OBSERVATIONS · speech · turn-taking · Waldorf Education

The Social Dynamics of the Kiddie Pool

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My little one playing with her pails.

If someone were to ask me what one of my Isabelle’s strengths is, I would say sharing. She’s one of those rare two year-olds who knows how to take turns and share.

That wasn’t always the case. A year ago she was quite possessive of her stuff. After a few months in a Waldorf parent/child class, she learned that not everything is hers. This happened as a result of turn-taking being modeled for her and her peers. As adults, our job was to encourage the children to redirect kids to something else that was appealing, rather than sharing the desired object, since the concept of sharing a toy is difficult for children. As a result of the redirection and turn-taking, which was also encouraged, Isabelle magically learned how to share things with other children. As a result, at two years old she shares better than most five year-olds.

And therein lies the problem. Most of the children she interacts with on a daily basis in the summertime do not attend her school. As a result, Isabelle is constantly put in situations with kids who are used to getting what they want when they want it. Because her speech is limited, I often notice she doesn’t know what to do. For instance, she can’t use her words to ask another kid to take turns with her on a slide. (I have to step in and facilitate that.) In addition, she’s not aggressive. I’ve only seen her grab something back from another kid a handful of times. Instead of taking back what was rightfully hers, she often just watches the kid who took what she was playing with. This worries me since I don’t want her to become a push-over. Conversely, I don’t want her to be an aggressor, so I’m not that upset that she doesn’t fight back.

Earlier this afternoon we took Isabelle to the pool. She enjoyed floating around the big pool in our arms, in her floaties, and holding on to noodles. But then she wanted to go into the kiddie pool. We brought two pails with us, which she likes to fill with water and dump over herself. She started out playing with the pails until she noticed a couple of the other kids in the kiddie pool had a ball. She wanted to play with it. She made her wishes known by saying “ball” a few times. Eventually one of them handed her the ball. She took turns passing the ball back and forth with him until his sister wanted the ball. She just grabbed it out of Isabelle’s hand. Isabelle looked perplexed and I said, “The ball is not yours. Your have to take turns and share it.” That appeased her.

A few minutes passed and she must’ve decided she wanted the ball so she walked across the kiddie pool to get it. She picked it up. Things were fine until the little girl came to grab it away from her. “Can you give her a turn with the ball? It is her’s,” I said to Isabelle.

Isabelle dutifully handed the ball back to the girl. “Thank you, honey,” I said. Isabelle clapped for herself. The other girl turned her back on Isabelle.

This little scene continued several more times. All the while the little girl’s father was sitting alongside the kiddie pool saying nothing. He was involved in a conversation with another adult and didn’t involve himself in the toy sharing situation.

I walked away from the pool to eat lunch leaving Isabelle there with my husband who was supervising her play. I kept my eyes on the pool while I had lunch and noticed a power struggle over other toys. The other kids had plastic action figures that Isabelle wanted. She picked them up, since they were laying untouched on the pool’s edge. Within a matter of seconds, the other girl came over to take the object out of my daughter’s hand. I watched my husband intervene a few times, but most of the time he tried to stay back and let Isabelle negotiate the situation. From afar I was glad he didn’t meddle too much since it allowed me to watch my child be resilient in the face of having something she was playing with get taken away from her. She didn’t yell at the little girl. She didn’t shout “no.” Isabelle looked at the other girl kind of funny each time she demanded something back. And then Isabelle went back and played with something else, unfazed by the other child’s antics.

Another child entered the kiddie pool while I was eating lunch. She had plastic fish and didn’t mind sharing them with Isabelle except for her clown fish figurine, which was hers. She didn’t want anyone touching it. However, her sharing behaviors were much better since I noticed her playing alongside of Isabelle for about a minute.

By the time I returned to the kiddie pool, I noticed Isabelle was playing happily with another kid’s toys. Where were her pails? I looked up. The little girl who was frustrated by Isabelle trying to play with her toys had absconded them and was using them. Hmph!

I looked at the clock and then the sky. It was creeping quickly towards nap time and the sky was gray. “I think we should go soon,” I said to my husband. He agreed and began to prepare Isabelle to leave by singing the good-bye song (to the pool) with her. Once Isabelle was plucked out of the pool, I said, “Why don’t you dry her off and I’ll get her pails back.”

He agreed and whisked Isabelle over to our table. I walked to the other side of the kiddie pool, bent down and said to the little girl who was still playing with Isabelle’s pails, “We’re leaving now so I need my daughter’s pails back.” She looked up at me and didn’t move. I bent down further and she let go of them. I dumped the water out of them, stacked one inside the other and decided to say something to her (in an effort to be positive). “Thank you for sharing some of your toys today.”

Her father, who was beside her, chuckled. “Thank YOU for sharing with us today.” I looked at him, smiled, and walked away. His emphasis on the YOU was probably directed at Isabelle. I took his comment to mean that he knew Isabelle truly shared with his daughter while his daughter wasn’t a great sharer. So why didn’t he encourage his daughter to share and take turns while our kids were in the pool together? Hmph!

I realize most toddlers don’t share and take turns well.  Sharing and turn-taking are skills that have to be explicitly taught and modeled.  More often than not, I find myself mediating these toddler situations by using phrases like, “First _____ will take a turn, then you will take a turn” and “Why don’t you play with this?”  I often wonder if I’m getting in the way of her working these situations out on her own.  That being said, I know my daughter needs me to be her voice since she doesn’t have the words to negotiate some of these situations on her own (and I don’t want her to get steamrolled by other kids).  There’s a fine line I have to walk between being a helicopter parent and advocating for my child. I wonder if I’m walking on the line properly.

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5 thoughts on “The Social Dynamics of the Kiddie Pool

  1. Your story is one that was happening at family gatherings and at town pools yesterday. It will happen again today and tomorrow too. As I read your post, I can’t help but think about the power and need for sharing even among adults. SO MANY cannot!
    PS Don’t worry about being a perfect parent – none of us are. However, your strong reflection and “conscious” parenting style will offer you a means to adapt and adjust to the ever changing demands of parenthood – just like in teaching!

    1. Thanks for that reminder, Anita. I know there’s no such thing as perfect and that I’ll second-guess myself often. The parallel you drew between parenting and teaching helps!

  2. Fun to hear, Stacey. It sounds like Isabelle is doing so well in the sharing. My daughter and I talk about this often now that the 4 year old needs to share with the ‘almost’ two year old who is suddenly interested in ‘all’ the toys, not just a few. I think every situation will be different, according to the kids’ ages. When you can actually have conversations, it’s a little easier, just not so easy for the kid. Thanks for sharing so much of your thinking.

  3. Arghh!!! Your story made me so cross. What on earth was the dad up to? Children learn from what they see, and how the adults around them model behavior they deem important, worty. This little girl’s dad had simply checked out – as long as his kid was playing and out of his hair, he was not too concerned about how she was actually behaving. No “thank you” when you collected Isabelle’s pails? That’s just rude! But, on a positive side, Isabelle is content to play, share, and let play. You and Mark are doing a lot of things very right!

  4. I love hearing about the Waldorf experience and how much Isabelle has grown. She is such a sweet person. It was so important for me to teach this along the way…also, the ability to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. Grateful, thankful people are the ones that I am happy to be around. I really felt errrrr with that little girl and a double errrr with her dad. Yeah for you and your family. PS I’m passing this on to my daughter who was strong willed and also is raising my very strong willed grand-daughter. I know she will appreciate the modeling and patience. xo

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