While it's easy to train the staff on the needs of the younger toddlers, getting them to step back and give the children (including the older toddlers) time to work out a problem is much more difficult. Adults tend to get distressed when they see a young child struggling and step in to rescue the child. Janet Lansbury at Elevating Child Care has written about it here and here. Seeing the staff doing a lot of rescuing made me wonder just how often I might be doing it myself. After all, they learn through modeling as much as the children do. So I am making a concentrated effort to not step in so early right now.
There is a 15-month-old boy in the class who has a tendency to wait for adult help before taking a risk. When he was starting to walk, if he got to a place where he no longer had a hand-hold, his preferred method of navigating was to get the attention of an adult so they would hold his hand and help him walk to the desired location. After a while, my co-teacher and I started to notice that if we left him alone, he could accomplish quite a bit. He spent an entire morning teaching himself to walk down the ramp/slide in our gross motor area a few weeks ago. He would crawl to the top, stand up, then hold onto the wall as he walked down. On the first attempt, he fell before reaching the bottom. He cried a bit but neither of us could get over to help him right away. So we watched him from where we were with other children. As he cried, he pulled himself up then crawled right back up the ramp. He repeated this five or six times before he was successful in reaching the bottom without falling down. The smile on his face showed just how proud he was of himself.
So when I saw him playing in the fine motor area by himself earlier this week, I got out the camera and just watched to see what he might do. Below is a clip of him playing with balls and tubes. He had just pulled to whole toy over on himself trying to stand up and I thought he might give up and go play with something else. The first time he got the ball in the tube then peered into the tube to see it fall, it took all my control not to tell him the ball was already on the floor. You will see that after a couple tries, he stops looking through the tube and goes straight to the floor to find the ball. What I would have taught him by verbalizing it on the first attempt, he learned on his own.
We tell the children all the time that we know how hard it is for them to wait. It's something we need to remind ourselves of every now and then. If we exercise a little self-control, we might just pick up on something amazing.