Category Archives: Rules

My daughter in a bubble.

The Bubble

My daughter in a bubble.
My daughter in a bubble.

The bubble is wonderful, it’s a place where children are respected, curriculum is built around the children and educators interests and families are welcomed in as equal partners in learning. In the bubble you never see product oriented art, children don’t stand in lines, children aren’t shushed for speaking, expected to sit quietly or told that they can’t go to the bathroom. In this bubble we spend our days being inspired by the children, educators and families we work with. The Bubble.is.a.great.place!

I lived in the bubble for years. I was happy in the bubble.

Then I came out of the bubble. I saw educators doing product oriented art with infants and toddlers. I saw them using the hand over hand method to make sure the googly eyes went in the “right” spot. I saw children sitting in circles, crisscross applesauce, with their mouths closed listening to long winded circle times. I saw classroom spaces where the visual clutter was so overwhelming I wanted to run. I saw young children being described as having behaviour problems because they could not sit still for circle, did not want to do art and told the adults in their lives this very loudly and firmly.  I wanted back in the bubble. I couldn’t go back into the bubble though, if this is what children, families and educators are being subjected to. I wanted to change this! Not wanted, needed to change this.

When I was first confronted with this outside the bubble practice, I realized the best way to affect change was to inspire, not to preach, not to judge but to share. Share ways in which my practice changed, to share the ups and downs of my pedagogy of listening and relationships, my stories of building curriculum around children’s interests, designing spaces that invited children, parents and educators to think together, spaces that created community and spaces of beauty deserving of children and their wonderful ideas.

Living outside the bubble is hard. I can’t log onto Pinterest or Facebook without seeing questionable practice. Things that make me ask “Is this still a thing?” So today  I find that I may need to get up on my soap box and preach.

“If you have to hold a child’s hand and move it for them please do not call the activity you are doing art! Call it what it is a Pinterest fail, a craptivity, a so called parent pleaser.”

               “If you tell a child no when they ask to go to the bathroom, you are contributing to a larger problem. Although it may seem like a small thing. You are essentially telling a child they don’t know their own body and that its okay for someone else to call the shots on its functions. Do you see what I am getting at?”

               ”If you have so much stuff on your walls that you forget what colour your walls are, you may have a problem.”

Look I hate preaching but I am tired. I am tired of seeing children being disrespected and controlled. Compliance isn’t the goal. I am tired of seeing outdated practices being touted as good programming. It’s just not. I did my education twenty years ago and it wasn’t good practice then, it certainly isn’t good practice now. I understand the pressure, trust me I do but instead of giving into it we must advocate for the practice we were educated to deliver.

I am going back to my bubble now. I am tired.

Puddles

Puddles are part of life here on the west coast of Canada. Water gathers where it can, in the cracks and dips of sidewalks, in the depressions of a grass field, in the contours of a pathway. There are distinct categories of  puddles, the shallow watery ones that you can barely make a splash in, the almost invisible ones looking for all the world like grass, until you step into it and sink with a deep sucking sound. There are the puddles that hover on the edges of streets that you need to leap over when you cross, or leap away from when a car drives through it.  There are mud puddles, the rich chocolatey brown puddles that just get better with some stomping action, and the puddles that are really small ponds, sometimes becoming a place for ducks to gather.

Children and puddles seem to call to one another, as though a magnetic force pulls them together. And adults seem equally called to make sure puddles and children don’t get too intimate.

In the world of early childhood this means educators send out warnings: “You don’t have boots on!” Your boots will fill with water!” If you splash you’re going to get wet!” “You know you don’t like getting wet!” Most of these warnings go unheeded, but still we keep sending them out.

Why?

Last week at a centre that I regularly visit, the children, the educator and I went for our usual walk and came to the mother of all puddles, a lovely large, deep, brown puddle that stretched far and wide across a pathway. The children ran to it and waded in without a moment’s hesitation. We watched as they jumped and splashed and stomped, or simply sat in the middle, trailing fingers in the rippling water.  The educator stood back and watched, laughing with delight at the sight.

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Wet socks? Oh yes. Wet faces, hands, arms, legs, and boots filled with water. And happy happy faces.

Were there consequences of succumbing to the puddle? Sure, we headed back inside a little earlier than planned as the chill eventually set in for many wet bodies. Muddy buddies had to be hung to dry, some socks and pants needed changing, but…these things dry.

I wonder why we try so hard to keep kids out of puddles?

 

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I am sitting

In the middle

Of a rather

Muddy puddle,

With my bottom

Full of bubbles

and my rubbers

Full of Mud.

While my jacket

And my sweater

Go on slowly

Getting wetter

As I very

Slowly settle

To the Bottom

Of the Mud.

