Day 5 - The Zone of Proximal Development
How involved do you get in your child's play?
Do you leave them to it? Do you jump in and show them how it's done so they can 'do it right'? Perhaps you start them off with a provocation (see our blog for more on this) and retreat to a safe distance?
Imagine you are watching your child build a tower. They choose the simplest way - stacking one block on top of another. They then decide to make it wider. A second, parallel tower goes up, abutting the first. Five or six stories up these two constructions start to diverge, teeter and topple. As adults, we know that a cross-piece was needed, something to span the two towers and hold them together.
It would be easy to intervene and supply the missing piece. But how much would your child learn? Or, like the constructivists we learnt about on Day 1, you could leave your child to figure it out for herself.
There is, as you may have guessed, a third way. The difference between what your child can do independently and what they can accomplish with support is known as the Zone of Proximal Development.
How much you help is a matter of judgement. As little as possible, ideally. You can't learn for a child; they have to do it themselves. But you can certainly give them a nudge. It is often enough simply to ask a question or to draw their attention to the crucial feature of a problem.
Today's challenge: Observe your child at play. At times when she seems to get stuck, try to think of ways to help without giving the answer. What's the smallest intervention you can make that will still get the result? It takes practice to get this right, but it's worth the trouble. You can really accelerate your child's learning - and you'll both have fun doing it.
N.B. This is not a strategy to use all the time. Children need time to themselves.
Here's the rest of the series: