Baptism by Spaghetti

But when our priest, in an effort to involve a number of kids in all the pomp and ceremony, asked them what we use the water for, he got an interesting response. “You put it in a pot and boil it for spaghetti!” one courageous six-year-old piped up.

After the chuckles died down, I began to think how brilliant it is when adults involve children in hands-on learning. Kids learn kinesthetically — what we right-brain adults refer to with disdain as “touchy-feely.”

According to research (both mine, on the front lines of my own living room, and professionals’ with lots of letters behind their names) kids need to experience things first-hand for optimal learning. That’s why elementary schools use counting cubes to teach math, and why seeing a dead bird in the yard is still the best way to teach kids about death.

Lectures and rote memorization are not a child’s desired method of learning. In other words, if it’s important to you and you want them to get it, let them do it.

Ask any preschool teacher and they’ll tell you the best way to teach the ABCs is not with a 20-miniute powerpoint presentation, but to fill a pan with shaving cream, dig in with your fingers and start doodling. Besides, it elicits a lot of giggles and, quite frankly, that’s why people teach preschool to begin with.

My kids’ piano teacher knows this, too. When my son wanted to know how the pedal makes the sound keep going even after he stops pushing the key, she could have said something really helpful and adult-like — like “Because.” Instead, she opened up the top of the piano and had him watch how it worked. Then she had him reach inside and put his own fingers on the strings to make the sound prolong. This went on for a good five minutes until my seven-year-old had his fill of it and then they went back to actually playing piano.

The point is, when we relegate kids to the “be seen, not heard” mentality, they will do exactly that. When we involve them in experiences, we have just opened up a whole new window of opportunity for them to explore.

When we allow a kid to get out of the pew and rub oil on a newborn’s head, for instance, we are telling him two things: you are an important part of this process, and we want you to experience it.

Our budding young chef will certainly always remember the importance of water in baptism now that he’s gotten to experience it first hand.

Now, please pass the sauce.

Charla Belinski is the author of the column “Are We There Yet?” in the Glenwood (Colorado) Post Independent where she shares her common-sense style and humorous worldview on parenting each week. Charla has recently completed her first novel, It Came a Fine Rain. She lives with her husband, Tim, and three children near Aspen, Colorado. Contact her at

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