Observations in a Toddler Classroom

Toddler Room (15 children)

Today, I’m in the toddler room. They are very active, especially compared to the infant room. The room is arranged with a colorful platform indoor playground in the center of the room. It has 4 slanted ramps, like a bridge, that met at the center,  and clear plastic windows to look through on the sides. There is very loud music in this room. The teacher, Chelsea, is playing very loud disco music, The BeeGees’ Saturday Night Fever. It feels like a very fun atmosphere. So far, it is upbeat and active with lots of movement.

The teacher gathered the children on the floor to blow bubbles. A boy named Noah is grabbing the bubbles and bumping the other kids to grab the bubbles. He is oblivious to his bumping into the other kids. Teacher stops for a second, tells Noah to be careful; he is knocking down a girl. Girl sort of cries; teacher says “you’re okay.” She comes next to me. Noah didn’t care. He likes bubbles, grabbing the bubbles. (This is a sign that Noah has not yet learned how to have empathy for others.)

Teacher gets up, changes someone’s diaper. Noah is playing on the toy phone, carrying on a conversation with himself (Babbling talk; I don’t understand him.)  He hands me the phone, so I pretend to talk to his mom. He watched me as I told his “mom” on the toy phone “what a sweet boy he is…he is having lots of fun in class today…he is very smart.” He smiles, and seems to believe I am talking to his mom. I hand him the phone back. (Make-believe play is not only fun for toddlers, but is also helping them acquire new representational schemes.)

I’m looking around; there is lots of crying and very runny noses. Everyone wants the toy someone else is playing with.

Noah comes back to me with the phone again. I take it. He gets two more toy phones from the shelf and puts them in his lap. A girl wanted one of the phones. He would not let her have it. She screams. The teacher tells him he needs to share the phones. Noah let her have one. (The teacher is helping him learn important social skills by encouraging him to share.)  A little boy came into the room with his mom, cried and ran to mom when she tried to leave. The teacher sat on the floor with a book of cards with pictures and asked them to identify the objects in the pictures. Noah ran to the front to see the pictures up close. He can talk pretty clearly…the objects. He is the first to shout out the pictures and eagerly and enthusiastically participates. He crawled in Chelsea’s lap and wanted to look at the pictures and name them for her. Cat, apple, dog, tree, etc. (His language development is impressive. He names the object in the pictures very clearly.) Then Noah got on a toy car to ride around the room, around the peripheral space on the sides around the platform and playground.

There are lots of toy cars they sit on and run their feet on the ground and steer. He goes very fast. More crying about sharing toy cars they want to ride someone else’s car around the room. Teacher says, “Come on, now, let’s share the cars. Look, there are more cars over there.” Her solution gradually worked. The kids seem to prefer to have someone else’s car, but they got the available cars. Noah would not share his car with anyone, even when a girl cried for it. He just kept riding and ignored her. Noah seemed particularly bright when the teacher was doing the flash cards. He knew them all. He would touch the pictures with his finger and name them. Another mom comes in to drop off her son; he clings to his blanket; he cries; doesn’t want mom to leave. She reaches in the cubical with his name on it and pulls out at least 4 different blankets, all with different textures; he takes the one he likes and settles down; his mom leaves. The teacher reads a book on the floor. Noah and the cranky blanket boy join together on the floor to listen to the teacher read. Noah walks pretty well, but sometimes falls or trips; sometimes a little wobbly. Noah listens to teacher read book; he crawls in her lap and then onto the floor. Now, teacher leads the class to dance with music. Noah hops up and down and claps his hands together, spins in circles. Noah walks over to the platform and stamps his feet on the plastic platform. This makes lots of noise. The other kids notice and 3 of them join Noah in stomping with the music. They are very loud, but the teacher is very tolerant and allows them to make noise. They seem to like to copy each other. Then they lost interest quickly and separate to play alone, then play together, then play alone, repeating this cycle. (The toddlers’ gross motor skills are challenged and will improve even more with fun classroom activities, such as dancing.)

