Wisdom from 1st Graders

The class is in session: your teacher, 1st graders.  There’s a lot you can learn from the actions of six and seven-year-olds.  Observing them throughout the years as a teacher, I’ve found characteristics that I, as an adult, would like to do more of, and if I did, I would be more healthy and happy.  I picked 1st graders because it’s the youngest grade I teach.  But take any young kids, and for the most part, you’ll find them embodying the five traits listed below. 


This is an easy one.  Given the opportunity, 1st graders will play.  Having the choice between being sedentary and playing, 1st graders will choose to play 99 percent of the time.  The remarkable thing about play is that it has the power to significantly improve everything from personal health to education, to relationships, to creativity.  If you think those benefits are solely for children, you are mistaken.  Stuart Brown, the National Institute of Play founder, says, “nothing fires the brain up like play.”  Is it any wonder that some of our best memories and when we feel most alive comes from when we were playing, at any age? So if you have the chance to kick a ball, swing on the monkey bars, sling a frisbee, or do whatever you did as a first-grader, DO IT!  


What would it feel like if you laughed like a 1st grader today?  You might get a little winded trying to keep up.  Statistics indicate that kids laugh on average 300 times per day. Compare that to adults at 17 laughs per day.  It is so easy for young kids to find things amusing or worthy of a hearty giggle.  Heck, I give a funny face, and I get most of the class of 1st graders giggling.  Laughing is instant medicine.  It lowers cortisol, the stress hormone, increases health-enhancing hormones, and improves blood flow to your heart.  People who laugh more often feel more upbeat and optimistic.  So if you hear, see, or find something funny, don’t hold back and give a good laugh. 

Be in the Moment

First graders don’t worry about time.  Probably because they are still learning how to tell it.  But, whatever time it is, that is the best time.  Six-year-olds aren’t thinking about what happened last week or stressing about the work they will have to do in second grade. Instead, they are all in with the present moment.   Being fully engrossed in the moment provides one with better concentration and focus, improved listening and memory skills, and distinguishes what is important and what is not.  As Leo Tolstoy says, “There is only one time that is important – NOW! It is the most important time because it is the only time that we have any power.”

Growth Mindset

1st graders naturally lean toward a growth mindset since mostly everything is novel to them.  They take a trial and error approach to many adventures and mostly stick with the task until they figure out a solution.  For new skills, they are intrigued, attentive, and have the desire to be successful.  This takeaway can obviously be beneficial for adults, as it helps us see possibilities instead of limitations.  Failure becomes an opportunity for learning rather than an endpoint.  So if you are learning a new language, instrument, sport, or hobby?  Growth Mindset on!

Be You

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”  Dr. Sues can really dish it, and I believe most 1st graders live by this motto.  Young kids are not concerned about the opinions of others, their appearance, or what they say.  They’ll speak their mind and do it confidently regardless if it makes sense.   Their way of doing an activity or skill may also be unique or unorthodox, but that doesn’t deter them from trying something a new way, even if it’s goofy.  It can be challenging for adults to be their true selves in certain situations.  A vantage point one could take is knowing that hiding your light from yourself and the rest of the world is an injustice to those of us who need what you have to offer.  Be you.  Everyone else is already taken. 

To MAS Health,


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