I made cocoa with marshmallows and poured it into our china cups just for fun. Then my little daughter and I sat and talked.
Conversation with children will take you around the world and back. Emily is especially good at bringing up random topics that keep your mind swirling. Flying fish are on her mind lately. Why do they fly, where do they fly, why do some fish have wings and not others? Then it was on to sea horses and bits and pieces she learned about them on a children’s science program. After that, the subject was her intention to invent a vending machine that would shoot out fruit and vegetables instead of things that were bad for you. She said she had drawn a plan for it and asked if I would like to see it when her cocoa was finished.
Then the subject turned to table manners when her attempt to cool the cocoa shot melting marshmallows onto the tablecloth. The negative social aspects of slurping hot beverages and soup was next on the conversational docket.
Listening to her, I thought again of how much information is exchanged in the most casual of circumstances at home with a parent. It’s not formal teaching, but children are learning anyway. By watching and listening and weighing and asking, they are being formed as people.
The times I value most with my children are the talks we have had in the van or in the kitchen or at the table. You learn a lot about who they are as people just by listening to them, and you have the chance to shape their values, hopefully in a good way, by being engaged with them in the simple act of conversation.
The subject turned to books as we have bookshelves in the dining room, living room and her bedroom. She hauls them off the shelf frequently and asks me to tell her what each book is about. My old edition of Heidi interests her with the beautiful drawings of the goats and the Alps. That leads to questions about where the Alps are on the globe. This is how children learn, and it’s fascinating to watch.
Emily’s other passion is birds. She has learned a lot about them from a large book we were given about the birds of North America. There is a button you can push to hear the call of each bird. Her favorite is the Roseate Spoonbill because of its gorgeous pink color and big wings. The book is a real treasury.
Birds and flying fish and sea horses and vending machines and manners. Such is the mind of a child, soaking up knowledge like a sponge. Conversation, I believe, is the primary learning tool for children, and the beauty of it is that you not only can convey knowledge, you help build a relationship of trust and love in the process.