Playing is learning
Only a few moments ago, they were making cautious and still wobbly attempts to walk, but soon their mobility can only be described as unstoppable. The very first “Mummy” or “Daddy” have become deeply imprinted as emotional moments in the lives of parents, but day by day the words are quickly multiplying and the sentences become longer. The tension between familiarity and strangeness is also explored anew after the first year of life – active cooperation with other children increases.
A lot is happening in the motor function: the gait is gaining stability, the range of motion is expanding. Therefore, a sufficiently large exploration area needs to be defined. “Mobility has to be tried out,” Hollerer emphasises, “and for that we need opportunities in outdoor and indoor spaces. Children should be allowed to try things out and we should also trust them to do so.” Even earned successes have great value. If a child’s project does not succeed, support is best provided at the critical points. The undertaking should not be taken over as a whole by the adult. If the anger over a failure is manageable, the child should also have the opportunity to find its own way out of the negative emotions.
Of course, it is essential to point out dangers, especially when it comes to mobility, but these should also be differentiated as much as possible, says Hollerer. For example, instead of responding to a child’s urge to explore the stairs with a “Don’t go there!”, this should be used as an opportunity to practise how to safely climb stairs. “Of course, the leading position must always be held by the adult,” says the developmental psychologist, referring to behaviour in traffic, for example, when the child does not want to shake hands.
There are many social learning situations for two- to three-year-olds in playgrounds: waiting for your turn to slide; asking beforehand if you want to borrow someone else’s sand toy. Good parental guidance is essential if it doesn’t work well on your own yet. Is mum or dad’s lap occupied by a younger sibling? Waiting is also fine, “the older child can be expected to wait for a short period of time”.
Every developmental age not only has its own set of challenges, life circumstances also require new skills from children. In addition to a new sibling, there are a number of transitions that needs to be managed: entry into a child education and care facility, a move, a separation. Every child reacts differently to such life changes and the demands placed on them. “They have to readjust, develop behaviour patterns, regain security and be able to trust,” says Hollerer. These learning processes can push the child forward in its development, but they can also set it back.
Even shorter stays without mum or dad in a different environment can lead to insecurities. “Parents should therefore accompany their child well, then they can be expected to do so.” However, there is no point, for example, in telling them when to pick them up, because their offspring will not be able to categorise it, nor should they be told that it will certainly be great. “We simply don’t know that. You could rather say: I’ll be happy when you tell me later what you did.”