Improving my Teaching Practice

Toy struggles and developing mutual respect

As you can tell from my last post, I’ve been thinking a lot about sharing. I don’t believe in forcing children to share; I believe in protecting a child’s right to play.

I try to handle struggles over toys through sports casting. This is where you stay close to the children and state exactly what you see, just the facts no judgments. “Tina is holding on to the truck tightly, Olivia is holding on too. Tina is crying. Olivia is pulling on the truck” and so on. I try to stick with this method until the struggle sort of works it’s self out. My job isn’t about stopping the conflict it’s about make sure the children are safe. I also try to keep in mind that a struggle over a toy (with toddlers) is not always about the toy. Ruth Anne Hammond states,

“Power is a very important issue for them, whether it is within themselves (‘how strong am I? Can I move this couch?’), with adults (‘Do I really have to do what you say, or will you negotiate’), or with their peers (‘Who is stronger? Can I hold my own?’). This need to test themselves in the context of relationships with other children is a very important task, and one that requires sensitive support from an adult in order to build mutual respect between children.”  Respecting Babies, 115

I agree with this and want to “build mutual respect between children.” This is a goal that I strive for. I do believe in the using sports casting when there is a conflict between children. Believe it or not, most often a child who took a toy will return it a little after the struggle has ended.

I’m wondering how do we support children in developing this mutual respect? How do we help them learn to respect another child’s space and their right to play? Am I supporting children in respecting each other’s right to play without realizing it? Or am I hindering this process? Is sports casing enough? When do we move from stating the facts to explaining to a child “Tina is using that truck right now when she is finished you can use it. It is hard to wait.” Are these two ways of handling toy struggles separate from each other or can they be used together? Do we tell a child that has just taken a toy, “Tina was using that truck, you took it. I wonder if she wants it back”? Do we encourage a child who has taken a toy to return it?

When questions like these flood my mind I remind myself of the only rule that I learned in the Resources for Infant Educarers foundations course:



Hammond, Ruth Anne. Respecting babies: a new look at Magda Gerber’s RIE approach. Washington, DC: Zero to Three, 2009. Print.

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