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A Habit of Spontaneity

Celeste Ezell | Published on 1/4/2024

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Live & Learn

By: Celeste Ezell   |  January 4, 2024

During our recent trip to Grandma’s in Oklahoma, my great nephew (I can’t believe I’m a great aunt!) became intrigued by a ball of yarn as my sister and I crocheted. At two, he hardly has the vocabulary to voice the dozens of questions that lit his eyes as he observed us. When encouraged, he unwound a small scrap ball and ran in circles around the wall separating the living room and kitchen trying to catch his own tail! Then he practiced tying up Daniel’s foot! He was captivated for at least fourty minutes. I had forgotten how entertaining it is to watch toddlers make discoveries!


When my oldest was three and I was pregnant with my second, my husband and I shared a car, so I walked my daughter to ballet class a couple of times per week. One afternoon the rain had stopped just in time, so we put on rain boots and tutu and took off down the sidewalk. To my chagrin, halfway to class, my pretty little girl knelt down suddenly and picked up a plump squirmy earthworm from a puddle! I was both disgusted and concerned about muddy tights, but she didn’t care. This was a serendipitous opportunity! It was a hard turn, but I managed to put my agenda aside, joined in the fascinating examination, and we arrived just a few minutes late to ballet class.


Now that I’m teaching in a classroom, supporting spontaneous sparks of curiosity is sometimes even trickier. In the middle of diagramming a sentence in English one student shouted out, “Wait, in Latin word order doesn’t matter?” Another student who always finishes his assignments very quickly decided he had to build a table for the new 3D printer right then. When a child interrupts with a burning question that throws me off my flow, I have to remember their learning is in fact the main objective.


These moments are serendipitous! Lev Vygotsky called it spontaneous learning. While children age seven or older effectively learn reactively through activities initiated by a teacher, three to seven-year-olds primarily learn according to their own plans, especially through free play.


This is the great work of parenting. Taking into account their eating, sleeping, clothing, and cuddling, a huge part of parenting is just letting our children figure things out, present and engaged, watching and enjoying. When your child sees your eyes light up at their discovery, they recognize its value, and more importantly, their own value to you. Early in their lives, our children are evaluating what they do in large part by what elicits our engagement. So engage early and often, and seek out teachers and coaches who do the same. Children expand their capacity for learning and discovery to fill the space we provide.


In 2020, the Child Mind Institute offered tips to families thrown into schooling at home. Talk to your children about their projects and yours to practice new vocabulary. Keep a routine of daily activities to build habits and autonomy. Make time for unstructured play of various types:

  • Constructive Play - blocks, Magna-Tiles, Lego, fort-building, coloring and crafts
  • Physical Play - running, skipping, hide and seek, Simon Says, freeze dance
  • Pretend Play - dress-up, dolls, kitchen, action figures, modified “charades” (for example, have your child act like an animal and you guess what they are)
  • Sensory Play - sand table, water play, finger painting, play dough, baking bread
  • Music Play - listening to music and nursery rhymes, playing musical instruments, singing
  • Outdoor Play - nature walk, picking flowers, “I spy” outside
  • Story time - read aloud and quiet time with books

As you resolve to improve personal healthy habits in 2024, consider making a habit to honor your child’s spontaneous learning!

Celeste & Daniel Ezell are parents to three children who have attended, attend or soon will attend their boutique TK-8 school for gifted children. They founded Chronos Academy integrating all subjects to a timeline with creativity, music & making. You can reach Celeste by email at, follow them at @chronoscohorts or learn more at 
More from this issue:

A Habit of Spontaneity HERE >> 

Embracing the Crown Over the Cape: Setting Boundaries for a Healthier You HERE >> 

Glad That’s Over HERE >> 

Move More in 2024 HERE >>

Postpartum Support Center: Wraparound Services for Perinatal Families HERE >>

The Power of Yet HERE >>