I read this sweet little book that I have had for years called, “Claude the Dog : A Christmas Story” by Dick Gackenbach. It is about a little dog that gets three gifts from his family and then meets a dog that has nothing. It is a very short and super sweet book but Claude the Dog ends up giving his three gifts away - one page/gift at a time – a blanket, a pillow, and a toy mouse - to the other dog in an act of kindness…
After each gift was given away, one of my three year old girls would say in a very sincere and concerned voice, “But Mrs. Stewart, why did he give his pillow away?” And I responded, “I don’t know – lets see what else the story tells us.” We continued on and concern continued to be expressed , “But Mrs. Stewart, why did he give his blanket away?.” In the end, after giving all his gifts away, Claude goes home to his family where he is loved and happy…
I have to tell you that my three year olds were very concerned by the end of this story. One little girl said, “Will he get his blanket back?” and “Why did he give it away?” Even though we talked about how Claude was still happy because he loved his family, the threes just couldn’t understand why Claude would give his gifts away. One little boy said, “I would never give my blankie away” and the other threes fully agreed.
It was SUCH a sweet conversation and an eye opening experience for me. As we talked about what happened in the story and the children expressed their concerns and feelings, I was reminded about where these children are in their social and emotional development. These are all very kind, loving, giving children and yet this story just did not make sense to them. They just couldn’t imagine why Claude felt he should give away his gifts. They couldn’t understand that Claude was happy because he gave his gifts away. All they came away with is that Claude gave away his blanket!!!! Our conversation really touched my heart….
Our conversation reminded me how often times, it can be easy to get frustrated when young children are unwilling to share or when they seem selfish and unkind. But this experience reminded me that it isn’t necessarily an indicator of poor behavior or unkindness – it instead a matter of social and emotional development still in progress, still growing, and still developing. Learning to share isn’t a simple matter of “just let him take a turn too.” It is a gradual development of a higher level kind of thinking that takes painful practice and patience to teach and to learn. I just wanted to share this with you because it was so meaningful to me. Now let me lighten this up with at least one fun activity we did after we read the story!!
The children had already had a chance to explore a set of Christmas boxes I had bought from the Dollar Store so I brought them to circle time for a little large group play. We talked about how gifts often come in boxes and then for fun we decided to see how high we could stack the boxes…
We stacked them as tall as we could reach and in the process we used words like balance, small, large, medium, tip, lean, placement, tall, taller, and “don’t knock them all down yet!”
The children were learning how to work together, how to take a turn, how to achieve their goal through their play even though we did not talk about these concepts – instead, we put them into action…
And as we all know! What comes up – must go down….
But no worries – we just started all over again. What an interesting and fun day!
This article is being shared with you by Deborah Stewart of Teach Preschool - Promoting excellence in early childhood education at home and in the preschool classroom!
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