I work at the YMCA in my city as an After-School Program Leader.
The children that I work with have such an enthusiastic energy about them. They each have their own spark that they bring to the program. (They also bring sticky fingers, pokemon cards, and don’t even get me started about those fidget spinners).
About 20-30 boys and girls, grades 1 to 8, gather into our classroom after the school bell rings. We see children from many different cultures, religions, and socioeconomic backgrounds. However, they all have one thing in common … their magic minds.
Magic minds. Why do I call them magic? Because children have the ability to see people simply, the ability to create such wonderful images and storylines, and the ability to ask such amazing questions.
1. The ability to see people simply.
One important lesson that I have learned is that children don’t judge or exclude. Therefore, I believe that racism and social exclusion is a learned behaviour.
The children at the YMCA program speak a mix of both English and Arabic. It is amazing to see how language is not a barrier when it comes to children. For example, one day, I witnessed three boys playing a game together. Two spoke Arabic and one spoke English. They had a piece of paper and each held a marker in their hands. One boy would begin and draw something on the paper, and then slide it across the table while having a big smile on their face as the next boy added to the picture. When I looked at the paper it was just scribbles, but their laughter and joy made this game much more. They would laugh together, and continue to play this hilarious paper-chain game.
They may not be able to fully understand each other, but I know for sure that they continue to have fun regardless of the language barrier.
2. The ability to create wonderful images and stories
Imagination. As we grow up we lose our imagination. Most of us no longer practice the fun of imagining a world or a story that we wish to be a part of. Now we just focus on replaying the past, regretting decisions, or overthinking situations. Children’s minds have the ability to constantly create new fictional objects and beings, and make simple objects turn into wonders.
Each day at program I see different images being drawn. The best thing is to ask “What did you draw?” and the child will explain every detail of their picture and the special aspects of it, and how it is unique. Or I’ll see the children play games such as “house,” or create storylines using different toys, and even create monsters out of Lego.
I think that we can learn from children. We can learn to imagine wonderful things again. Learn to dream and to sometimes leave reality.
3. The ability to ask questions
Why? Why? Why? The most asked question kids ask is “Why does ______ happen?” or “Why do _______ do this?” or “Why do we have to do _________?” Children ask sooooo many questions each day to me. But, they are just looking for answers. Their minds are curious. They want to know everything. They want to know why bugs live in the ground, or why cotton candy melts when it touches your tongue, or how many creatures live in the coral reef. I find that I don’t even know the answer to many of these questions because I’ve never really looked at the world that particular way before. Have you ever had a child ask you a question that you don’t know the answer to? Asking questions makes you smarter. Asking questions makes you wise. I find that at one point when I was little I thought that I shouldn’t ask questions because that meant I wasn’t smart enough to know the answer. I would never find out the answer because I was too scared to ask and to be judged by my classmates. Therefore, I always inform the child that they asked me a great question, and I try to look up the answer if I don’t know it already.
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I will always encourage children that their dreams can never be too big. I want each child to understand why they are special and how they make me feel happy. During every one-on-one conversation I have with a child I try my best to be fully excited about what they are telling me, because to them it’s very important and they feel comfortable to share that information with me. I fear that one day these amazing minds will start to close off their questions, stop “dreaming” and start being more realistic, and that they will begin to judge other people for unnecessary reasons. To put it simply, children will become adults.
The next time you talk to a child I want you to learn something from them. Have their young soul help to refresh yours, and to remind you what it feels like to be a kid again.
Be like a child, because a child lives their life to the fullest everyday.