This week in our creative play classes for babies and toddlers, we played with many different circus-themed activities around "balance". We balanced objects, our bodies, and did partner balancing tricks (babies in the air!). Even though I'm not a circus-performer myself, I love leading circus-themed workshops for any age group because it is so different from the ways that we typically behave. We ask our bodies to do tricks and feats that we don't normally do on a daily basis - like bouncing a balloon on your head. We also interact with one another in very different ways, setting up challenges, giving loud cheers for silly acts. Demanding applause with a boisterous "Ta Da!!!"
These workshops are especially rewarding, though, when there are parents/caregivers working together with young people. We don't just ask the adults to watch and support, we ask them to fully participate and even lead. Some children need to watch a familiar adult model a new activity first before they are willing to give it a shot. This is true for balancing on one foot, but also for general silliness. It is so exciting and inspiring to watch moms, dads, grandparents, and babysitters shedding their serious, responsible role for 45 minutes, donning a red clown nose, and doing what it takes to get a big laugh from their baby.
When children see us being silly and taking risks, several important things happen. Firstly, they sense a permission for them to take risks and try new things. Children need to see that the adults in their lives are in control of their surroundings, but they also love to see us try something new and even fail. This begins to teach them the important lesson of resilience and determination. Even more importantly, though, when children see adults acting silly, it expands their perception of the world. "Mama is not just this, she is also THAT." It encourages the development of empathy, but it also sparks delight, surprise, and curiosity. If grandpa can be silly, be childlike, and balance on top of a big yoga ball, then who knows what else is possible!
This is one of the greatest delights I have in inter-generational learning, particularly with something as silly as circus. We can help each other learn in new ways, but both children and their adult companions have a chance to be surprised and delighted by what the other is capable of!
Lauren Jost, Director