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My Three-Year Old Schooled Me Today

I will begin by saying that getting through this post will take longer than usual, but I believe in the end you will find it worth it. At least I hope so.

My son woke up today in a filthy mood. He was wet and angry and wanted nothing to do with anyone. He resisted my initial effort to clean him, but eventually my wife won out.

This morning we had plans to go shopping and then to lunch. My son was in such a way that we knew this wasn’t in the cards. At least for him. So I offered to stay home and try to get him out of the funk that he was in.

This morning my son woke up to a world in which he was immediately given directives. Obviously, he needed to be cleaned and changed. But his three-year old mind wasn’t prepared for this. So it shut down. It resisted because it was not engaged.


As soon as my wife and daughter left for the morning I decided that my son and I were going to take a pirate bath. Essentially what this means is we get in the tub and play with about 30 awesome foam pirate themed toys that are fun for all ages. Even a 44-year-old.

My son was back. He was happy, he was smiling and he was engaged. Because he was in control and he was able to use his imagination. He was creating scenarios and he was imitating voices. It was great! He was so happy, that I was able to leave him in the tub a while longer while I shaved and brushed my teeth.


When my son got out of the tub we went upstairs and played on the bed and we each pretended we were Star Wars characters. We had a lot of fun and a lot of laughs. I tired before him and when I did I went to one of my go to sources of entertainment. My iPad.

You’d think I would’ve learned my lesson this morning, but I didn’t. I tried to entice my son with an app that teaches kids the letters of the alphabet. It really is a good app and he has enjoyed it before. But not today.


Learning Letters

Instead he wanted to play a game in which Calliou is the hero. As he opened it up I thought to myself, “he won’t learn anything, but at least it doesn’t involve fighting.” My son allows me to go first and I soon realize that I have no idea how to navigate this game. He takes the iPad and begins to maneuver Calliou through a series of steps that allow him to be the hero. Wow! This app really does require him to think and use his brain. No wonder he was more interested in this than simply hearing the letters of the alphabet recited over and over again.


Calliou Hero

I call my wife and she tells me that she will be home soon with lunch. We are still on the iPad, but I am convinced that I now know how to best engage and stimulate my three-year old son’s brain. I’ve got it! I have recently purchased a new app called Doceri that allows you to draw and record voice at the same time. I have had both my son and daughter on it before and they both seemed to enjoy it.

I know what I’ll do. I will draw a picture of some fairly recognizable images and have my son make up a story about what he sees. What you will see below is what my son came up with. Not bad for a three-year old. But he still didn’t seem “into it”.

I tried one last time to fully engage my son’s imagination. I can do this! Think Jon. Think!

And then it hit me!

I drew a random set of scribbles all over the screen and asked him to make up a story.


He sure did tell me a story! He went on and on and on until I thought he wouldn’t stop. It got a little violent at times, but he was engaged and he was creating. He got to create and that was the key. He wasn’t making sense of my world. He was creating his own.

Today my three-year old son taught me more than I have learned before in entire semesters. I learned first hand why we must let kids create and invent and have ownership in their own learning.

I have three degrees.

I read as much as I can.

My PLN allows me access to the best minds in education.

And yet it was my three-year old son who schooled me today.

And I think that’s pretty cool!





3 comments on “My Three-Year Old Schooled Me Today

  1. schink10 says:

    Great post! This is a great reminder to consider the perspective of others! This is so important at home, at work, at school….. everywhere! Awesome, as usual! Thank you for sharing this!

    Oliver Schinkten

  2. Awesome post, Jon. Sometimes THEIR learning happens in THEIR world and it doesn’t quite fit in to OUR world. Great reminder of the importance of CHOICE for motivation and engagement. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Ben Gilpin says:


    Love the story and the videos. Derek is a heck of a boy and he has a heck of a dad! What I enjoy most is that you realized it wasn’t going to be successful to force him into the adult world. You met him where he was and in turn, he helped you learn a valuable lesson.

    Great Story!


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