A Letter to Daycares/Day Camps on Field Trips
Dear Daycare/Day Camp Providers:
I saw you out on your field trip today. Your kids were so excited and happy to be outside, in nature, away from the same ol’ same ol’ building and routine. Your shirts are adorable – I love the bright tie dye with your name across the back – it must make it easy to find a kid who has wandered off!
At first glance, it looks like a place I could imagine sending my own son.
And then one of your employees opened her mouth.
Your group was just finishing lunch in the playground/picnic area before resuming your outdoor adventure. Finished with their lunch, two little five or six-year-olds were sitting on the picnic bench busily inspecting the ground. Every once in awhile one of the kids would pick up something from the ground (a stick, a leaf), examine it, then set it on the bench or throw it back down. They were sharing a natural learning moment, looking at nature because they wanted to, enjoying the day and the gifts of the Earth.
And then your employee hollered at the pair: “Bella! Jesse! Get your hands out of the dirt!”
They sat still for about 23.5 seconds, and then one of them calmly picked up another treasure. But this time, your employee was waiting.
“I said PUT THAT BACK DOWN! Do you want to have any more outings? Leave the sticks alone!”
Chastened, the children dropped their finds and fidgeted on the bench. But young children will be young children, and when they are expected to sit on a bench for a period of time with nothing to do, they will find something to do. This time, they started squabbling over one of the sticks that was still lying on the bench.
Would they have argued over the stick on the bench if they’d been allowed to continue their innocent exploration of the sticks on the ground? Would they have squabbled with each other if the teacher hadn’t spoken to them in such an angry and condescending tone? And maybe more importantly, would it have hurt anyone – the teacher, the children, or the environment – if the children had been permitted to continue their harmless exploration? My guess is no.
At last, your employee decided to dole out the punishment. “Get over here. I told you two times to leave the sticks alone, now you can sit here by me. And don’t even think about going on another field trip anytime soon if you can’t listen. You need to listen and follow the rules.”
Do the rules of your facility state that children are not allowed to be children? Do they allow adults to treat children with no respect at all? Do they require children to act like miniature adults? Heck, even I didn’t sit still the whole time I watched this scenario unfold, and I’m a pretty responsible adult myself.
I hope that you retrain your employees on age-appropriate, respectful methods of communicating with the children who are in their care. The adults who work with young children are helping frame the way these kids will learn to communicate and handle their own problems and interactions with others.
If I may be so bold, I would like to suggest several resources:
- Playful Parenting (many techniques are useful in any adult-child interaction, including daycare or educational settings);
- Nonviolent Communication (useful to help adults in any relationship, including relationships with children);
- How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk (very good book with exercises teachers can practice together);
- What Not to Say: Tools for Talking with Young Children (has lots of common phrases adults commonly use with children, as well as alternatives that are more respectful and build better relationships);
- the Your ____ Year Old set of books by Louise Bates Ames (not as useful on how to work with children, but a gold mine of information on what to expect at each developmental stage); and
- Respectful Parents Respectful Kids (it includes some great ideas to model and encourage cooperation).
I know it’s hard to work with a group of young children – sometimes I forget to make a connection and end up with my own short fuse, and I normally only have to interact with my one son! I’ve also taught in a preschool for children with special needs, and I know how stressful and frustrating it can be to take a group of kids out on the town. But it is disheartening to see a teacher/caregiver treating a child so harshly – a child with whom s/he is being paid to work. It is also a poor reflection on your facility, and believe me, parents are watching and making mental notes for the day they decide to allow their own children into another’s care.
Thank you for caring for children, it is such an amazing gift and responsibility.
Photo Credit: Capgros
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"A Letter to Daycares/Day Camps on Field Trips"
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