Isabelle is a three year-old who is very good at being three. She does many kind things. However, like any toddler, she is constantly testing boundaries and trying to assert her independence.
Isabelle had a tough start at our parent/child this morning. Every time she’d settle into an activity, she’d want to transition to something someone else was doing. For instance, if she was playing on the slide and saw someone else on the rocking horse, she’d start yelling about wanting to play on the horse too. I tried to redirect her to do something else (e.g., “Go have a tea party in the kitchen” when the kids were in the boat and she wanted to flip it over to make a mountain.), but every time I did she protested. Eventually, I ignored her and busied myself with a sewing project. Hard to do, but it made more sense to give her no attention than negative attention.
Something happened just when I thought there wouldn’t be a moment of peace this morning. Isabelle followed her teacher to the baking table. She sat beside Ms. Jackie, who has a soothing presence and sings sweetly, and began playing with the pretzel dough. Ms. Jackie dusted the table surface with flour then gave gave Isabelle a piece of dough to roll into a pretzel. While Isabelle didn’t roll it out in the traditional fashion, she busied her hands with it. She pressed, patted, and kneaded the dough. With each touch, I could see Isabelle coming out of her three year-old whining mode and moving into a more productive, purposeful place. She was doing her work, which in this case was baking a snack for the class. It seemed that was all it took to get her back on-track.
Until 20 minutes later when one of the other kids decided to take something Isabelle was playing with. Isabelle was not pleased and she let the girl know it. That was the last straw. I said, “Was that something a good friend would do?”
“No,” she said, looking down.
“I don’t want you to treat your friends like that again. You can use a calm voice to tell them ‘no.’ If this happens again today, then we’re leaving before the puppet show.”
“I wanna see pupa sow,” she replied.
“Then you need to be a better friend.” I said.
And wouldn’t you know, that was the last not-so-good moment of the morning. She participated in circle time & snack time beautifully. I guess she really wanted to see the puppet show! As a result, we stayed ’til the end of class time.
The next time we have a three year-old moment I’m going to busy Isabelle’s hands with something. I think doing something tactile helped to redirect her in a way nothing else could.