Why We Bite Our Tongues, Evade, and Leave Them Hanging

Posted December 17, 2015




by Amanda Janquart

poop in trees
There are always going to be questions. Questions upon questions, head tilts and scrunched noses. Toddlers and preschoolers are at the top of their game. The last thing we want to do is make them stop (most of the time!). The zest for investigating and deducing is where the seeds of learning are most fertile. Our work is to keep the seeds growing by sprinkling on some water without causing a flood.
My favorite strategy is to simply pause when a child asks a question. Let them know I heard with my own head tilt. Stretch the pause out until I can’t bear it, then answer back with a question of my own. I don’t jump to the answer and take away the opportunity for them to put critical thinking skills to work. Of course, there are many questions that benefit from immediate answers, but I’m on the lookout for those investigative ones that we can take deeper. When a child found an “egg” in our compost pile, we didn’t say, “Actually, that is an avocado pit.” Instead we asked, “Have you seen an egg like that before?” “Does it seem fragile?” “I wonder how it got here, next to all these food scraps.” The egg came inside with us as they wanted to take care of it. A book about eggs was set out and children looked hungrily for one that matched theirs. Nothing was a fit and it was decided that we should ask Grandma Bette. On our way to her room, a hammer was added to a teacher’s bag. Bette thankfully didn’t spill the beans and it was decided that we should see what was inside the egg. After cracking it apart, children still left school that day without the “right” answer. As hard as it is to zip our adult lips, it’s OK to leave them with an unanswered question, or even a wrong conclusion. The next week however, avocados were added to our snack list!
Giving them the answer stops them in their tracks. Creating an atmosphere that invites questions and asking plenty ourselves keeps children curious. Not knowing where it will take us is the root of the fun.Walking though the woods, a child called out, “I just found dog poop in the trees….it’s my first time!” It really was a spectacular sight. We commented to the child, “My oh my, that is really high. I wonder how a dog got up there.” There were plenty of theories at the ready. “The dog was really high.” “It grew a lot.” “He just climbed up.” They were asked if it smelled bad. “Oooh yeah!” Surprisingly, or not so surprisingly at this age, everyone was in agreement. It smelled bad only to the children. But then some started to think and reason out loud. “I think it’s a dead Roly-poly.” “I don’t know, I think it’s horse poop.” “I think it’s a dead Woolly Bear.” “Dog poop is black, so it’s dog poop.” Taking a sample with us, the hike moved on. Lo and behold, we stumbled upon scat on the ground that we had identified as dog poop just last week. The children were asked if both specimens looked the same. Some clearly clung to their original theory of poop in trees. “That one (on the ground) got rain on it. That’s why it changed color.” Some were rethinking. “This is real poop, because it’s brown and Bracken’s poop was brown.” Once inside, the sample still with us, a child ran unprompted to find a laminated sheet of scat identification from our book basket. Pointing at possibilities, many were ruled out, but more were added. “That’s shaped like a dinosaur.” “That’s moose poop alright. I see brown inside it.” “I think it’s rabbit. Because rabbit has brown in them.” On and on this went. Magnifiers and binoculars were found, again by the children, and used to take a closer look. Discussion continued, and then waned as attention turned elsewhere, leaving the question of the find’s true identity unanswered – for now. And that’s how I’ll leave you, too. Happy questioning!

Rough Play

Posted December 3, 2015

by Amy Lemieux

Starting in infancy, children use their bodies to learn; rolling, kicking, waving arms, sitting, crawling, standing and walking. Physically is often a child’s favorite way to interact with others; hugging, spinning, chasing, fleeing, and wrestling. Youngsters of all mammals, larger-brained birds, and even some reptiles engage in roughhousing!
Why do adults have such a hard time with rough play? Why do most adults, including school personnel, overreact to what has been considered normal child play for thousands of years? Children’s play often mimics, but does not involve, real fighting. Fighting is symbolic, without intention to hurt. Teachers and parents often mistake play for real fighting that could result in injuries, so it is prohibited altogether, often to ridiculous extremes. A kindergartener gets recess detention for picking dandelions. Why? Because after a sand-throwing incident, the children were all banned from picking up anything off the ground. A third grader gets suspended for DRAWING a soldier holding a gun. You can see the giant leaps now being made between innocuous behaviors and predicting dire outcomes. In reality, studies show that roughhousing turns into real fighting less than 1% of the time!
It may sound obvious, but it is necessary to educate adults about the difference between rough play and real fighting. Rough play involves willing participants who laugh, run, jump, chase, wrestle, make noise and return for more. Real aggression is usually directed at one person, an unwilling participant, and no one is smiling.


Wouldn’t it be better to ban rough play altogether, just to be safe? No! The benefits of rough play truly outweigh the disadvantages of rough play. What are the benefits of rough play? It requires children to read social signals like facial expressions and body language; it meets deep sensory needs; it releases energy when children are too young to follow the complex directions needed for playing sports; it allows boys to express affection for playmates; it promotes complex social interactions; it requires role-changing and turn-taking (I’ll chase you, then you chase me); it builds confidence and resilience; it reduces fear and anxiety; it releases a chemical into the brain that stimulates neuron growth in the cortex and hippocampus which are responsible for memory, language and logic. And, of course, children love it because it adds joy to their lives.