Monday, August 29, 2011

Some tough questions..

Reading the comments left by visitors to this blog is always a happy occassion for me. I have learned and gleaned so much from all of you, and it's nice to make this more of a conversation than anything. Recently,  an annonymous reader asked me some tough questions in the comments section...they really have me thinking...

 I've been visiting this space for a while now. Trying to inspire myself and become more familiar with the Waldorf world. My children actually attended a Waldorf inspired school not far from the River Valley school. During their puppet shows I found my children to be the only disruptive ones : Constantly trying to grab for the props and talk out. How do you deal with this issue...or how would you if you were faced with it? I asked my sons teacher and she didn't answer- just looked at me as if I should know- quite intimidating and I felt, demeaning :( How did you deal with W coming over to nurse? Did you interupt the show? Would love your help!!!

That is a tough one! And certainly a weighted question that I don't have a perfect answer for. I am sure many of you have been faced with a situation like this; I know I have many, many times.
If a child is very young, such as under the age of 2.5, it is so very hard for them to control their impulses. Their arms and legs go everywhere, and what they see is what they want. A puppet show is one of those events in which everything looks so inviting, and of course they want to see, touch, and experience. When I am telling a story, I rarely interupt for, well...interuptions. The playschool children are between the ages of 3.5-6, so they have already learned different levels of self control. I speak in a quiet voice so they know to listen, or they will surely miss something! The younger children need a different approach, and that's when we get creative...and patient.

Our purposeful work for today's Monday Morning Garden was baking cornbread. We took turns mixing and pouring, which the children really love. They do tend to get "grabby" and excited to wait until it is "their turn," but I keep my voice at an even tone and move slowly. I also give everyone a bowl of flour and water to play with. It does get messy, but this comes with the territory! A wet rag is fun for everyone to help clean up with. With everything we do, and in every situation, I try to remain calm and...well, musical. Singing or humming a melody helps calm the children down. A few strums on the lyre also works wonders.

When W "interupted" my puppet show to nurse, I wasn't surprised at all. In fact, it has been much more of an involved interuption in the past. During my Spring puppet show, W had a massive diarrhea explosion/leak from his diaper and it went all over the fluffy blanket the children were sitting on. I had to act quickly, as there were major health issues at hand. A few minutes and a clean diaper and blanket later, the show went on, as it always does. I don't think I ever regained the magical feeling of storytelling after this; I was distracted by the pile of laundry sitting behind a closed door in our bedroom. These things happen, and I suppose the children see it as they way of life. What they need to see most in a sitaution like this is a sense of calm and "I'll take care of it. You don't need to worry. I am in charge, and we are safe."

When faced with an "interuption" during a puppet show or storytelling, I try to quickly think of why this child is calling out or approaching the set up. Do they have an idea for the story? Have they just had an "a-ha" moment? With children over the age of 2.5-3 years, it may be a good idea to have a chat with them before a puppet show or story. You'll know what to say! "Let's all talk about it after we see the whole show!", " We will sit and listen so we don't miss anything!"

Very young children may benefit from a different kind of puppetry, such as Lap Puppetry, where the backdrop/stage is the teacher and the props are held very close to her...

I found these photos through a google image search, but I have seen this kind of puppetry live. It is very beautiful and so magical to watch!!

I hope this helps those of you who may have some questions about these challenges!
My little boy loves puppet shows. Just like the 2-year old he is, he also loves to nurse and touch everything around him. During the first few minutes of our show, he was giggling uncontrollably. By the end, he was wanting me. What did I do?
You won't be surprised when I tell you that I nursed him through the conclusion of our show. It wasn't easy or comfortable, but the playschool children are used to it. I know that one day W will begin to understand that he must sit to watch, but until then...the show must go on.


  1. I think you answered that tough question beautifully. I especially love your suggestion about using a soft voice so the children will listen.. keeping my voice soft is such a struggle. And I LOVE those puppetry aprons!

  2. THank you kindly for taking the time to respond to this question. I appologize for bringing my parenting struggle to your blog. You seem to do such lovely work with your little one/s. I look to you in admiration!
    Much apprciated!

  3. I can't help but look here and wonder...does W ever push you passed a sing-song voice? How do you deal when you feel you're going to explode? Or does he just not get you to that point???

