Preschool: Toddler Innocence Or Wisdom

by Deanna Mascle - Date: 2007-04-06 - Word Count: 586 Share This!

Innocence: It is an absence of guilt; harmless; freedom from evil; lack of worldly experience; not recognizing the harmful intentions of other. This is the definition of innocence according to the Encarta Dictionary. These days it's difficult to find true innocence in the world, but if you have ever watched a month-old puppy sleeping or gazed into the eyes of a toddler-aged child you can still see it. At that age, everything is new and exciting, not routine and boring such as for the rest of us who have become jaded over the years.

Little kids, especially barely verbal kids, watch and listen to everything. All kinds of things fascinate them; the graceful motion of goldfish, the gentle waving of tall grasses, the color yellow, and the bouncing of a beach ball. All the things adults take for granted, toddlers find endlessly amazing. They believe everything we tell them; they have no concept of lying, or even fanciful jest. Myths, childhood legends, make-believe, wonderful fantasies of all sorts and even bogeymen that lurk in their closets at night are all real to them. Kids believe it just because we say it. Like the sleeping puppy, their total absence of guile seems to last such a short time! This innocence seems to vanish within the first few years of their lives, never to be reclaimed.

What takes the place of childish innocence? We can only hope that it is wisdom. As children learn the ways of the world, this knowledge can sometimes be disappointing. There's no such thing as Santa Claus or Superman. The tiny puppy grew into a big dog that bites if its ears are yanked. Grandmother died - she isn't "sleeping." And there are monsters, but they don't live in the closet at night; they are teachers and babysitters and the nice man next door who has some strange pictures of naked kids.

As their innocence is depleted, little kids simply accept the world as it is, not as it should be as adults often do. This is another example of a child's wisdom; things are what they are. A hurricane blew our house away. Some people who live far away don't like us, and they hurt a lot of people in New York. Many people, even kids, get really sick and they go to live with God where they won't be sick anymore. My Mommy and Daddy don't live in the same house.

Strange, isn't it? Even when they know the truth, little kids still have the wisdom to tell it like it is and cope with it, whatever "it" may be. They don't have ulcers, drink too much alcohol, or brood about ways to take revenge on someone who hurt them. They trust that they'll have food to eat and clothes to wear. They don't worry about paying the mortgage; they just put their toys away before bed like Mommy said. As adults, it seems incredible that we too were once as innocent as our youngest children are now. Then life happened - so did divorce, addiction, unemployment, war and illness.

Only a foolish and cynical adult would carelessly shrug and say, "That's just how it will be for them, too." We hope our children will inherit a better world, but we know they probably won't. As they gracefully surrender the innocence of youth, they inherit the wisdom of the years. If our toddlers can do this without becoming jaded, angry and bitter, then this is wisdom indeed. In the end, perhaps they are still innocent.

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Deanna Mascle shares tips and strategies for Preschool Education and Preschool Learning with her free preschool education newsletter at

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