The Role of Facilitator - In a Child's Learning

The Role of Facilitator - In a Child's Learning

The role of facilitator is a very important and powerful one; every person who cares for a child plays this role.

Facilitator: One that facilitates, one that helps to bring about an outcome (as learning, productivity, or communication) by providing indirect or unobtrusive assistance, guidance, or supervision - Merriam-Webster Dictionary

The goal of this book is to empower you as a facilitator, to create a positive and enriched environment (with proper resources and circumstances for enhanced learning and development), and to provide support along the way as your child grows.

Many parents believe they are doing “facilitation” right, providing play dates, sending their children to preschool, signing them up for soccer, and even buying them the toys they want. Although these are the right ways to facilitate a child’s life, without facilitating “learning,” our opportunity as the greatest resource for our child can be missed.

Imagine giving an adult a bicycle who has never seen or ridden one and not showing them how or what to do. The adult may be able to figure it out, but most likely, they would try, fall, and probably never ride again. A child, new to the world, is the same.

If you just give a child a cup, they’ll hold it for a minute and then drop it. It isn’t because this cup doesn’t have possibilities or use, it just holds no immediate purpose for the child. The child doesn’t know the possibilities. However, if you give this same child three spoons, and a cup full of water, that minute will turn into five. And if you give that same child a cup and spoons outside, a bucket of water, and a hose, the five minutes will turn into 20, and so on.

Rather than simple observation, the activity will turn into exploration and a rich, sensory integration experience.

To become a facilitator is to create possibilities and opportunities for learning right in your home, every day. This isn’t more work. It will feel like more free time because your children will be occupied. You won’t be their sole source of entertainment. You’ll also have the peace of mind of knowing they are learning, not just immersed in a device (even though we all need to do that at times, too).
Teaching happens naturally in this type of rich learning environment. Your children will constantly ask for help and guidance, and they’ll engage you.

One day, for my son’s preschool field trip, we went for a hike in a local, well-maintained state forest. I ended up in a group with an affluent mother who refused to let her five-year-old daughter venture off a groomed path, even slightly into the woods. She didn’t want her going too far, or tripping over a stick, and repeatedly told her to be careful or stay on the path. Seven adults were watching. I let my son run ahead, into the woods, climb the rocks, find sticks, look for bugs, throw rocks, step in puddles, fall, and more. I am not sure what the mother was afraid would happen.

If her daughter fell and got a bruise or scraped her knee, that is part of growing and learning. She would heal and likely learn better balance, to look before she ran, watch her step, or beware of vines.

The mother prevented her child from enjoying the sensory experience of being in the woods and touching and feeling the world around her.

Which child do you think would grow up strong and confident if this were an everyday experience? I believe both of us wanted what was best for our children. The ever-popular term for this is helicopter parent.

The mother believed she was being a conscientious caretaker, keeping her child safe. But she missed her opportunity and role to be a facilitator.

Children who start crawling in a playroom with climbing slides and structures, exploring, and trying things on their own will be physically stronger and more capable than children who lack these. The risks will be less for them running free in the woods. They will also know their boundaries. If they go too far, they may lose sight of you. Putting the responsibility in their hands is part of being a facilitator.

If you can capitalize on the constant opportunity you have while a child plays, to create and facilitate learning, you can also become your child’s greatest teacher.
Believe it or not, children don’t like chaos. Children get overwhelmed when there’s too much stimulation or too many options. New parents learn this very quickly when they buy a colored, 12-bin organizer with all the toys in different bins for a toddler. They soon find that all the toys end up in a pile on the floor in about five minutes. Dumping the toys out is more fun than playing with them and this is a normal part of development, cause and effect. Less is best.

Facilitation is setting up learning in a way that a child can explore and discover and if he or she needs guidance, you guide them.

Often a child doesn’t know how to play with a toy until he or she sees someone else playing with it, or an adult provides some guidance. Each night after the children go to sleep or before they wake, clean the playroom. Do a clean sweep of the space. Put all toys in their right places. Toys that were used on the Center Activity Table or rotated in, were put away. Out of sight, out of mind.

A clean space is a blank canvas for a child to create and become the master of his or her environment, even if to us, they just made a huge mess.

Putting the farm animals out in a farmhouse or barn, for example, and placing the animals in their proper spaces facilitates learning. The cow is placed in the stall where the moo sound is made. A toddler will first pick up the cow, touch it, feel it, bite it, throw it, and walk away. There’s no association to what it is or why, as of yet.

Over time, however, the child will learn what a cow is and what it does, play with the cow saying “moo,” know where it fits in a farm, and that the milk they drink comes from a cow.

These are the building blocks of exploration and learning through play. This is why children need certain types of toys and guidance at different developmental stages to aid in this process of constructing knowledge.

As children get older, between two and four, you should no longer have to set up the animals in their proper places. Although coming downstairs in the morning and seeing all your toys set up waiting for you is like finding a treasure! Surprise your children by staging their dollhouse or setting up the cars in a monster truck show with one of the garages.

Set up toys to give each child exposure to all learning targets. If one is missed, simply cover it the next day. Let things flow and a routine will come naturally.
Many toys overlap between one space and another. For example, a Melissa and Doug cutting board that had been set out on the Center Activity Table will often end up in the oven in the House Area of Learning. All toys weave together, like a small little world for a child. Refer to The Center Activity Table and House Area.

If your children are in preschool two or three days a week, rotate the toys twice a week or every other week because their daily use will be less. When they are of school age, they will be old enough to choose the toys and activities themselves. However, on days there is no school, in the summer, or whenever they seem bored, continue to facilitate and give them a “jump start.”

Don’t feel like you must have everything. The goal is just to understand the different types of toys, how to target learning domains, and how to facilitate learning! Refer to Daily Rotations of Toys and Learning Areas and How to Structure a Day.

The paperback version of Create a Home of Learning is available at Amazon, your favorite bookseller or

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