14 Sep Toys from Home
As a nursery school teacher with 40 years of experience, I like to think that I can be flexible and responsive to the requests of children and their parents. As a result, even though my teaching partners and I always ask that toys from home be left at home (or at least in the car), I have made exceptions when a child enters the class clutching a beloved toy and the mother says, “I couldn’t get him to leave it.”
I would think to myself, “How much trouble could one toy cause?” Feeling sure that we could handle whatever problems would inevitably ensue. Why start the day upsetting the child, and making things hard for the mother? The toy comforted the child, enabled the parent to leave easily, and I hoped that by acquiescing, I was forging bonds of trust with my little student.
Now, after those 40 years, I am more than ever convinced that giving in was wrong. I know that one child bringing in one toy can ruin the day, for him and for others. First, other children are attracted to the new toy, yet the owner is usually unwilling to share it. Suddenly there are social problems and the child with the toy is separated from the open life at school. In order to not share, he has to keep hold of the toy, which prohibits him from participating in other activities in the class. Rather than joining in, he is holding back, and the others notice. Even when the toy is placed in the school bag for safekeeping, the child is often thinking of paying it a little visit… and another. “Jane’s taking her doll out of her school bag,” someone reports. Others respond and we have trouble again and an interruption of activities while a teacher deals with the situation.
Then there is the common prospect of losing the toy or a part of it: a tiny shoe, little hat or whatever piece could fall off. We then spend precious time trying to track down these loose parts – not the most productive way to spend class time, nor is it a happy experience for the anxious owner. How did the day go for that child? Was the toy a real comfort?
If we begin and stick with the no toys from home rule, life is clearer and easier. The children are on equal footing and the school’s toys become the sought-after playthings both for what they offer the children and for their neutrality.
Parents often view a toy from home as a comfort and a bridge between home and school. They love seeing their child walk in to class clutching a beloved teddy bear or truck. In fact, true comfort is gained through the deep confidence children feel by being a full member of the group. This will certainly come in no time. The best sight is the child saying goodbye and joining her own beautiful new world, relieved to have no extra encumbrances, no pressure to share her precious toy and no chance of losing it. Her life at school has a chance to be fully open, sociable and shared. The isolation created by the need to guard the toy is mercifully gone.
So, parents, please know we are not trying to be inflexible or difficult when we ask you to leave the toys at home or in your car. We need your cooperation to ensure that your child adjusts to a full and happy school experience as quickly as possible. He or she will be comforted to find that favorite toy, safe and sound, in the car seat or playroom when it is time to go home.
Written by – Anne Martine Cook. Anne has 40+ years experience teaching nursery school children.
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