To share or not to share?
I continue to be fascinated by watching my young son, now 20 months old, as he learns. We were at toddler group yesterday morning – somewhere Ranulph knows well as our nanny has taken him there regularly. I hadn’t been before although I knew some of the children and their parents from other local groups. As soon as we arrived, Ranulph couldn’t get his coat and hat off quick enough and disappeared to play with a range of Happyland figures and vehicles. He has similar toys at home but, somehow, there’s an excitement about playing with toys that aren’t always available, be they at a toddler group or another child’s house.
I engaged with him and the toys for some time; he was in his own little world putting the figures into the vehicles, driving them around and into the buildings and pressing buttons to make appropriate noises. I disappeared into the kitchen to get a coffee and ended up talking to a wonderful woman, Bryony, who leads the singing and action songs at the end of each session at this particular group. She’s amazing – so enthusiastic and animated. I’ve likened her to Floella Benjamin (former BBC Playschool presenter) but I realise I’m showing my age… She has a wonderful collection of different action songs, which certainly relieve the monotony of ‘The Wheels on the Bus’ and ‘The Grand Old Duke of York’ – good though they are!
While we were chatting, I looked across at Ranulph and noticed he was in a tussle over a Happyland bus and its passengers with a girl of a similar age. “Ranulph!” I called, “share the toys; let the little girl play with it.” He looked affronted. I told Bryony that we were working on helping him share toys with other children. But she explained how difficult a concept it is for children to understand. Montessori education theory says that a child should be allowed to play with and be absorbed by a toy for as long as they wish and then be encouraged to allow others to play with it. Breaking their concentration and expecting them to give up a particular toy part-way through their focused time is a recipe for tantrums and/or anxiety. Her analogy was that we would feel equally frustrated if we were halfway through watching a film and then someone came along, switched it off and demanded that we allow someone else to watch it elsewhere, from the beginning.
It’s got me thinking: I often make associations with how we learn as children when trying to get complex topics across to adults. But there’s also a lot of scope to consider how an adult would respond in a grown-up situation and apply that to how a child might behave given a particular scenario. We’re all human, after all – just at different stages of development. It’s a useful crossover of the learning process, which is absorbing in itself. I also hope it will make me a better parent too because, even though there are shelves of generalist textbooks, the little darlings don’t come with user manuals!