Why is it so important?
Lately we’re a world of being done rather than doing. Everyone’s busy, late, and in a rush. It feels nearly excruciating if you’re already late for your morning meeting and your toddler wants to put on his shoes by himself. But have you ever stopped to watch how much enjoyment comes from a child when they do something independently? Shoes aren’t a big deal to us, we’ve put them on thousands of times, to the point we can do it blindly. But has the Toddler had that chance yet? Ever notice how we instinctively know how to jiggle our heel to get the back of the shoe out from under our foot…but when a 3 year old gets their shoe folded under their heel, they look confused. Think back: waaaaaaaay back. That was once you, not understanding the complexities of a shoe! You have to manage the tongue and the heel simultaneously – lots of work for a young age. The shoes may be on the wrong feet, or mis-matched, but does that Toddler care? Heck no, he put them on with no help!
I live for that day as a Teacher when a child gets SO excited over something typically thought of as trivial. It’s a big milestone for a child pick out their own clothes one day. To them, this means “Hey, I’m growing up and I’m awesome like Mom and Dad!” I once ran into a friend and her 2.5 year old daughter, who upon being introduced to me promptly lifted her skirt and shouted “I’M WEARING BIG GIRL PANTIES TODAY!” While most adults would be appalled, Mom chuckled and said “It’s been a big day at home, so now we’re out celebrating.”
You cannot get the product you want without exploring the process. You can’t throw all ingredients into a pan and expect a cake, without doing each and every step. We humans are the same way. Children need to explore as they develop as much as possible. It might not seem important to you, but so many things are internalized in a young one that we don’t get. How do I know why I shouldn’t put my shoes on the wrong feet? I did it a few times on my own, and figured out that it doesn’t feel good when they are opposite! You could explain it to the child, but will they fully understand what you meant unless they experiment? Scientific and Logical Minds are built when the child can explore and discover the world around them, down to the silliest detail. Smooshing mud between my fingers might get me messy, but man does it feel cool!
A discovering child is a fascinating thing to watch. I say we celebrate the process!