Posts Categorized: Toddler I
Every August brings the beginning of a new school year. It is a fresh start. Children return to the classrooms. Some of them are veterans of the class, having been in the room for one or two years already, and some of them are entering a new environment for the first time. Whether returning or new, each one of these children will be phased into the classroom.
Over my many years as a toddler teacher I have had a few parents ask why we follow this “phasing-in schedule.” It is true that slowly bringing the children into the new school year can cause a bit of a juggling act for parents. Work schedules may need to be altered for the week. Childcare may need to be arranged. In the end, all of that teeter tottering about is worth it. The children are the most important work, and their most important work is starting a new school year off successfully.
In every one of my first emails to our toddler parents, I give them their child’s phasing-in schedule. I also write that this schedule is the key to success. Children need a gentle introduction. They need time to adjust to new things, new places, and new people. It is through this process that they gain trust in everything and everyone around them. Their brains are allowed to assimilate what is new and what is old in a seemingly unrushed manner.
Have you ever noticed how your child is more tired at the beginning of the school year? I have. My son is fifteen years old and still took a nap every day he came home during the first week of school. School is a child’s work. It is serious business for them. When you allow a child to move at their pace you are listening to them and their needs. You are helping them to succeed. So, why do we phase our children in instead of putting them directly in the classrooms for full school days? My answer is, why not?
Toddler 1 Co-Lead Teacher
South Huntsville Campus
A toddler is a fluid being. Between the ages of eighteen to thirty-six months there are many changes that take place in a child. He is moving toward his independence, but the reassurance of his parent, or caregiver is still something he relies on greatly. The toddler’s capabilities and desires to do for himself physically, emotionally, and socially are moving full steam ahead.
Toddlers unconsciously absorb everything in the world around them. Their minds are sponges, and their fingers are the means of soaking information into the sponges. They love to touch and do things to explore what will happen. “What will happen if I put the ball into this hole?” Physically a toddler cannot wait to try out a new activity or test a new-found piece of independence. They are hungry for information about the world around them.
Moving away from a parent or caregiver and into the emotional realm of learning who he is as an individual is how a toddler begins to find his identity. Comfort and encouragement from the adult in his life will still be necessary, but perhaps not as often as it was when he was younger. He begins to find his own voice as a result of his transition toward independence. “No” is often a favorite word in a toddler’s vocabulary. It is important to not always see this word as having a negative connotation. This word is the child forming his own opinions, and as difficult as it may seem, it should be treated gently, but with limits.
When toddlers move into a community with other children their age, they begin to expand their social circle. They are suddenly seeing that other little people their same age exist. When parallel play with the same material takes place, parents and caregivers often urge toddlers to share or not to touch one another’s work. Before offering an intervention, the adult should watch the children who are engaged in the activity. The adult may ask himself, “Is there truly a need for my mediation?” The answer to that question may be surprising. Of course, there is a need for guidance in the toddler community, but the guidance often comes most effectively through the caregivers’ modeling of appropriate behaviors in the classroom.
Helping toddlers smoothly adjust to the transition of moving away from their dependence and toward their independence is a charge given to parents and caregivers. It is a charge which should not be taken lightly. An environment that provides safety, security, and above all the ability to move about freely within limits should be the ultimate goal of the parents and caregivers. Toddlers are going to transition toward independence; how successful they are at obtaining this freedom in a positive manner is up to the adults in their lives.
February is Parent Observation Month here at MSH. Our toddler parents will be observing through the videos the teachers have recorded, while parents at other levels will be observing by sitting in the classrooms. While observing try asking yourself these questions:
Parents often ask us, “How do you get them to do that?” or they say, “I wish they would do that at home.” These questions and comments almost always occur after Parent/Child Sharing Night and after conferences. They see their child cleaning up after themselves, being independent in their self care, not taking things from others, and wish they could see their child exhibiting these desirable behaviors at home. The answer we give our parents is that the environment has to invite these behaviors.
Children naturally want structure in their lives. While they may not show it, they want it, they need it, and they thrive with it. Our classroom is set up to fit them. It is their world, and they are responsible for its care. While turning your home into a Montessori classroom may not be doable, there are things you can do to help make it more like school.
The first rule of thumb is less is more. Children’s rooms and playrooms can become cluttered with toys. Having too much overloads their senses, and they simply cannot make sense of it all. This is especially important to remember during the upcoming holiday season when new gifts will be arriving from family and friends. Make a point to clean out their old toys in anticipation of the new ones they will be receiving. In our classroom we regularly rotate out the work, keeping no more than two pieces of work on a shelf. Rotating the materials keeps them fresh and inviting.
Many years ago we had a parent tell us the way she did that was by giving the old toys to charity. She sat down with her child and talked about which toys were toys the child still played with and which toys they had outgrown. After sorting them into two piles they talked about little children in the world who did not have toys and encouraged the child to think about giving them to those children. How happy a little boy or girl just like them might be to receive this new toy. The child loved the idea of sharing with other children and was eager to give as gifts the toys she was no longer using. Doing this not only lessens the clutter in your home but it also highlights sharing. Caring for others is something we all can practice more often.
In the coming months we will share more ideas on molding your home environment to be more like the classroom environment. Thank you all for reading and for sharing your precious children with us.