Advice / Leadership / Op-Ed / Reflection

Want A Humbling Experience? Play With Toddlers!

Tonight I was blessed with “kid’s duty” for our small group meeting. It was so awesome I decided to blog about it! (Names of children have been changed.)

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Humility, Patience, and Creativity Begins

I remember when I first joined small group, I was not very confident about looking after another’s children (or child, for that matter) — especially not alone! It felt a bit odd talking to them in a “kid’s voice” and having an adult buddy with me was worse — no one had ever heard my high-pitched voice before, nor did I know if the parents would approve of the way I interacted with their children. Nevertheless, after a solid 5 months (and my experience helping lead Junior Church + the encouragement of my small group members that I was actually good with kids), I stepped up to the challenge today and not only were the parents very grateful, but the experience itself was so humbling and so insightful!

At times, I’m a bit OCD when it comes to making sure everything is organized and in an orderly fashion, but over time, I’ve learned that it’s OK. When it comes to kids, it takes much less energy to let the tornado run through and take its course before Clean Up Time!

Extinguishing a Fire

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We were all settled in the basement, while the adults were upstairs for discussions. Everything was fine and dandy… until Caden started crying and throwing a tantrum over the toy cupcakes. His brother, Nicky, had taken one, and while I first thought it was because Caden didn’t want to share and was trying to grab it back, I realized I was wrong. We had a little talk away from the other kids, but he was very upset and trying to get away. (My first instinct was to ensure the situation didn’t escalate and the other kids wouldn’t follow suit… The parents were literally on the other side of the door too! No pressure.) Caden was a man on a mission and not sitting still, so I detached and observed what was on his mind.

We went back to the toy cupcakes. I started asking questions and talked in a calm voice (normal pitch :D) until I realized that Caden was upset that the tops of the cupcakes didn’t stay on top of the bottom part. They couldn’t be fixed on. It completely blew me away that a child was upset: 1) about an inanimate object, 2) about something that simply could not be changed. I calmly explained to him the facts of the situation: this is how the cupcakes were made and they couldn’t stay on — BUT what we could do was put ping pong balls inside the cupcakes! (Reminds me about that TED Talk where Dan Pink talks about overcoming functional fixedness!)

Through this situation, I was really challenged to think quickly on my feet and be creative, manage crisis/risk (yes, a crying child is a crisis to me – HA!), and to be patient. I was so glad Cindy was there to watch the other kids while this happened. She was my partner that day!

Creativity & Task Switching At Its Finest

I have only read that children have short attention spans. Today I can confirm that this is true. While the interest of the cupcakes only lasted 10 minutes, I still had another 1.5 hours to go! What were we going to do? Be spontaneous, go with the flow, and continuously invent new games!

Here’s how the evening unfolded (to the best of my memory):

  1. Random Play
  2. Cupcake Inquiry
  3. Couch Trampoline
  4. Clean Up Time – Haha version
  5. Building a Railway
    It’s amazing how much fun kids can have pushing a train around a track for 15mins continuously. Cindy and I had a lot of fun building it with them! Toys nowadays are so cool!
  6. Slide Game (Down the stairs??)
    We had a super cool landing pad at the end of the stairs and had to build a higher wall near the ping pong table to prevent accidents! The game was later reinvented to be…
  7. Traffic Slide Game
    A game with rules! Red light, green light… It all started with putting on our seat belts, taking out our keys, and starting our engines, then following verbal traffic light signs.
  8. Obstacle Course
    Slithering like a snake, crawling on all 4’s, hopping like a bunny, restart. It was a super cool obstacle course! Even the adults did it 🙂
  9. The “Dinosaur Situation”
    After all, it was small group evening… how were we going to implement a christian component? The opportunity finally arose! As we all hid in our cave (under the ping pong table) from the dinosaur Michelle spotted, we were whispering and discussing how we were going to secure food and water. Caden was the brave one who went out to see, while we all told him to be careful. Then I went out to pick up some “food and water” (the aforementioned toy cupcakes) and Michelle told me a dinosaur was behind me. We learned about shadows and also learned to turn to God when we were scared. Said a little prayer and also asked God to bless our food – Amen!
  10. Learning about “Gravity!”
    A new game involving sitting on top of the stairs and watching ping pong balls fall down the stairs. The kids were so good at sharing the balls and looking after each other to make sure everyone had a ball. “Can you say ‘gravity?'” “graviry!” “gravidddyyy!”
  11. Ping Pong Basketball
    A game with a rule: must stand behind the kiddy couch to throw.
  12. Hide and Seek
  13. Hide and Seek – Balloon Edition
    For both #12 & #13, we took turns hiding with the kids and alternated a good 3x.
  14. More Obstacle Course.
  15. Clean Up Time – For Real!
    We parked our cars along the side of the wall, put away our train tracks, tried to keep all the ping pong balls in a tub, put away all the cushion pads. Although we had one challenge: “I don’t want to!”
  16. More Hide and Seek.
  17. Ring Around the Rosy
    Caution kids “falling down” before the song is over! This lasted 5 rounds?
  18. Sleeping Game
    Who says you can’t have a sleeping game?! Although it only lasted 5 minutes.

Whether or not you’d like me chillin’ with the kiddies again, I’ll leave that up to you 🙂 IMG-20130304-01537

Above all, I feel like I really connected with the children today. Although there were only 3 of them (and 2 of us), I was completely exhausted at the end of the night. Thinking about the mums and dads out there who spend all day with their children is so humbling. I barely lasted 2 hours. All I could think was, work life compared to this seems like a breeze! So to all the parents out there, thank you. You are an inspiration to me; a true role model.

Oh yes, I received some good feedback from the kids. They had fun. It helps get them out the door faster when you tell them that you’re tired and looking forward to sleeping, then ask them if they had fun and are tired too. (haha!) Only for so long…

Words of wisdom: “The best form of birth control — watching other people’s kids.” – R. Schulz
Although we’ve learned that this can go both ways…

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