So far this week we’ve had two mornings at kindy and one afternoon play date at the house of a woman I met at the local playground. I don’t know about Petra, but I’m knackered.
Petra was rather nervy about kindy at first. She’s not used to gangs of preschoolers and she’s not used to the tricky social politics of sharing toys and playing group games. It was overwhelming at first and she reacted by grabbing what she wanted and clinging to it for dear life. If anyone got too close to her stuff she was horrified and fended them off as best she could. The poor kid is used to having her toys to herself, to being able to put them down knowing that they’ll be there when she gets back to them and knowing that no-one is going to scribble on her masterpiece or knock over her lovely buildings.
Life is not so secure when there are 14 other 3-year-olds to contend with, all of whom are also learning about sharing and cooperating. As the head kindy teacher pointed out, you can have as wonderful a curriculum as you like, but for the children it’s all about learning to share and coping with the separation from their parents. Those are the major milestones they’re working on and everything else is just gravy.
Petra and I have had a couple of chats about saying “Stop it, I don’t like it.” if someone does something you don’t like and telling a teacher if you need more help instead of pushing and shoving and yelling. (Petra’s on the floor right now playing with her soft toys – Gerald the giraffe is telling the Wonky Donkey “Don’t do that. I don’t like it.” So that message is resonating.)
And a chat that began “You know how you don’t like it when people take things off you, well other people don’t like it either if you take things off them.” And ended, “if you want something, ask if you can have it.” (Not included is what to do when the kid says “Sod off! I’m playing with this and I’m not sharing.” That’s advanced preschooler wrangling and neither of us have made it that far yet.) This idea surprised and intrigued Petra – safe in her preschooler’s egotism, it hadn’t occurred to her that other kids would have the same reactions as she does – and I think helped her to relax into the notion that the other kids at kindy are not so alien after all.
Whatever the reason, Petra had a much less stressful day today. The inevitable wrangles over spoons and trains and marbles didn’t seem to be so nerve wracking for her. She was able to keep playing instead of getting freaked out and having to move away. She was also able to make a bit of conversation and join in some imaginative play. Go Petra.