Watch, Wait and Wonder

Back in August, 2010 -- pre-baby days {did they really exist?!} -- I attended a statewide meeting to enhance my role as Launching into Learning (birth to four) coordinator at the school in which I was teaching.

One particular speaker stood out to me that day. I don't remember where he came from, or even his name for that matter, but a concept that he introduced us to that day has stayed in my mind ever since.

Watch, wait and wonder

The name itself is intriguing and begs to share its essence. I'll try my best to do just that!

Essentially, watch, wait and wonder is a short, special, one-on-one time between a child and their parent, spent playing, interacting and communicating. However during this time, the parent takes on a very different role to one they may be typically used to.

The key to watch, wait and wonder, is that the play is entirely child-led whilst the parent takes a non-directive, unobtrusive role.

The child is the instigator, the parent is the observer.

Watch, wait and wonder allows the child to explore, create, communicate and imagine with the comfort and knowledge that their parent is fully focused and present, but will not intervene, direct or impose their own ideas on their child's desire for self-expression.

It may seem very simple, deceptively simple, but just try it! In practise, it can be very difficult as a parent to remain quiet and present, without trying to instruct or teach during play settings. After all, everything can be  a learning opportunity! It is only natural that as parents, we feel a desire to increase our child's understanding and knowledge through 'showing' or 'doing' or 'teaching' however too much interference from us during play, forces our children to use their mental energy to cope with our intrusiveness, instead of being free to explore. An imposing parent leads a child to remain on guard and fully alert during play, rather than drift away to their inner world of thought, imagination and wonder.

By simply watching and being present, we can begin to appreciate our child's individuality and become more objective at reading and understanding them. Given the presence of a still, quiet, focused parent, our children will often reveal needs and desires, that they may not have otherwise communicated. Wait, watch and wonder increases mutual sensitivity and responsiveness, enriches relationships and enhances true listening skills.

Although Sage is only at the very beginning of her 'playing' journey, I have tried to keep this knowledge and understanding in mind during my day-to-day interactions with her. Of course there are times throughout each and every day where I guide, facilitate or demonstrate, as these are also essential components of being a loving and caring parent. However I have also been very mindful of giving her opportunities to just "be" in my presence; instilling her with the comfort of knowing that I am there, without imposing myself and my ideas on her discovery of her world. Through daily "being" together she already appears empowered to independently explore, with only very discrete acknowledgement and gentle encouragement on my part. As a parent, these times are incredibly reflective and have given me the gift of seeing and appreciating Sage for who she truly is.

And is there anything more magical than truly knowing your child?

{Please note, this is only my interpretation of the watch, wait and wonder program and I am by no means an expert. This discussion only scratches the surface for the reasons and benefits - especially regarding behavioural issues - of such parenting practice, so if you would like to know more information about watch, wait and wonder you can visit here or order the watch, wait and wonder DVD from here.}


  1. This sounds a lot like what RIE advocates, google magda Gerber, RIE or Janet Lansbury. Wish I had thought and known about this more when my 2 were little. Thanks for the post. It is wonderful to watch babies discover for themselves. Read an interesting post by janet landbury recently about not showing babies what crayons were for and letting them discover you can make marks on their own. Totally different from how we've thought about teaching babies!

    1. Thank you for your comment Lucy! I have read quite a bit of Magda's work, and have seen Janet's website before but will certainly do some more research. That crayon article sounds great! Watch, wait and wonder is typically used for children between 8 months and 4 years, so Xavier is the perfect age! One component I didn't really go into was trying not to redirect your child's play if it makes you uncomfortable - for example, if Xavier was playing quite aggressively with dinosaurs by making them fight, a natural instinct may be to try and redirect his play by making the dinosaurs kiss or be loving towards each other instead. The basis of watch, wait and wonder is to allow this kind of play to happen, as he may to trying to communicate a need, but he doesn't have the vocab to be able to do so. It's a very different way of parenting that we may not have traditionally accepted, but there are certainly elements of it that I think are fantastic for children's development. x

    2. nicely done jerry dowling


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