confident! This growth isn’t only in the eye of the beholder – our children feel it too, rediscovering their bodies and relishing in the new freedom that warm weather brings. No matter what age your baby or child, he becomes a little bigger in June!

As parents, we often celebrate this energy and growth by spending as much time as we can in parks and playgrounds – our wary eyes scanning for potential hazards – and in active play spaces where toddlers and up can test and stretch their bodies’ capabilities, where they can heighten their spatial awareness and sharpen their executive planning abilities.

Executive planning??? While it may sound like a term straight out of the board room, in fact, it’s used by psychologists to describe those areas of cognition that allow children (and adults) to anticipate what’s ahead and subconsciously prepare their next moves. We can think of it as the GPS of children’s responses to their world, mapping and guiding their actions. In the physical realm, executive planning involves sizing up a physical challenge and formulating a plan. The task might be ‘cruising’ the coffee table, peeling a banana, leaping over a hurdle, or stringing words together intelligibly.

Though it may sometimes appear innate, executive planning requires nurturing. It consolidates for our children as they tackle the same challenge or situation over and over again – then add a new twist. Whether executing a plie’, manipulating a scissors, alternating steps or grabbing hold of a gymnastics bar, children may initially misjudge distance and momentum in their first attempts. Not until after many tries, can a child gauge and coordinate what is needed with apparent automaticity, then zoom forward as if it were the most natural thing in the world!

How lucky for us to be their witness, then offer them, in words and hugs, our kudos for perseverance, stamina and for accomplishment. The trick, of course, is to support this risk taking by our young athletes and adventurers, all the while safeguarding against anything more serious than a scraped knee. Even that, a small bump or scrape, can be perceived as a scary thing and stand in the way of further daring. With patience and calm, we can say “It’s part of the territory.” “This won’t hurt for long.” “You are fine.”, reading as we do our own child’s ‘reassurance barometer’. As parent, comforter and educator, we give our daughter the reassurance she needs to get back on the horse – or scooter or trike; so she can learn from each misstep in order to create new paths in her network of executive planning and build foundations for the years to come.

Our youngsters are bustin’ out in June – and learning every step of the way!