  4. I think you answered the question beautifully. If i might just add;
    I am a Early Childhood Waldorf certified teacher, and was a teacher in a class with 3 year olds for many years. the three year old children I taught were very young for a table-top puppet show, (until the end of the year.) Mostly, I would do simple, short, finger puppet shows, half in song, half in rhyme. And after doing the same show for a week, I would let the children gently touch the puppets at the end of story time, and sometimes, we would dress up and act it out. Generally, this age is so young to do many of the activities with the kind of reverence a 6 year old has. Mostly, the little ones want to play, and sit in a lap, and hear a story. The time when they sit still and watch a puppet show will come. but, if it doesn't come, it is ok. some children simply cannot keep their bodies still. Just as some adults can't! I hate to see children be forced to keep still and sit through something, and the whole time they are concentrating on keeping still, and not on the story. They would be better off running around outside.

  5. I am surprised to hear that Anonymous' child was the only one interrupting. I took my daughter who is 2.5 to the story time at her Waldorf School this summer and found that many children were distracting and interrupting. The storytellers seemed to ignore the problems and move on with the story. I learned to sit us up front so there was a chance of her hearing the story and not be so distracted.

  6. Good answers! W's hair is getting so long. We miss you guys!

  7. Beautiful answer. Still learning myself. Would a small story time doll designated to be held in little hands during story time help or would that be more disruptive? Take care.

  8. I really appreciated knowing your approach to this situation as my daughter is 18 months and I am often in similar situations...I often find it hard to be patient though.

  9. I'm glad to hear from other posters that this is normal behavior for the age and that the storyteller just goes on with the story when little ones are disruptive. Perhaps, since I was with my little ones during the disruption, I interfered too soon and my trying to redirect them was the true distraction? I like the idea of a designated story time doll!
    Thank you all for the responses!

  10. What a great answer. This really helps me to think about what our story time should look like as I have a 2 year old. I love the soft voice idea.



  11. I think if you simply follow your child's lead and engage them in activities that are age appropriate the activities are far less frustrating. If a show is scheduled for a longer period of time that your child can sit quietly engaged then choose another activity that they more are able to succeed in. If they love to run and climb then take them to a safe venue for that kind of activity. Everyone then leaves the outing feeling happy and refreshed.
    We have been to many activities with our children where there were children participating that were simply not ready. The mother is usually pacing the back of the room completely stressed, now having to calm her crying infant who feels this tension, and I felt so sad for them as it all could have been avoided. I know it is more difficult when you have children of different ages but that's when a special 'date' with only one child works very well.
    I too find that lowering my body to the child's level and speaking in a quiet voice to them, or a gentle touch on the arm works far better at getting their attention than shouting. Unfortunately there are moments when it is necessary to raise my voice (usually for safety reasons) but I am still very uncomfortable doing it! Singing is a fantastic method but sadly I was not equipped with vocal chords that are easily controlled! ;o)
    So sorry about the blow out intermission Rebecca! Another great post!
    ~ joey ~

  12. Thank you for addressing this! I have three children under 5...and it used to be that we were the ones disrupting story times, etc. I would give in to pressure from other parents and friends to join them in whatever activity it was, regardless of the little voice that was telling me my kids weren't ready/wouldn't be interested/would be tired/hungry. Now, I avoid those activities. We only commit to activities when I really feel in my heart it will be a pleasant time for my boys...of course, even then it can go wrong, and in those cases, I try to remember that the situation is only temporary. And when we are at events where it is someone else's child being disruptive, I usually offer to give the mom a hand with her other little ones, so she can help her distracted child and not feel quite so stressed and mortified. Again, thank you for addressing this. I am new to your blog and LOVE it.

  13. you are an awesome mama to W. you are clearly working so hard to maintain that work-life balance. i totally understand that. thank you for the commitments you have made.

  14. Sometimes with kids that will not put things in their mouths (3 year olds plus?) I let children have some beeswax to warm in their hands while I tell the story, then we move off (to a table or other area) and use it to model something simple once the story is over. It often helps little hands not to wander or want to play with props, and gives a quiet end activity to the story while the children digest what they have seen and heard. As they are finished (some immediately, others may take some time) they drift off into other play again more harmoniously than if the story finishes and then nothing planned follows.


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