How to deal with kids’ ‘un­safe’ run­ning around at day­care

The Hamilton Spectator - - LIVING - GARY DIRENFELD

Q: I am at work in a day­care and am a new em­ployee. A three-year-old boy be­gins to run around the room with a toy air­plane. Two or three other boys be­gin to fol­low. Quickly, the run­ning be­comes an all out sprint around ta­bles and equip­ment and down hall­ways. No amount of talk­ing seems to stop this un­safe run­ning. What should I do?

A: How­ever annoying, what you are de­scrib­ing is nor­mal be­hav­iour for three-year-olds. The child is us­ing his imag­i­na­tion, see­ing him­self pi­lot­ing the plane. His imag­i­na­tive play is in­fec­tious and be­ing en­joyed by the other boys.

It is nat­u­ral for chil­dren to en­gage in this kind of play and it is in­her­ently en­joy­able. It helps them de­velop an un­der­stand­ing of roles and ob­jects in their en­vi­ron­ment.

Run­ning around helps them to learn about their bod­ies in space, in re­la­tion­ship to ta­bles, chairs, peo­ple, etc. Bump­ing into things helps them to learn phys­i­cal bound­aries. All of this is im­por­tant to their creativ­ity and phys­i­cal de­vel­op­ment.

Rather than see­ing this as a prob­lem, per­haps it can be viewed as an op­por­tu­nity. Con­sider how you can build this play into the day­care struc­ture. Pic­ture books of planes and fly­ing may capture their at­ten­tion. Teach­ing them how to make pa­per planes can fa­cil­i­tate their in­ter­est and fine mo­tor skills.

If the child can­not make a pa­per air­plane on his own, you can make it for him, let­ting him watch you. Tak­ing turns fly­ing the air­planes in an empty hall­way can give lit­tle ones a great deal of sat­is­fac­tion.

As you en­gage the boys in their in­ter­est, you can also pro­vide pos­i­tive feed­back for their ac­com­plish­ment: on-task be­hav­iour. Dur­ing free time out­side, they can be en­cour­aged to pre­tend they are pi­lots fly­ing through the play­ground.

Be­ing a new em­ployee, you also may not have found your au­thor­i­ta­tive voice. It is OK to be firm and di­rec­tive with three-year-olds so they ap­pre­ci­ate that a de­mand is not a sug­ges­tion. This is not about be­ing harsh, how­ever, just clear and firm.

You are learn­ing about child de­vel­op­ment and pos­i­tive be­hav­iour man­age­ment through en­gage­ment, struc­ture and play.

Com­bined, all of the above may re­store or­der and fa­cil­i­tate a fun learn­ing en­vi­ron­ment.

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