Let Kids Sort Out Their Differences

By: JUDY LYDEN

Scripps Howard News Service

Sometimes the best advice for a day-care provider is this: Don't just do something. Stand there.

Let's look in at Sand Box Day Care, where there is a problem this morning. Mrs. Lovey has presented the children with a beautiful new doll house complete with furniture and all the children want to play with it - now.

Mrs. Lovey says, "Only two at a time."

Ellen is the quiet child, meticulous about everything: her clothes, her lunch, her work and her play. She has a keen eye on the new toy. She whispers to Anne (the bossy, foghorn of the group), "Let's get it first."

Anne begins to direct traffic away from the doll house. "David, go play in the kitchen." "Katy, go get a book." "Jeffy, you can't play."

Jeffy, who drools constantly, begins to cry. Ellen turns away in disgust as Jeffy begins to pool. Jeffy, who has a puppy-dog love for Ellen, is broken hearted.

David, on the other hand, is angry. He tells Anne that he will play if he wants to. No, he can't, insists bossy Anne. She stands akimbo in front of the doll house and looks formidable for someone barely four feet tall.

The usual object of her affection is David, but today, he's angry and turns on her. "You can't do that," he says.

Katy is a book-dragger who pretends to read aloud to anyone willing to listen. She makes a play for the doll house while David and Anne struggle over drooling Jeffy.

Ellen is losing interest. If she can9t have the toy to herself, she would rather not play. She returns to the drawing table, her favorite spot, and begins a new game of "making people" for the house.

David leaves Anne and goes to the table to watch Ellen draw He looks on with awe. Now Anne is miffed that David's attention is focused on Ellen, but Anne simply can't compete with Ellen the artist. Jeffy never colors; his paper just sits in front of him. Katy "reads" to the group while they work.

After 20 minutes Ellen returns to the house with five wonderful people she has cut to fit in the doll house. Everyone must watch while Ellen arranges and rearranges the furniture so the people will fit into the house.

Anne loses interest within two minutes of watching and wanders back to the kitchen to wait for David. She knows he will appear at his favorite play station sooner or later. Katy continues to "read" to the unhearing world, and Jeffy, who would rather watch Ellen than breathe, actually outlasts everyone and becomes No. 2 at the doll house (as long as he doesn9t touch.)

So, while Mrs. Lovey looked on with benign neglect, the children settled their differences and reinforced very solid social structures all on their own.

They will all get a chance to play at the doll house, but in their own order.

(Judy Lyden is a licensed day-care provider. Write to her:
c/o The Evansville Courier, P.O. Box 268, Evansville, IN
47702, or e-mail to jlyden@evansville.net.

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