Now the older ones are back at school and the parks and playgrounds are open to the public it is time to turn our attentions to our wee ones, who have been the forgotten masses in this pandemic. Too small to say anything, adaptable and distractible, they don’t notice or remember that their needs weren't getting met. Happy to go with the flow of seeing everyone wearing masks, washing hands and sanitising everything. It is our wee-est of ones that are missing out. Coffee groups and classes, swimming and singing all the things they love to do are still on hold.
Just as we have felt the separation and isolation from our friends and family , our young ones have felt it too. This was no more prevalent to me than when I got my two year old back in to the swing of things (literally at the playground) with a couple of carefully orchestrated social distance playdates. I noticed how much she needed her peers to bounce off and learn from. Every mum I have encountered has echoed that sentiment in the past weeks that things have started to relax.
Now more that ever our children need the positive peer pressure that they only get from each other. I have written before about positive peer pressure, how children mimic us and follow our examples. But learn and teach others their height and age so much better than we can. How seeing another do this or that sparks curiosity and seems to make an instant cognitive leap in their development. They want to emulate each other. And the connections and responses are usually immediate. A recent example in our house was when my wee one got together with her best mate who is 4 months older than her (and I credit with teaching her how to crawl, walk ) She was using the potty , my wee one not interested in the slightest previously, came home stripped off and peed on her ignored potty, just to be like her friend. Im scrambling to keep up. We aren't at no more nappies just yet but the visual stimulation was instant.
Back to my observations in the playground. I’ve had my theory on positive peer pressure supported by watching hers and others interactions. My wee one wants to both follow and lead. There are things that she can do now like climbing ladders and swooshing down the high slide with no fear and helps others to be brave enough to try. . But isn't confident on a swing. In turn she watches others and learns its ok to get on and swing, to go higher or faster , etc. I can tell her till I'm blue in the face, encourage, bribe, you name it , nope but her bff gets on and she's ready. Go figure.
One thing I will say loudly at this junction is we as parents can be guilty of, and need to be careful not to, comparing our kids and their developmental levels. In popping them together and seeing what the others are doing we can feel like our child is 'not' and feel like they are somehow lacking. This is most definitely not the case. And I cannot stress this enough. Everyone learns at a different pace and in different ways and with lockdown no one has been able to use their environment to its full potential. Other factors to remember are , some families have multiple adults in the house who have nothing else to do but take care of a child's every whim. Therefore they ( the child ) dont need to speak up. Another might have siblings in the house all stuck at home and needs to be vocal to get heard ! There was periods of inaction and in activity where they didn't get to the playground / park / open spaces, stunting for a moment their physical development, confidence and the desire to get up and about , walking, running, climbing, problem solving , etc. While others had a swing set or trampoline in the backyard and were able to exercise both muscle memory as well as the brain. The list of things children are exposed too in their own bubbles , over the lockdown is endless therefore the sharing opportunities when we are all back together is unlimited.
I know parents of school age kids were worried that they didn't do enough or correctly when it came to the school work tasked to them in the lockdown, they feared their child might be behind. Both teaching friends of mine said poppy cock. Not only is it their job to get everyone to where they need to be. Everyone learns at different speeds and in different ways. They are trained to teach in the best possible way for that child. We as Early Educators are the same. One of the tools at our disposal is other people kids. Just being near them in a playground , parallel playing at someone’s house. Watching other children, even just going to the shops. We are reintroducing this wealth of entertainment, education, play and fun. We are encouraging our own children's development. In no time at all, everyone will be up to speed.
I actively turn the comparison desire of mine into positive learning experience of everyone involved . What is so and so doing that will rub off on my wee one? As I said before one of her friends is potty training, another you cant get off the swing. One is using cutlery and a cup when eating. Another has no fear of water. All these 'things' my little one needs a nudge to pursue. But my wee woman has no fear of heights and gung ho attitude to try things. She will climb everything at the playground. Sees no barriers to getting where she wants to go and will actively encourage others to come with her. She is an early talker and in babbling away in full sentences, showing her contemporaries how to get heard. She is very dextrous and can catch / kick a ball with control. she is motivated to build and draw. All she wants to do is to play this with others. She encourages partners in crime, opening up her peers to possibilities.
I want to reassure parents that I have had experience of this before and long story short it all comes right in the end. I was isolated with a wee one on a job as we travelled around a lot ( 6 months ) and she wasn't able to socialise with anyone at times except me. I did my best but it wasn't till the family settled back in to their newly renovated home and normal childhood activities resumed did the little girl catch up per say, by pure and simple exposure to her friends!! Now she and her best friend who had the stimulation at the right time are 7 years old and you could not tell there was any difference in their learning patterns .
This lockdown has been hard on everyone in so many different ways. Now we are starting to reemerge in to a new normal we mustn't forget to include our littlest members into this world.
Just as we need our friends and family and crave conversation and another's company, so do they. The knowledge they can share with each other is invaluable. Any gaps you feel they have in learning will be filled in record time. Sometimes overnight. See potty training example and the confidence my wee one has now for things she wouldn't even entertain just last week. I know we all have learned valuable lessons on how important we are to each other in these times that we had to be without. I know the world has forever changed in some ways and more for good I hope. That learning through friendship and bonds will shape our kids both with gross motor skills and cognitive processes .( ie the way they think and act ) We are all catching up and making up for lost time. So when you feel it’s time, you can feel good about getting your babies back out there.