“Play is a mode of response to experiences that can and should be taught in early childhood education. We teach young children to play by providing them with space, time, and materials; offering them support in problem solving; presenting new problems for them to solve; paying attention to their spontaneous interests; and valuing their eagerness to learn about the world in which we all live together.”
– D. Koralek, 2004
An integral part of R’s day, includes a morning outing in which she plays in different and often new environments. Since R has a slow to warm temperament, her best days are spent with familiar faces. With those she knows and is comfortable with, she plays and explores freely. In places she often encounters, her play is purposeful and unguarded.
In new places, with new people, she prefers to stay close to me and watch what others are doing. Most days, after her initial hesitations wear off, she begins to stray, explore and interact. Other days, she continues to huddle in my arms. As much as I want her to be easily comfortable in every situation, I am learning to better support her needs in places where she is uncomfortable. It is my hope, that as we continue to go on daily outings, I will be able to establish a positive and supportive climate in which R can feel safe to explore and take risks with and without my presence.
The zerotothree.org website has posted a list of ideas to help support children who are slow to warm. I’ve included a few of their tips here to remind myself and to help others who may have slow to warm children:
1. Let your child know that you love and accept her. Respect her needs, when you can.
2. Avoid labels. Saying “don’t be so shy” is like saying, “Don’t be yourself.”
3. Look for opportunities to build your child’s self-confidence. Notice your child’s interests, successes, skills, and milestones. Play together doing things your child enjoys.
4. Give notice about new people, events, and places. Let your child know that her Uncle Bob is coming to visit, her friend’s birthday is later that afternoon, or that she is moving to a new room at child care next week. Letting your child know what to expect gives her a sense of control, which can reduce her anxiety.
5. Host friends and family at your home. Getting together with family and friends gives children an opportunity to practice social skills in a familiar, safe setting.
6. Read books about friendships. Some good books to share with babies and toddlers include: Little Blue and Little Yellow (Leo Lionni), Gossie and Gertie (Olivier Dunrea), My Friends (Taro Gomi), or How Do Dinosaurs Play With Their Friends? (Jane Yolen).
7. Be a role model. When you greet friends during a walk in the neighborhood, or chat with the nurse at the doctor’s office, you are helping your child learn how to feel comfortable and engage with new people.
The Zero to Three website includes plenty of more information about different temperaments and ways to support all children.
Though R is still slow to warm in some unfamiliar situations, I feel that it is vital that she get out each and every day and experience new things. Sometimes in our homes, we may not have all the space or materials we need for enriched play, but the world just outside the door has so much to offer.