Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Pay attention.

I've been thinking a lot about the children in my group who bash at toys, rather than explore them carefully, and who do a lot of throwing.
How can we move them on?
Mostly these children are very young, 3 at most, and at the crawling, pulling to standing stage of development. Throwing serves a purpose at the beginning of this stage, as babies discover object permanence, watch a toy move out of view and then discover it again. Their eyes are beginning to focus more on distant objects, and they are learning to track moving objects too. Throwing toys provides an incentive to crawl to retrieve them. But I'm noticing some children seem a little stuck at this phase and it is interfering with their ability to explore toys in other ways. Some families report feeling that they become disheartened about offering toys to their little ones, as they just get slung.
So what can we do?
First of all, I think removing anything that present a real danger is important. The space needs to be uncluttered. I find the posting toys are often thrown, quite possibly to avoid having to do them. So we've cut down on toys with little sling-able parts. We put less out, but have things ready to hand.
We do have light balls and baskets for catching so that we can turn throwing into turn taking games. Playing "ready steady go! " and making a fun drama of rolling or throwing the ball, or getting ready to catch, seems to help make this more fun than slinging toys. We use light up balls, balls with a bell or rattle inside, balls with holes to grip, bean bags, larger balls.
In the music corner we have a few drums and we encourage the parents to play these with their child, and try to get a turn taking game going. One loud bang, lots of quiet taps, my go, your go, Drumming with finger tips, using a flat hand. This seems to help the child move on from random banging to a bit more control.
I think another factor is that toys like posting boxes are often seen as an important step, introduced before the child has developed an interest in poking things into small holes (anyone who has lived with a toddler in the house will know this is a distinct phase where the child is passionate about poking things into small spaces, especially car keys). The child who just isn't aware of those possibilities yet isn't going to be interested in posting boxes and throwing the shapes seems like much more fun.
I have a theory that alongside this, we need to work on their ability to look, watch and pay attention to detail.
I'm introducing more toys that encourage looking and watching. We have always used bubbles, blowing them the stopping, waiting while the child makes eye contact, signs, says or in some other way indicates that they want more. We also use blowing up a balloon and letting it go. Both of these activities encourage looking at our faces, waiting, anticipating, and start an interaction between the adult and child. Party blowers appeal to some children and encourage them to watch our faces, and wait.

Moving away from our faces to shared interest in a toy , we use Jack in a box, and the pop up toys on sticks. These can be brought up by our face to get attention, encourage that shared looking and moved so that the child is switching attention between the person and the toy. Reactions from the adult can build up the interest and excitement. Balloon pumps, spinning tops, pop up pets can be used at this stage, encouraging the children to watch wait for the toy to do it's thing.
Zig zag car or ball tracks are also useful if used by an adult with the child. We have a number of these. At the right stage of development, children love watching the car or ball roll down. After watching it for a while, they are motivated to try to put the ball in the hole themselves, or the car on the track. They are already aware this is more fun than throwing it.

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