We so often forget that our young children don’t need new, new, new all the time. They find the familiar comforting rather than ‘boring’.
If the environment and materials we offer are stable for them, they can invest their energy in playing, creating, and navigating the social landscape. If each time they arrive there is a new set up their energy goes into orienting themselves instead, into finding the ‘lay of the land’. It is only once they’ve found that sense of security they can engage in play and relationships.
Is that time worth emotional energy worth spending, just for the sake of novelty? For the adult idea that having seen something before makes it less appealing for a wee one? Let’s give them the security of sameness and free up them up. It’s a simple equation really - less time orienting equals more time for playing.
We all have times where the ‘novelty bug’ strikes and we change things up too often.
We introduce a new song or karakia to lead into a ritual, afraid the other is getting stale. But we don’t tune into the children who can sing it every day for a year and still find joy in it.
We bake a new recipe each time we bake to make sure the children have variety. But we forget that practice of the same leads to confidence.
Our wee people want to achieve mastery, and repetition allows that. We think we have to offer a new excursion each time, but regular visits to the same spot creates a ‘base’, a known place to explore from.
They won't actually get bored if it was chosen because it meets their urges and play needs. We invite new visitors in as one-offs rather than inviting the same person back several times and actually develop a relationship.
We have to stop and ask ourselves who are these new things for - the children, or is it for us? Are we the bored ones? Are we restless and eager for more? Or are we doing it for the parents, so they know we have lots of ideas and there is ‘enough’ for their child to fill their days with?
We need to stop and realise that constant variety offers a skim the surface type of learning - a taster menu of sorts. A stable offering with chances to revisit is a deeper, more satisfying and memorable menu.
We need to trust our children. They can visit the same setting and still find adventure - time and time again. They can be amongst the same loose parts and find an infinite number of ways to use them. They also find such joy in repetition, doing the same thing, following the same urge many times before making their own change.
Let’s allow them to decide when to go beyond their known and onto the next step. Our secret to trusting? Observe! Offer some same-same, tune in without interfering and see what magic unfolds.