Johnnie Moore

The spatula game (and learning vs teaching)

what we can learn about learning from a toddler's playtime
Johnnie Moore

Johnnie Moore

I’m Johnnie Moore, and I help people work better together

Why explaining might get in the way of learning

Transcript of this video:

The spatula game is a term used by the pioneering paediatrician and analyst Donald Winnicott to describe what happens when a toddler is with its mother and the toddler has got hold of a wooden spatula and is trying to figure out what it is and it might bang the spatula on the table and sniff it and taste it and generally mess about and explore what this thing might be.

And the mother will be tempted to say to the child, “Ah, this is a spatula. You use it to stir food.”

Winnicott says there are two ways the child can respond to that. And the first way is to throw a temper tantrum and be really upset. And he describes that as the most healthy response.

The other way is the child becomes subdued and halfheartedly engages with the teaching that the mother provides.

And I think it’s a mistake we often make in our lives and in our organizations that we make the mistake of the mother in insisting on explaining things to people thinking that we are being helpful, not leaving them a little more time to follow their own natural curiosity, which I think is often a much more interesting and engaging way to keep people learning.

Photo by CHUTTERSNAP on Unsplash

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