By JEANINE DeHONEY
Ah preschoolers—those wonderful, adorable, quirky, miniature human beings. They have such a knack for finding meaning in the simple, natural pleasures each day, but we don’t give them nearly enough credit for imparting life lessons on the big people in their lives. I can tell you, though, that after being around preschoolers for more than 25 years as an assistant early childhood teacher and being a part of the village for my grandchildren—including a precocious preschool granddaughter—I've found that the little ones in my life have gifted me with some funny, sweet, poignant life lessons. Here, I'm sharing my favorite nine—those lessons that hopefully will encourage and inspire you and help you tap into that inner child-like spirit. Highlight them with your favorite Crayola crayons, underline them with a splash of vibrant finger paint, recite them like a much-loved lullaby. These lessons have blessed my life and I hope they bless yours, too.
Morning Greetings Rock! In the morning when they arrive at school, especially after they shake their parental clinginess, preschoolers run full steam ahead with open arms and wide smiles to greet their teachers and classmates. On a recent morning walk with my 2-year-old granddaughter, I watched in amazement as she, in her baby talk, acknowledged every person walking by her—from groundskeepers to senior citizens. I saw more smiles that day than I had in awhile, thanks to her petite goodwill services. Who wouldn’t feel welcome, wanted, cherished, or significant with such an unabashed greeting? Preschoolers teach us how to acknowledge another human being with love and brazen abandon. We all need to work on our morning greetings to others. Whether it's exchanging the proverbial morning peck with a more sensuous and elongated kiss with our husbands or greeting our children, co-workers or even a next door neighbor with a glorious cheesy smile, upping the ante on the way we speak to each other in the morning says, "I’m happy to wake up to another glorious new day and to share it with you!" Today, greet the people in your life or a stranger you pass in the street the way a preschooler would.
Eat your Cheerios. Breakfast is an important meal to preschoolers. They enjoy the ritual of pouring milk into their bowl and delight in seeing how many Cheerios they can get on their spoon or in their mouth. They don’t know all the facts about how breakfast fuels their bodies to jumpstart their day, but they do know that it makes their bellies feel full and content, and once they've got that fuel in them, they’re ready for the flurry of activities that lie ahead. Preschoolers taught me the importance of eating breakfast, not only for nourishment, but as a way to commune and enjoy the company of my husband and family after the sun rose. Sharing breakfast with your spouse and children, seeing who can get the most Cheerios on their spoon or in their mouth, or surprising them with cheerful yogurt parfaits fills not only their bellies but their spirit.
Give Gifts. Preschoolers love to give gifts. Be it a wilted daffodil they found on the way to school, a lollipop already sucked but rewrapped just for you, or even a piece of lint found in the pocket of their jeans is worthy of giving to someone they love and trust. A child once gave me a folded paper full of scribbles and told me it said “I love you.” That nearly brought a waterfall of tears streaming from my eyes because it was one of those days when I was feeling far from treasured and loved,
and that gift of a paper full of random scribbles was just what I needed. Preschoolers don’t need reasons or occasions to give gifts to someone they love and trust; they give freely and generously from their hearts, and we should follow suit when it comes to the people we love. Those gifts don’t have to be expensive or materialistic to be treasured. Today, give someone a gift without thinking of its worth.
Hold Hands. How many times during the day has a preschooler grabbed my hand or another teacher’s hand, just because? I realized that when it came to hand holding, preschoolers had a heads up. As a child, I remembered walking hand-in-hand with my best friend—giggling, whispering secrets into each other’s ears. When I was dating my childhood sweetheart, the man God led me to and who eventually became my husband, we held hands constantly, oblivious to anyone or anything around us. And when I had children, I held their hands until they established their independence and parted their fingers from mine. Maybe they parted too soon. Who says hands are only meant to be grasped by tiny fingers? Where is it written that couples should eventually put hand-holding behind them? Today hold hands with someone that you love.
Talk and Share. Preschoolers love sharing time. They get a kick out of sitting Indian-style on a colorful rug while they wait their turn to tell a story or share a Show-and-Tell item they brought from home. Once they're finished sharing with their friends and teachers, they're happy campers for the rest of the day, proud of their contribution. Today share a story, a poem you have written, an opinion, a word of wisdom, half of a sandwich—anything!—with someone.
Dance! Preschoolers love to dance. They move their bodies to the folk tunes of children’s music pioneer Ella Jenkins or shake it to Beyonce. They know that dancing makes their bodies feel good and they are not timid about grabbing a partner and beckoning them to dance alongside. When I was younger, I always dreamed of being a ballerina. Although that dream never materialized, for years, I pushed back my couch, put on my favorite music and danced across the room. After a stormy period in my life, I hung up my dancing shoes. I pulled them back out, though, at my son’s wedding, where I danced for practically the whole evening—with my husband, with my son and
daughter-in-law, with family members new and old. And I realized what I was missing. Psalm 30:11 says, “You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.” So dance—if not in a ballroom, in the privacy of your own house—to bring joy and exhilaration to your spirit.
Forgive. Preschoolers don’t hold grudges and are always forgiving of others. Their pouting anger dissolves in minutes, sometimes seconds. Remembering that has helped me to forgive offenses—big or small—more easily. So today, choose to forgive.
Dream. Preschoolers dream all the time. “When I grow up I’m going to be a Blue Power Ranger,” some little voice would shout out to me. And I would always respond that they could be anything they chose to be. I was their dream keeper, but along the way, I sometimes forgot to be my own. So I decided that I would become more like them. I shout my dreams out and wait for them to manifest, no matter how implausible they seem. And I encourage little ones to do the same. With the right support, that preschooler who wanted to be a Blue Power Ranger could become an actor or have a career in animation or graphic design. But he's got to keep dreaming. So today, make a promise to safeguard and nurture and be the keeper of your precious dreams.
Have Faith. Hebrews 11:1 says, "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Preschoolers have incredible faith, in people, in each new day, in promises. And no matter how many times they're let down, they keep that faith—hold it dear. Today, no matter what the world throws at you, blindside it with childlike faith. For me, this is one of the greatest preschooler lessons of all.
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