Archive for Toddlers

15 Mar 2016

Reflections on a spinning play dough roller

No Comments Play, Reflections, Toddlers

Today I watched a toddler spin things.

For many Early Childhood Educators (and parents as well) this is just another Tuesday. However, watching this toddler spin things was a much needed reminder for me today. It was a reminder of why I became an Early Childhood Educator, because while I only spent five minutes or so watching this toddler spin a few objects on a tiled floor, I could have watched him for much longer. Technically, I wasn’t there to be watching the toddler at all, I was visiting this particular program to observe my ECE student as she interacted with the toddlers. Yet, I found myself fascinated by this toddler’s interest in spinning.

First he spun a bright plastic gear on the floor, looking up at me and smiling. He did this a few more times, clapping once he set the gear spinning. He brought over a textured wooden roller, which he spun next to the plastic gear. The roller stopped spinning around the same time as he got the gear to spin and he seemed to contemplate this for a moment, looking back and forth between the two. He then set both objects spinning again, this time one right after the other and smiled as he looked back and forth between the two, watching them spin together. A few minutes later these objects were set aside, and the toddler brought a much larger black plastic “wagon” wheel which he spun on the tile. It wobbled quite differently than the other objects. He moved it to several different spots on the tile, from the middle of a tile, and then over the spaces between the tiles.

The educator shared with me that this child had always shown an interest in spinning objects, ever since he had been in the infant program. Based on the way that he explored this idea of “spinning” over the short time I had been observed him, I was not in the least bit surprised. His fascination was infectious, and I was completely drawn in. I felt like I could almost see his thought process as he explored the different ways the materials spun, between their sizes and shapes, which spun longer, which wobbled more. I found that I was asking myself questions, just as he was exploring his own questions- how would¬†the wheel spin different in the spaces between the tiles?

As he continued to explore, I left to meet with my student, and to head on to other appointments in the day, but I found myself strangely uplifted. Watching that toddler spin objects on the floor had reminded me of the reason why I got into this profession. I love learning. I am fascinated by play and exploration. I love those moments when I get to watch a child making connections through their free explorations. For me, this is what it’s all about.

27 Sep 2011

Sharing is Caring?

4 Comments ELECT, Parenting, Social, Toddlers, Toddlers
Toddlers (14 months -3 years)
Social 

1.1 Social Interest

  • observing and imitating peers
  • beginning to play “follow the peer” games
  • observing and playing briefly with peers (may turn into struggle for possession)
  • offering toys
  • engaging in short group activities
Incorporating singing games into play and routines. Engage one child at a time where other toddlers can observe. 

Toddler’s natural social interest in adults and children helps to focus their attention.

Observing the shared joy of the singing game will motivate involvement when a new game is being introduced.

There’s this phrase I hear time and again from parents and child care workers- “sharing is caring”. It bothers me every time I hear it, especially since it’s often used with toddlers and “twos”. I’m not sure where the phrase originated but I’m pretty sure it’s a big purple dinosaur that’s responsible for its popularity.

Now it’s not that I’m adverse to sharing (or caring for that matter), my issue is how this phrase is used and who it’s being directed towards.
I most often hear this phrase as a admonishment to a child. This child may be playing with a toy another child shows interest in or wanting to hold on to all of the cars or blocks. The phrase “sharing is caring” is used to tell the child to give up their current play so that another child can play. Now let’s imagine this same scenario in a more “adult” context. I’m working on a note in a client file and Joe wants to work on the same file. Joe and I cannot work on the file at the same time. Now it may frustrate or inconvenience Joe that I am working on this client file, he might even ask me to stop my work to give him the file. However, I am fully within my rights to refuse because I’m still using it. Now imagine that Joe’s recourse is to go to our boss; what do you think his response would be? Do you think my boss would ask me to give up the file to Joe stating “sharing is caring”? Doubtful. Would he set up a schedule for me to have the file for 1 minute and then Joe would have a turn for 1 minute and then it would be my turn again? Or would he just trust us to sort things out for ourselves?

Why don’t we allow children the opportunity to negotiate these property disputes on their own? Who are we to decide what is fair or unfair? It is difficult to watch children fight over toys and even more so when one child seems to always have toys taken from them. However, in those instances, does our intervention really help that child? In the short term perhaps, but in the long term, wouldn’t they benefit from learning how to hold onto their toys tighter or to tell other children “mine”? When we intervene, we take away those opportunities for children to negotiate these types of social situations on their own.

The other thing I’d like to touch on briefly is the expectations for very young children to share. Often I hear caregivers tell children as young as twelve or thirteen months to share. We need to remember that infants and toddlers are still very ego centric and they are supposed to be that way. At that age it is “all about me”. They might sometimes offer up toys or “share” with others, but only on their own terms. Our expectations should reflect this. I’m reminded of a poem I’ve read time and again:

Toddler Property Laws

What’s Mine is… Mine

If I like it, it’s mine

If I saw it first, it’s mine

If it’s in my hand, it’s mine

If I can take it from you, it’s mine

If I had it a little while ago, it’s mine

If it’s mine, it must never appear to be yours in any way

If I’m doing or building something, all the pieces are mine

If you are playing with it and you put it down, it automatically becomes mine

If it’s broken, it’s yours

I”m not against supporting children in turn taking and learning how to share, I just think that we need to use the right words and have the right expectations based on their age.

