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Recently a friend described her encounters with early childhood teachers from the well known early childhood centers of Reggio Emilia, Italy. When asking why children were participating in certain activities, the response often began with “It depends…”. Children were engaged with experiences depending on the day, the time, the child’s interests, the child’s needs, the teacher’s availability, etc…. This phrase “it depends” inspired me to consider the why behind all that I prepare and do with children.

Do my preparations for learning depend upon the children’s daily, individual, and developmental needs?
Does my schedule depend upon the children’s daily, individual, and emotional needs?
Do my responses to children’s questions and needs depend upon the uniqueness of each day?

“It depends” takes us away from robotic routine and into the freshness and childlike wonderment* of the moment. Rather than planning both the questions we ask children and the answers we guide them toward (or sometimes give to them straight-up), we can plan a general drift, then depending on the needs of the children on the particular day willingly drift in a slightly new direction. Or, if we are feeling really free, our plans may read something like this:

January 6, 2014 – Greet children, observe children, journey with children!

While we may not be able to reach this level of freedom in our plans, it illustrates a freedom that I believe early childhood teachers need to bring to their work with children. Even if our daily plans are structured to the minute, are we welcoming children each day with a sense of freshness and curiosity to see where their play takes us? This simple phrase – “it depends” – inspires me to speak, move, and act depending on the daily needs of those around me and myself.

*Rachel Carson (1956) has many insightful ideas on joining children in their natural wonderings of the world.

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