When children are able to choose their own activity, it often brings them joy. Sometimes they look very happy, laughing, squealing, shouting, and the like. Sometimes, they get fully engaged with what they are doing and they may not look joyful. When adults are fully engaged with their own efforts, they call this “flow” or “in the zone”, and they usually look serious and lose track of others. It is exactly the same with young ones. Sometimes, we will hear “uh-oh” when something doesn’t quite work and they have to try something else. When they figure out what they were trying to do, they will usually smile, yell, or somehow call attention to what they did. When adults observe the action, and maybe take notes, it doesn’t interrupt the child and allows the child to complete whatever the child was doing. It also can bring joy to the adult to see the child actually learning. Adults can take some brief notes of what the children are doing and can add the learning concepts to their observations. It also helps them frame comments and questions after the activity, such as “When you were pushing the car up the ramp and it fell off, I saw that you changed the ramp.”

When adults either interrupt the action or arbitrarily decide to intercede in the action by asking what seems to be a relevant question, it spoils the child’s concentration and is definitely not helpful. It took me a while to understand the difference between asking questions to increase the children’s responses and not breaking their concentration. When they look to you, you can look back and after a little while, say what you think is appropriate. But whey they are fully engaged, please don’t interrupt the learning! Adults are so interested in increasing children’s attention span. When they interrupt the child, it SHORTENS the attention span and can lead the child to think it may not be worth it to get involved since they are just going to be interrupted soon anyway.