Running From the Monster

We’ve been going outside twice each day.  I take the younger preschoolers out to play in the yard after morning snack – this was our usual outdoor time but we eliminated it for the fall and winter because it interfered with the baby’s nap schedule.  Now he is older and naps later.  The older preschoolers attend school in the morning so I take the whole group outside to play in the afternoon once everyone is up from their nap.

Introducing babies to outdoor play is always an exciting time particularly when they are not yet walking.  Being so close to the ground with all those new and interesting tiny objects they require close supervision.  There was a period early in my career when my yard was ‘baby proofed’ and so uninspiring that no one wanted to play outside.

Now it is fascinating with so many places to explore, things to discover and challenges to overcome – for everyone, including me.  The baby’s first experience with gravel was sitting and putting gravel on a stump, brushing it off and then putting more on — over and over again for 40 minutes!  I watched and I was fascinated too.  Only once has he ‘tasted’ gravel and hedecided it wasn’t nearly as fun as making gravel rain and filling buckets with gravel etc.  Now he has discovered the soil in the garden. 🙂

Yesterday was also the return of another old game – ‘Running from the Monster’.  Sigh.  They love this game but the outcome is inevitable.  We’ve been through it so many times before.  In the mixed age group they have all had a turn at being ‘the Monster’.  It always starts when the youngest child is just becoming mobile and is drawn to where the other children are playing.  One of the older children will send out the alarm and the others will join in “The monster is coming, the monster is coming!”  They will then run around screaming and waving their arms.  The baby will squeal with delight and follow them.

Essentially it is a game of tag.  The baby is ‘it’ but has no chance of ever winning the game.  For the others it is a demonstration of power.  Everyone loves this game.  Even though I know what the future holds I also know that banning the game will not solve the unavoidable outcome.  There will come a day – probably sometime next summer – when the baby will realize that the others are not playing with him.

When that time comes there will be a period of turmoil.  Now a toddler with new verbal skills the youngest child will wail ‘They won’t let me play’.  The others will giggle and say they are – he is the monster – they will insist it is his favourite game.  They all know it is not his favourite game anymore.  They have all been ‘the Monster’ at some point in the past.

We will have discussions about name calling and bullying and excluding others from play.  There will be attempts to redefine the game and change the ‘Monster’ name to that of a character in the popular movie or show of the time.  That will work briefly until the youngest one realizes that he is still the one everyone is running away from.  He is still not part of the group. Eventually it will become ‘tag’ a everyone will be equal again.

Yes, I know it is coming.  I also know I can’t prevent it.  I will be ready to help them work through it when we get there.  For now they all think that ‘Running from the Monster’ is the greatest game ever.