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 wouldĀ 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.

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)