The Five Rules Of Engagement/What Makes The Spark Station Work

by Mary Ann on May 5, 2010

By now you have a pretty good idea of what the Spark Station is and how it is put together, as well as what goes into it. But I keep saying that the contents aren’t the most important thing. So what is? What makes the Spark Station work? Why can you have a fabulous closet, have the most costly and fascinating things in it and it still doesn’t work? What is it that really engages children, draws them in and makes this a magical space which inspires a love of learning?

Let’s talk about what I call the Five Rules of Engagement. They apply in two ways. When you use them your children will engage with the contents of the Spark Station. You have to engage in order for the station to be effective and these five tools help you engage. Hence, the Five Rules of Engagement. In order to have a true success with the station as an educational tool which can create a magical learning space you need to understand the five keys that make it work.

Here is a quick rundown of each one:

1. Structure time not content. You choose a set time to have family learning time and then hold it consistently. Honor that commitment. It isn’t as important how much time you choose as that you have it consistently. During that structured time children are able to choose what to engage with.

2. Be present. Being present means that you are engaging with your children, you are in the same space with them physically, emotionally and mentally. No phone, computer.

3. Make it special. The Spark Station is only available during the structured time. Period! It isn’t used by your children any other time.

4. Keep it simple. If you put something in take something out. This rule keeps the station from becoming a mess so that it isn’t usable. It keeps the closet exciting.

5. Weekly planning. That simply means thinking about what your children are saying, looking at, asking about or seem interested in. Then follow through.

The Five Rules of Engagement are not negotiable. If you pick and choose those you like and those you don’t you will not have the success that you hope for. Remember the question I posed at the beginning of this blog? What is it that really engages children, draws them in and makes this a magical space which inspires a love of learning? Well in my experience with all types of children and families it is structured time together with their family, consistency and parents being present. These things win out over whatever you do for or give to your children. They win hands down every time!

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