More tantrums over toys. Noah and boy get very snippy with each other. Noah is the bright child who is always into something. He came up to me; I’m sitting on the floor; he stacker rubber toy frogs on my head, so I make a ribbit sound and bobbed up and down. This entertained Noah for about a minute, and he lost interest and ran away. More crying. Girl cries because she doesn’t want to share toy with Noah. Noah leaves her, goes to the big toy box and takes all of the toys out one by one and puts them on the floor with force, almost throwing them. I thought they might break, but they didn’t. Then Noah leaves the mess he made on the floor and is riding one of the cars up the platform. Teacher picks up Noah, takes him to diaper station. Teacher is changing Noah’s diaper; he is happy and lets her change his diaper willingly. Now Noah is losing his patience; he is still in the process of getting his diaper change; he begins to cry. Teacher consoles him: “I’m almost done, Noah.” But he cries until she is completely finished and puts him down.

The teacher wears gloves and sterilizes the table after each diaper change and washes her own hands and the toddler’s hands. This seems very clean; the infant room yesterday had the same procedure of diaper changing. I’m noticing when a child cries, the other children pay no attention to the crying child; they just go about their business, and they didn’t even look at the crying child, either. (Many of these toddlers have not learned to empathize with each other, but with continued social interaction, they will learn.) All the children have terribly runny noses. I hope I don’t get sick.

A group of the toddlers gathered together and laughed and watched each other playing with various toys (They are being sociable.) and like to be together, they lost interest and separated from each other and played alone. The teacher puts on more music to dance to. She dances with them and they all hop and dance with the teacher. Noah dances, smiles energetically, then goes to play by himself with a toy on the other side of the room. After the dance, they all disperse around the room and find a toy to play with. Noah throws a toy; it accidentally hit another boy. I thought the boy would cry, but he did not cry. Teacher picker up a girl who fell off the car and told her she would be okay. The teacher seems very nice; gives the children freedom to play and nurtures them when they need help.

Noah is now putting big toys on other kids heads, and they don’t like it and cry. Noah seems to be entertained by his ability to amuse himself at the expense of making others cry. The teacher calmly tells Noah to stop putting toys on the kids’ heads. He complies and stops. Now, Noah is letting a girl play with the zippers on his pants, (the zippers on his legs by his knees, not his crotch).  Noah got up and stole a red ball that a girl was playing with and ran with it with a big smile. He was proud that he took the ball from her. The teacher tells him to give it back, but he keeps it anyway. The teacher ignores him.

The teacher sits down on the floor to give the kids another bubble show; they gather around her and Noah reaches for the bubbles and pops them. Noah wanders away, stands on a chair and tries to balance with his hands stretched out. He gets down. Now, Noah is climbing into the sink; it is a child-height sink; he is trying to turn on the faucet, but he can’t reach the knobs. He loses interest and runs away. He stops for a moment to look at himself in the mirror (child-height mirrors between the cubicles and shelves).

Now, teacher is playing ball with the kids, a bouncy ball, and they watch her dribble the ball, and they laugh. Noah is very excited to watch her dribble the ball; he is laughing and thrilled by her skills. (He is learning new ways to manipulate objects by observing an adult’s behavior.) Now, Noah crawls under the table with 2 girls. They brought toys to play with under the table. They are not playing with each other, just playing in the same place.

There is a door that is shut closed, that goes into the older toddler room; Noah is on the floor on his belly trying to see what’s going on over there. He is peeking between the space of the door and the floor. (Toddlers have learned mobile development, which enables them to move around and explore their environment. Toddlers are very curious, and their newly acquired mobility helps them discover new things.) Noah gets up. Noah starts crying and screaming, a sudden outburst, and this starts a chain reaction—3 other kids begin to cry with him. Noah walks away, screaming and crying face down on the floor. The he stops crying (just suddenly stops crying) gets up and is playing on the platform, running up and down the ramps.

Noah came up to me and gave me a hug. The teacher is really good with the children, and she is able to handle them all surprisingly well, even though there are 15 – 16 of them. And she gives them all individual attention. Noah tries to pull apart the squares of the floor math that fit together like a puzzle, then puts them back together again.  Then Noah hugged me again. He’s pretty sweet. Teacher calls lunch time; they line up against the wall. Noah runs to the front of the line and plays footsy with the boy next to him. The boy just kind of tolerates/ignores Noah and lets Noah continue. Time for me to go.

  • February 20th, 2017
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