And I find that

What a person

With a puddle

Round his middle

thinks of mostly

In the muddle

Is the Muddiness of Mud.

Dennis Lee

I Challenge You

DSCF2962 copyI am hereby issuing a challenge.

To all of you who work with young children I challenge you to pick a rule and get rid of it. Give it up. Just stop enforcing it. And see what happens.

Maybe it’s the ‘no guns’ rule, maybe it’s the ‘no toys from home’ rule, maybe it’s the ‘keep the playdough on the table’ rule….doesn’t matter, just give up on a rule.

I understand there are reasons to keep those rules, co-workers will be upset, what will parents think? and licensing!?! Be brave and do it anyway. I bet there is a rule that you know in your heart doesn’t belong.

Give some time to not having the rule. Let everyone live with it, settle into it for a bit. Yes it might feel a bit scary, letting go of control always does. Embrace the uncertainty.

Here’s a story to think about: my colleague Rhoda recently read my post  Running and decided to try it…she would stop saying “no running’ and just see what happened. And what happened? Nothing. Well, not exactly nothing, but nothing that she expected. No one crashed, no one got hurt, chaos did not erupt. And the biggest thing that did not happen? She did not nag. Rhoda didn’t have to continually say ‘walking feet’ ‘ no running’ ‘Remember… NO RUNNING!’  She was so delighted not to nag, and so delighted with how the children managed to keep themselves safe without the nagging. Rhoda said she was able to spend more time engaging with what children were doing, a direct result of taking away one rule.

I challenge you.

 

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A Solution

So Spring is in the air and children in my centre are in love. Asha chases Jim and Jim taunts Asha with his charm. Asha declares “I’m going to get you Jim and then I am going to kiss you.”

Words that have me pondering how to proceed. Do I allow the game to continue? Do I allow Asha to kiss Jim? What will the families think? What about germs? Should I stop it?  which leads to questions of  Am I the only one uncomfortable with this? Am I really uncomfortable? Hmph….

See over my career I have been instructed to say different things in similar situations. “Hugs only at preschool” , “Kisses are just for moms and dads.”  and many other scripted statements. Which by the way all make me gag. The idea of me saying any of those things now seems ridiculous.

Here is the other memory that goes through my head. Craig Knolton the preschool heart throb shouting at me from across my lawn “Danielle if you catch me you can kiss me.” Swoon oh Craig Knolton if you only knew I compared most of my suiters to you for years. A true testament to how powerful the preschool years are. (hahaha)

All this by the way is going through my head in the span of ten seconds while I am deciding if it is necessary for me to interject in Asha and Jims kissing game. I finally decide yes and for very selfish reasons. Our class has been plagued with stomach bugs, colds and runny noses and I want it to stop.

“Asha and Jim lets not play the kissing game today. We have all been sick and kissing can spread germs. I don’t want to get sick anymore do you?” Saying this sort of made me gag too… I am sure at two in the morning I will think of a more respectful way to say stop kissing Jim.

Asha stops chasing Jim and goes to the a table and starts drawing. You may think the story ends there but it doesn’t. Asha draws the most awesome picture. I know from looking at it, its a monster.

001“What is it?” I ask.

Asha looks up at me with a satisfied grin, puts it up to her face and shouts “IT’S THE KISSY MONSTER!”

Asha then proceeds to chase us all around screaming “The kissy monster is going to get you.”

There was a lot of laughter and fun had by all including me.

I love how Asha took the problem (me being a spoil sport and stopping the kissing) and came up with a solution. Germs were the problem well a mask of paper is the solution.

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On Being Slow

I am on holidays. Which for me means going to a small home in a small town with lots of snow. It means sleeping late, spending 2 hours over morning coffee and the paper, going for walks in afternoon, and watching cooking shows on TV.  It means cocktails at dusk. Pretty slow.

Which leads me to think about kids and slow. (I know, everything leads me to think about kids. It’s the ECE geek thing….) Nobody does slow like kids. Just think putting on rain pants, boots, jackets and gloves.

I watched 4 year old Jack sit in front of his cubby, take his shoes off and then, well, isn’t that just an invitation to dance? Socks sliding on the floor, a scarf to twirl, Jack transformed the crowded cubby area into his own private stage, a look of joy on his face.

There are many moments like Jack’s in a day, moments we usually have to interrupt to hurry, redirect, move along. Sometimes the hurrying is necessary, but is it always?

In my work with educators we are thinking about routines, thinking about fluidity. About rhythms. Testing what happens if there is no scheduled snack time, no scheduled group time. Allowing kids to spend their entire outside time eating snack. Or having spontaneous book and song times instigated by those who want it.

Jack did get his outside shoes, jacket and scarf on. And then went outside and danced some more.