During a normal circle time admist songs and the buzzing sounds of children focused on more energetic needs, Melinda decided to bring up a few challenges kids have been facing. She started by using an observational statement, which invited the children to participate and did not connect to the teachers’ emotional response.
‘I notice that many of you have been upset about kicking and chasing going on. I wonder what we can do if this happens to us.’
Melinda went on to explain that sometimes it is fun to chase but it can be scary if the person being chased does not want to play. She asked for a few suggestions on what someone who doesn't want to be chased could do. The circle transformed- suddenly everyone’s focus was on the circle. Children started raising their hands and shouting out answers. They began with stop, I don’t like it, and I don’t want to. Melinda then restated with the empowering statements that many of the Tumbleweeders already knew. She went over the three statements two times.
1 - “Stop” (chasing me)
2 - “I don’t like to play” (chase)
3 - “I'm not playing with you”
Then we went on to discuss kicking. 'I see that sometimes there is a lot of kicking on the beanbag. What are some ways that can help so kicking doesn’t happen.' Once again the circle was alive with hands and kids full of answers. The first one that came up was that you can ask if the person wants to be kicked. Melinda addressed the solution that Yes, it is available to ask if you can hit or kick at Tumbleweed but diverted back to ways so kicking doesn’t happen. The list then grew to include all kinds of solutions. We narrowed it down to three and reviewed them a couple of times. You can say,
1 - “Don’t kick me” (and shield your body from the kicks)
2 - You can move your body away from the person.
3 - “I dont like when you kick me. It hurts me.”
This type of discussion is so important at the Tumbleweed house because it involves the children in every step of the learning process. As teachers, we make observations so that the children can take ownership in how they see kicking and chasing and when it affects them. Then we ask for options knowing that the children could come up with unique solutions that are different from our own. Instead of using the typical preschool rule of ‘no chasing,’ we formulate actions so that each child can be in control and understand how to solve a problem without needing a teachers’ help.
As a preschool, we feel that academic readiness is gained by learning transitioning, behavior modeling and social skills from peers. So much of free play is filled with these moments of learning that allow kids to have fun while gaining kindergarten skills expected. It is also a great way to build self advocacy and the ability to see and relate to others- both of which are lifelong skills for any person.