Imagine my surprise when I found out today that I’d won the book of the month from Books by Tara! Not a bad way to start the week.
I met Tara at the Cincinnati Museum Center’s Learning Through Play conference. The bright, colorful books on display in her booth caught my eye, vibrant enough to make me want to pick one up and see what they were all about. We started talking about the books and I learned that Tara, in addition to being an early childhood educator, is the mom of two boys with autism. Her sons have inspired her books and her philosophy: that ALL children require engaging experiences with caring adults to truly thrive linguistically. Tara created her books out of her passion as a mom and an educator, and to aid her on her journey with her children. She takes her own beautiful pictures and presents them in book form to entice children with familiar objects. In my opinion, children need these kinds of experiences to thrive in ALL aspects of their lives!
Tara makes some lovely points on engaging children, especially those that are “focus-challenged.” Her suggestions include making your time together fun, being playful, celebrating the little successes, pausing for your child’s response and encouraging the next small steps. Who wouldn’t thrive under those conditions? I am reminded of a time when I was traveling with two teens and a slightly older twenty-something. The girls were acting up and I was trying to get them to focus on their attitude and behavior, making my point that how you view and treat yourself is how others will, too. I used a pretty vivid example from something I had read on the subject: if given a choice, would you prefer to be like a dirty and tattered Styrofoam cup or a fine china tea cup? The girls took this to heart, and I later took what I’d learned from our conversation and turned it into a class I gave to tweens. Like Tara’s books recommend, we were playful, holding our class at a tea parlor and allowing the girls to chose which cup they wanted as the memento of our day. Sweet and simple, but a lesson all the same. To this day, the girls and their friends still talk about that event and what it meant to them.
Every day we spend with children is filled with expectations and laced with the unknown. We can only hope to create experiences for our children that allow them to learn and grow. I won a book today, but when I am truly engaging and interacting with my children, I win everyday.