Preschool Pom Poms
Out of the cacophony of Facebook, good things can emerge. Tips, recommendations, friendships, support, connections, networking — all of these have come to me through Facebook. But my favorite Facebook moments happen when a thinking person uses the platform for storytelling. My friend Ellen is a master at maximizing the Facebook space for sharing vignettes and insights from her days. As someone who teaches yoga to children, she has endless material and inspiration. Below is one of her stories.
Today in preschool yoga we played “The Popcorn Game.” It basically involves me putting pom pom “kernels” in a pot, pretending to “pop” them, and then throwing them all over the room for the kids to pick up and put back in the pot.
Let me tell you, it is a thrill. Seriously. Most requested activity by far in every age group. The sentence I hear most frequently in class? “Are we playing the popcorn game today?” Some kids even peek in my bags, and yell out, to cheers, “SHE BROUGHT THE POM POMS!!” (Best $2.69 I ever spent!)
When I play it with big kids, they have to pick up the pom poms with their toes, no hands allowed.
But for preschoolers, it’s enough to run around without smashing into one another, to organize their bodies to gather the little fuzzies and get them back to the pot.
Today I took out the pot and the pom poms to the usual cheers.
Except for one little boy I’ll call Charlie. Charlie was sad and worried, remembering that last time, he “didn’t get any popcorn.”
It’s true. But it’s not because the other kids were grabby or hyper competitive. It’s because Charlie’s nervous system was so mesmerized, so overwhelmed by the mere visual WOW of seeing pink and green pom poms all over the room, all he could do was stand in the middle of the room, grinning with every muscle north of his toes. He. Was. In. Heaven.
Until all the popcorn was cleaned up and he hadn’t gotten a single pom pom. And then tears.
So today we had a pep talk before class. I walked everyone through the steps. Find a pom pom. Bend down. Pick up a pom pom. Bring it back to the pot. Repeat.
Charlie was still very worried. You could see the worry on his face and also in his sadly clenching and unclenching hands and toes.
The pom poms flew, and Charlie’s joy took over for a few seconds, dancing him up and off his mat and into the game. There he stood, pointing at the other kids, telling me in a very sad voice, “They are getting all the pom poms!”
“Charlie, sweetie!” I encouraged him. “Look down! There are pom poms right there, next to your feet! Get them!”
But his focus was on the other kids and on his lack of pom poms, and he had no extra brainspace to coordinate the next step.
“They have lots of pom poms, and I don’t have any.”
“Charlie! Bend your legs! Bend down! Touch the ground! THERE ARE LOTS OF POM POMS RIGHT THERE BY YOUR TOES!!” I coached him, in as gentle and patient a tone as I could muster.
Meanwhile, well-meaning, cheerful kids were closing in on his ankles, and…..GONE! Pom poms were all back in the pot.
So we tried again.
And on the third try, with some help from me levitating a handful of pom poms halfway to Charlie’s hands, SUCCESS! Charlie put some pom poms in the pot!
1) The preschool nervous system is very much a work in progress, and some kids need LOTS of time to figure out what seem to us like the simplest of tasks. Kids need time and space and patience and for things to be broken down into the smallest steps.
2) Worry about failure can be so big that it consumes the resources we do have to see what’s in front of us, to take the next step, to see how close we are to success.
3) My next book will be entitled Who Moved My Pom Pom? I’ll have Charlie write the foreword.