Tag Archives: Social Skills

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.

Show & Tell

I discourage the children from bringing toys from home to play with here. We already have a wide variety of toys and equipment for the children to use and because we have a mixed age group I have to ensure that all toys in the playroom are suitable for all ages. I don’t like being the ‘border patrol’ standing at the entrance saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to each child that asks if they can take bring an item in to play with.  So, I keep the rules simple;

  • Stuffed animals and dolls are OK if they have no accessories.
  • Anyone can play with the toy when it is in the playroom – if you don’t want others to touch it, put it in your bin.
  • Anything else can be shared with the group at circle time.

I sometimes refer to it as ‘Show and Tell’ but I don’t really include it as a structured part of the daily schedule. I remember the reactions my own children had with show and tell or whatever the individual teacher called it in their class. Throughout elementary school they had many opportunities to share things from home with their friends at school.  For most it was something that they looked forward to but often it was stressful.

Sometimes there was something they really wanted to bring but it wasn’t their day.  Sometimes it was their day and they couldn’t decide what to bring and there was a mad scramble to find something.  The worst days were the ones when we forgot it was their day, they didn’t bring anything, and there was no second chance – in some classes each student only got one chance each year.

In my childcare home we have always have an opportunity for the children to share things during circle time.  As we gather around the table to discuss the weather and calendar the children are all welcome to share stories about what they did over the weekend or upcoming plans.  If they have props to accompany the story or just an item they want to show the others they are encouraged to.

Anyone is welcome to share, no one is forced to share, and no one is excluded from sharing.

I leave the format up to the individual child who is sharing. If they want to pass the item around the circle they may.  If they prefer that others do not touch it then they can just hold it and tell us about it.  They can allow the others to ask questions or request that they not interrupt.  They are in charge of the program planning for their sharing session.

I love to watch the interaction between the children as they engage in these activities.  Whether they are leading or observing I gain insight into their interests and personalities.  They gain experience participating in various roles within the group, leaning new skills and planning their own curriculum.

I Spy

I spy is a popular activity for the preschoolers that I currently have in care.  The school-age children are not as enamoured.  You see, it is not that the school-age children do not like the game – but rather, they don’t like the way the preschoolers play it.

My current group of preschoolers range in age from 2 to 5 and most have been with me since before their first birthday.  For these children I Spy originated as an activity initiated – and controlled by – two school-age children who dictated every aspect of the game ensuring that everyone followed the ‘correct’ rules.  Most often the preschoolers were simply props in the older children’s game.

The first time I heard the preschool children engage in an I Spy game on their own was last spring.  We were in the van on the way to a field trip and the school-age children were not with us.  I was concentrating on driving so although I could hear the children in the seats behind me I was not involved in their activity.

When the game first started I anticipated some disagreements since the children were ‘spying’ objects outside the moving vehicle and the other children were guessing objects they could currently see and the original object was far behind us.

As the game evolved I noticed that the children didn’t always describe their chosen object by color – sometimes it was shape or use or ‘starts with’ a specific sound.  The ‘correct’ answer really seemed irrelevant to the game – their focus seemed to be the turn taking and I was engrossed.

Essentially, one child would start by saying “I spy with my little eye something that is/starts with…” and then each other child would guess one or two objects.  Sometimes the guesses were related to the clue, other times they seemed to be random objects.  One child in particular always guessed ‘a dragon’ – this was also the correct answer when it was her turn to provide the clues yet none of the other children ever guessed it and I resisted the urge to do so.

After everyone had a chance to guess the answer was provided and another child was chosen to give the clue.  Everyone was involved even the youngest who’s “I, My, Boo” received many giggles as well as guesses. The game continued until we reached our destination.

To this day, every time this group has to wait someone will invariably say “Let’s play I Spy”.  Whether they are waiting for lunch to be served, waiting for circle to begin or waiting for everyone to finishing dressing for outdoor time ‘I Spy’ is their solution to pass the time.  Recently, while waiting for the other children to arrive for circle the conversation went like this;

  • 2 yo – I spy with my eye something green
  • 3 yo – That? The orange thing over there (pointing)?
  • 2 yo – No,
  • 3 yo – OK, my turn.  I Spy something that is yellow.
  • 2 yo – TV? Book? My Mom? (giggling)

When they are present the school-age children want to intervene and correct the game – this is where I intercede.  I point out to them the turn taking, the equal opportunity, the conversation, cooperation and developing social skills.

The older children are learning too.  Learning to stop, watch and listen before making assumptions.  Learning isn’t all about having the correct answer.

Holidays & Special Days

Hooray! — Halloween is over for another year.  Ok, this may come as a surprise to many but I don’t enjoy holidays – any of them. It’s not the purpose, religious or historical significance of the holidays that I dislike; it’s the hype, the ceremony and the requirements for the holidays that annoy me.

Let me start with Halloween. I dutifully hand out candy at the door to the children, the ones who are excited and laughing and to the ones who are coaxed and prodded up the stairs in tears.  Why are they here — if they are not enjoying the festivities why do they have to go?  I’ve listened to others complain ‘those teens are too old for trick or treating’, ‘that person doesn’t even have a costume’.  So what?  If they are having fun and being respectful what is the problem?  Discrimination?  Personally I don’t think that saying someone cannot participate is any different than saying they must participate.

Let me use another holiday for an example of how I feel about the participation factor.  Christmas – what are some popular Christmas traditions?  Decorating – Oh how I love decorating! – but not just for Christmas and sometimes not at all for Christmas.  Turkey – I love turkey and especially stuffing but I never prepare it for Christmas – I’m usually too busy.  I cook big turkey dinners on lazy weekends when I have nothing else going on.  Exchanging gifts – this practice I could do without entirely.  This does not mean that I dislike giving or getting gifts.  If I’m shopping and I see something that is ‘perfect’ for someone I know – I’ll buy it for them and give it to them regardless of the day or time of year and with no expectation of getting something in return.  I hope no one ever gives me something because they feel obligated to.  Going to Church or volunteering at a shelter or food bank – if these types of things are important to you why do them just at Christmas?  Then there are the Christmas pageants – I have never been to one I enjoyed because there is always one child – sometimes many – who really don’t want to be there.  No matter how great the rest of the performance is I only see and feel for the ones who’s “No!” was not acknowledged.

Here in my childcare home our calendar lists holidays and special days and I often use this time to talk about the holidays, to learn how they originated and talk about how people choose to celebrate them.  The important word there is ‘choose’.  I find it interesting to learn about the history and importance of special days regardless of whether I celebrate them or not.  If the children are interested in learning more about them or celebrating them they are free to do so – but not required to nor forbidden to.

Here they can dress up in costumes, sing hymns & carols, have Easter eggs hunts, make and give gifts, be thankful or celebrate in any way and on any day they choose to as long as they let others join them if they want to and accept the “no” of those that don’t.  Tolerance, understanding, and respect.