What do you think?

Photo by Andrew_mc_d (Flickr)

26 Aug 2011

Race you to the potty: First one there wins?

1 Comment Parenting, Toddlers, Toilet Learning

There have been a number of articles which I have come across lately on the topic of toilet learning. As I’ve been reading and contemplating these articles, I thought that I would share some of my own thoughts and insights here.

Right off the bat, I want to say that I don’t like the term “potty training”, I prefer “toilet learning”. This is because it’s something that a child learns to do as part of their development, not something that should be forced on them by their caregiver, as I feel the term “training” implies. We say that children learn to walk, they aren’t trained to walk; why should controlling their elimination be any different? That also really seems to be a theme when I think about the different articles I’ve come across on toilet learning. On one hand there are those who believe that the child will learn in their own time, and those who believe it is the parent (or caregiver)’s responsibility to motivate the process. I’m of the first school of thought; what’s the rush? Why pursue something that your child might not be ready for? It’s not a competition.

Every child is different and will be ready both physically and emotionally in their own time. Just as they learned to walk and talk on their own agenda, so will they learn to control their bladder and bowels. We all have that friend or relative or neighbour whose child was “potty trained” right out of the womb, however their child is not your child. It’s rarely helpful to compare one child’s growth and development to another’s as we all have different temperaments and our own strengths and weaknesses which make us unique. The bottom line is, your child will be ready… when they are ready.

In order to help ascertain whether your child is ready, here are some things to keep in mind. First of all, children typically aren’t physically ready to control their bladder and bowels until somewhere around their second birthday. So, in my opinion, unless they’re really interested and showing a lot of signs that they’re physically ready, I wouldn’t worry about it until they’re two. Another thing I’ve found helpful is to remember that there are three stages of “readiness”. The first is when your child knows after they’ve eliminated. The second is when your child knows when they are in the process of eliminating. The final stage is when your child knows before they have to eliminate. This third stage, along with the physical ability to “hold it” are crucial for successful toilet learning.

A few other skills that will help your child’s toilet learning success are the ability to independently take off their own clothes, the ability to get on/off the toilet (or potty) independently and the verbal skills to let you know when they need to go. All this being said, there will certainly be children who show interest in the toilet before they are physically ready. I would certainly encourage their interest, however far it extends. However I would do so with the understanding that nothing may come of it until they are more ready. As caregivers, we need to make sure that we have appropriate expectations of what individual children are capable of and allow them to reach milestones in their own time. After all, development isn’t a race.

Photo by Mollypop (Flickr)

10 Jun 2011

The Power of No

No Comments Socio-Emotional Development, Toddlers

I’m working with a little one right now who is just turning two years old. Like many other children his age he is discovering the power of “no”. Being told “no” all the time can obviously become frustrating for his caregivers. However, what I’m now starting to wonder is how frustrating it is for him.

He’s going through a transition phase developmentally in which he is learning that he is his own person and can make his own choices. How scary and confusing that must be for him. I have¬† noticed that although he exercises his ability to say “no” regularly he doesn’t always seem pleased or certain about it. Thinking back to other toddlers that I’ve worked with, I’ve noticed a similar trend. Although they will often say “no”, sometimes they indicate through their body language, facial expressions and even their tone, that they don’t neccessarily mean “no” and sometimes they say it even when they mean “yes”. I remember this used to be a regular occurence at snack time, toddlers practicing saying “no” and then showing displeasure at not receiving more snack.

This observation of this particular child’s seeming conflict with his use of the word “no” reminded me of how mindful we need to be in our observations and responses to toddlers and young children. It can be easy to see “no” as a frustrating response or even defiant behaviour when it shouldn’t be. We need to support toddlers as they develop their independence and support their need to begin to make decisions. We can do this by establishing an environment that is safe for their exploration, one which will limit the amount that we need to tell them “no”. We can also do this by providing them with simple closed choices, such as “would you like toast or cereal?” Allowing them to make small choices, and therefore providing them with manageable amounts of control will help them to feel safe and secure as well as to exert their growing independence.

Also, next time you’re with a toddler, take a moment to imagine how it would feel to discover you suddenly have power and control over things you didn’t before. What a great responsibility that would be and how overwhelming that would feel. In this stage of development, which Erikson referred to as “autonomy vs shame and doubt”, toddlers are experiencing the push and pull of wanting to explore and to be independent while at the same time wanting to feel safe and secure with their caregivers. Therefore we need to be mindful of how we respond in these situations so that we can support their explorations appropriately.

I hope that next time you hear “no” you’ll take a deep breath and try to keep these things in mind before you respond.