|Burkley playing "fireman" at the library|
The first twenty minutes or so was spent reading books and singing finger-play songs. It was interesting to me because Burkley either just stood there with a look on his face that said, "What are these people doing??" or wandering off to go play with the toys that were set up all around the room. What was interesting to me was how I felt pressured to make sure he was "following directions." My natural response was to just let him go play. He is, after all, only 16 months old. But, none of the other kids were playing. They were sitting with their parents and caregivers, singing along and doing the hand motions and listening to the stories. I wasn't sure what I was "supposed" to allow him to do or if letting him play would result in the other kids wanting to play which would result in the librarian's plans going awry. So, I compromised a bit. When he'd wander, I'd watch him, and since he didn't really play too loudly and it didn't seem to distract anyone, I let him be. And then, when a new song or story would begin, I'd bring him back to my lap to start over. This worked fine, but my inner feelings were notable as I was just wondering if I was doing everything "right." I felt like I was in school!
I also felt like Burkley was in school. There was a certain "time" for everything: a time for stories, a time for songs, and a designated time for play and crafts. Now, I am all for structure at the right time and place and for teaching children to follow to directions, but also don't think my 16 month old needs structured playtime. I don't think it hurt him any to be there and be exposed to structured play, I just know that it's not an environment I'd want him to be in everyday.
I heard one of the other parents say to another, "This is so great! What a great way for them to learn social skills and get them ready for school!" Hmm. That caught my attention because again, I don't think my 16 month old needs to have "social skills" nor does he need to get ready for school.
Granted, most of the kids there were three and four, so perhaps they were either already in school or are about to go to school this fall. But, I was reassured with our decision not to send Burkley to school when he's three or four when I saw what this "practice school" (i.e., Toddler Time at the library) was like. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not being negative or dramatic, we enjoyed ourselves and we'll totally go back again sometime. It just reminded me why I don't want Burkley, at a young age, to be in a structured learning environment where he wouldn't be allowed to initiate his own play and/or learning.
I know that school can offer children many great friendships, experiences, and opportunities. I am not denying that. But, I am blessed to be home with my little guy, offering him rich toddler-directed experiences throughout our neighborhood, community, and home. And, I know that these experiences are just fine for his developmental needs.
He particularly liked this unfolding spiral tube! This is an example of something he really wanted to crawl through and play in that he would not have elsewhere! We don't have this cool toy at home nor do we have space for it in our house. The "socialization" he received at this event was in the matter of taking turns with this toy! ;)
first time he went to the museum. He really does not like the feeling of squishy dough! He hated it then and he hated it this time! He kept trying, the little sweetheart, but he had a look of disgusting curiosity on his face the whole time.
We also did a craft, and by "we," I mean "I" did a craft. He later tore it apart in the car. :)
All in all, we really did have fun and will go back again. It was just interesting that it was not quite what I expected. Several moms said to me, "Oh, is it your first time here? He'll get the hang of what to do!" I do believe that he will- mainly in regards to singing along and not looking at everyone like they're nuts. I'm not so worried about him getting the hang of how to act in "school" as a toddler. I just wanted him to have an opportunity to be somewhere new, see and try new things, while getting us out of the house for a bit. And Toddler Time offers just that!