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