We had a new child join our group for the summer. I wasn’t sure how the children would respond since they are a very close knit group. In the last three years the only ‘new’ children I’ve enrolled have been younger siblings of those already in my care. How would they react to an outsider?
I didn’t need to be concerned. They were ecstatic. The only problems we had were a result of bickering over who got to play with the new child. It was interesting to watch how they worked out some variations on their favorite activities because there was new input. Then, something bigger happened.
We were out in the yard and the children were engrossed in a hide and seek game — more like an Easter egg hunt using rocks. It was the new child’s turn to search and he soon discovered that others in the group had been enlisted to be hiding spots and conceal rocks in their hands behind their backs — all he had to do was ask if they had one. When he asked one of the younger children they responded “Yes, what do you say?” And the struggle began.
One by one the others formed a semi circle and tried to explain the use of manners. They began role playing with each other saying “You have something I want, may I have it please?” “Yes you may, here it is (pretending to pass imaginary object)” “ThanK-you”.
Eventually they realized it wasn’t that he didn’t know what to say but that he was being stubborn. They began a story telling session and used a stick from the ground as a talking stick — only the person holding the stick could talk. I had used this technique with them in the past when interrupting was an issue at circle time but I had never seen them use it on their own.
They made up stories about children in various situations where they didn’t get something they wanted because they didn’t do what was require. Some of the stories were very imaginative. Everyone got a turn to tell a story and even when a story didn’t really make sense no one complained or corrected the storyteller.
I could tell the new child was beginning to get frustrated but would it be right to make them stop? They were not trying to be mean and what kind of example would it set if we gave in to his “Give me” demands. Suddenly he declared “Maybe in five minutes I’ll say please!” and that was it. The whole group jumped up and started to cheer and applaud. “He said please! He said please!”
He looked somewhat stunned by their response to his unintentional ‘manners’. They handed him the rock and the hide and seek game continued. After all, “Say please” was all they had requested.