SOL: Splashing Around to Learn  

There is nothing like watching a toddler explore. Today I got that gift.


Laughter and joy bubble up at every turn. The desire to reach out and test limits is a toddler’s natural state of being. Loving hands, who know this child, anticipate trouble before it happens and gently guide him away from negative possibilities and toward accessible adventures.

It’s marvelous to watch the world through the eyes of a toddler. One can’t help but smile and follow along.

When I had little ones to watch over, each step was documented and cheered. I saw them as their mom.

Today, I watched through teacher’s eyes.


Desire to learn is apparent indicated by swift movement toward the tank. Scaffolded by his mother’s boost and support enabling him to reach the water without falling in he tentatively touched the water after demonstration.  Guided learning was followed by independent practice made possible by access to a spot with a lower wall. He approximated the work by splashing in the water. Practice was done in proximity of other learners. After watching proficient touch tank behavior, he returned to independent practice splashing water. Had stamina. Upset when invited to move on to another activity.

Next steps:  more hands on activities with ample opportunites to practice with other learners

What a toddler can do is visible. Frustration and joy are apparent.  We know what they can do. We show the next step. We do it together, sometimes with a guiding hand. Models of how to are everywhere. The desire to assist and take in learning is as natural as breathing.

When a child enters school, they are there to learn, but how they engage can shift from demonstration-experience towards one with limits.  The space to explore diminishes. Choice shrinks. Things become departmentalized. The conditions that promoted learning are compromised.

Tomorrow, I get on a plane to Boston to participate in Jan Burkins’ and Kim Yaris’ ILA pre-conference session that celebrates their new book Who’s Doing the Work. Reading this book and preparing for the seminar has been an incredible study in what teaching reading can look like when we offer up more opportunities for kids to do the work of reading with ample agency and choice.

Here’s to getting wet, splashing around and learning joyfully.

Thank you, Two Writing Teachers for Slice of Life Tuesdays. A place to share our lives and our learning. Read more slices here.



8 thoughts on “SOL: Splashing Around to Learn  

  1. Great word pictures to support the ideas from Who’s Doing the Work? Would love to be at the conference. But I am happy i will be with ESL colleagues (my tribe!) at a district PD.

  2. Good luck at the session! I love how you looked at the toddler’s learning from a teacher’s perspective!

  3. Julieanne,
    So fun to revisit stamina from a toddler’s view . . . so much more than we give them credit for! AND no matter what the AGE or STAGE – choice is critical!

    Have fun in Boston. Looking forward to hearing about your adventures!

  4. What an awesome adventure, being part of the the preconference day! I know the conference will be amazing! Maybe we can meet up afterwards in CA and you can share. I’m leaving Friday to spend the next 12 days with my favorite toddler. I will keep your words in mind as we explore and play her world. Have fun in Boston!

  5. Very interesting post today. For the first time in a very long time, I had a six-month-old on my lap in our backyard for about 45 minutes (our neighbors’ child). I was fascinated by how he learned the simplest things I “taught” him, like how to bang his paper plate against the table to make a sound like drumming. He wanted to do it over and over again and took great delight in his success. He also noticed everything around him like the trees blowing overhead and the fan spinning inside our house over the kitchen table. All of his senses were completely activated and he was more than ready to experience everything he could. I forgot how receptive and open to experience even the youngest child can be.

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