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4 Life Lessons We Can Learn from Toddlers

By Kristen Waterfield, President and Co-Founder, The Malvern School

I’m still smiling from last week. It was the Week of the Young Child™ – an annual celebration of the young friends we live to teach for. (Thank you, NAEYC!)

While teachers and directors at each Malvern School, and at many schools across the country, marked the recognition with special activities for the children, this celebration deserves to go beyond early childhood education.

The truth is, while we pour our hearts and souls into teaching these little humans how to walk, talk, express themselves, help themselves, help others, interact with friends, read, experiment, be silly (the list goes on…), they teach us an awful lot in return. As I’ve said before, the lessons from the innocence of children are both fundamental and refreshing for adults – things that remind us of what we’re often moving too fast to see but that can radically enrich our lives.

Toddlers teach us:

  1. Life is more than going through the motions.
    Yes, kids – and most adults I know – thrive on routines. There’s safety in knowing what to expect and there are certainly benefits of sticking to healthy, positive habits. But if you have ever seen the excitement emanating from a class of toddlers as they participate in daily activities – things like washing hands, helping set up for snack or lunch, going for a visit to another classroom or taking a trip up or down the stairs – you have also witnessed their genuine enthusiasm for what adults perceive to be mundane. Whether it’s the first time or the fiftieth time they’re doing it, they’re excited just the same. Finding joy in the everyday is what life is all about. 
  2. We need to always be open to new ideas and learning.
    Why should we stop asking “Why?” We like to think we have it all figured out, but as our world moves and changes faster than ever, the need to be open-minded and continually learning – as children are – is one of the only constants. It’s the foundation for how we improve and how we innovate, and yet, some of the best ideas and lessons come from the most unexpected places (like the teacher-student role reversal at hand.) You never know when or where a positive life-, career- or industry-changing lesson may stem from next.
  1. Getting dirty should be par for the course.

          Put your fingers in the paint. Stomp in the puddles. Roll down the hill.

          As adults, we tend to avoid “getting dirty,” both literally and figuratively. Whether it’s something like example A, B or C above, or leaning in to get involved for a cause or a project you care about,           step off the sidelines, roll up your sleeves and go for it with childlike abandon! Make the memories; make the impact – and you’ll feel more alive than ever.


  1. Rest is not a luxury.
    Kids are notorious for their endless reserves of energy, but even these Energizer bunnies need to recharge their batteries. (We have nap time proof.) Our 24/7, always-connected culture pushes us to go, go, go, but without making it a point to rest – whether it’s getting enough sleep every night or making time for a vacation – it won’t be long before you hit a wall. Rethinking downtime as an investment in yourself and making it a priority will help you bring your best self to the things that matter to you most.

Perhaps these lessons speak to you (and I hope they do), but this list certainly doesn’t cover all of the insights our friends so innocently surface. It’s one of the very special privileges of sharing in their young lives.

Make it a point to celebrate the young children in your life and appreciate how much they enrich everyone around them.

The Malvern School © 2024


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