Our world is full of the unexpected. A great way to help children learn about the unexpected is to teach them conditional awareness. Certain games introduce this skill like Mama May I? and Red Light, Green Light, by teaching children to move or perform a certain action after receiving a set of instructions. I was inspired to learn more about conditional awareness after seeing a suggestion to let children climb up a slide on the Golden Gleam Blog http://www.thegoldengleam.com/2012/10/benefits-of-climbing-slides-outdoor.html. Not all the time, but sometimes it is important for children to go back up the slide to help discover that there are rules for different situations. For instance, if you are the only one on the playground you could say, “It is ok to climb up the slide right now because there are no other children around.” The next day if there is a toddler in the park you might say, “It is not OK to climb up the slide today because we could hurt the other child.” This triggers an on/off switch that helps children distinguish your expectations for behavior depending on the surroundings.
Teaching conditional awareness is helpful for other aspects of life, too. It might explain why an older sibling is allowed to stay up for a later bedtime or why someone receives a special gift for a birthday. We can also demonstrate indoor and outdoor voices or work on manners. Basically we want to show that more than one outcome is not only possible, but also likely for any situation. In the end, we will set our children up for better understanding and social skills down the road. Let’s face it, there is only one thing in life that should be unconditional; Love.