Saturday, 13 February 2016

Toys from home

I've done some Googling around and discovered that most kindergarten teachers have a 'Toys from home' policy. 

I'm not 'most kindergarten teachers' and I like to be a bit different. I started a discussion group with the parents from my kinder because many had questions about whether children should bring toys from home. There were a variety of perspectives. This is mine:

If children have comfort items this means that they must need them. I believe that children should decide when to give up their comfort items, and that most do decide this at a young age. Children who need comfort items are not feeling completely secure. Taking aware their comfort items means taking away their security, and we don't want to do that. They won't learn unless they feel secure.

Toys from home reflect children's interests and home lives. To deny that children have a life away from kinder is to deny part of children's identity. Our aim should be to bridge the gap between home and kinder, to respect children for who they are and for what they love, and to try to identify with their world. Children will build strong relationships with adults who make an effort to enter their worlds. They will therefore be more responsive to the learning opportunities that we offer them.

During my past few years in kinder I have chosen to view home toys as I would any other toys in the service. I don't distinguish between them. I don't view home toys as bad and kinder toys as somehow more valuable. Toys are toys. It's how they are used that matters.

Between four and five children become much more socially motivated. This becomes so clear during the kinder year. They come to kinder to see their friends and they can't wait to show their friends their toys from home. As one parent said, these toys become their social capital. Children combine the centre's equipment and toys with their toys from home to create imaginative play. Rather than becoming an object that the child plays with at home in isolation, the home toy becomes a common interest, a shared joy, a means of forging and maintaining relationships amongst peers.

I don't ask children to share their toys from home. These are their belongings. I wouldn't ask them to share their water bottle or their school bag. Children need to learn about ownership. If children are reluctant to share their own toys it is usually because they are protective of them. They understand their worth and they have value to them. It is normal to want to protect your belongings if you are unsure that others will be respectful of them. I would prefer that children learn this, rather than that have a lack of understanding of value and therefore waste or destroy property.

Maybe some children are allowed to bring more toys from home than others are. Maybe a child doesn't choose to share their toys from home, maybe somebody's toy from home is lost. Life is full of disappointments and these are tiny ones. This is part of children's learning. Without resilience happiness is difficult to obtain. Allowing children to learn to delay gratification is a precious gift that will change their life. Why do we see this as a bad thing?  

As a side note, the thought of doing 'Show and Tell' with four year-olds makes me hyperventilate. Don't ask it of me. Life is too short!

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