Innocence, Ingenuity, and Intrigue

This quarter one of the courses I’m taking is “Child psychology: development in early childhood”. As a part of the course, I spend four hours every Thursday in a nursery school observing and taking care of children. Boy, how I like the sound of ‘teacher Sujeet’! The school has children of two to four years of age. So far, it has been really fascinating to look at how they behave, how they interact, how they resolve conflicts, and most importantly, how they learn. Here, I’m going to share a few incidents which I found funny, intriguing, or thought provoking.

Nila, age three, was playing with small blocks and tiny toy animals.
“Teacher Sujeet, I made a jail for the animals, just like the zoo. Look, here’s a polar bear.”
“What did the poor bear do, Nila?” I asked.
“He’s a bad bear. Bad bad bear.” she was quick to reply.
“Oh really! Why is he a bad bear?”
“He’s done mean things.”
“What mean things?”
Now she had to think, brows furrowing and all.
“He hits people” she was so happy at discovering, finally, the crime of the poor bear!

Anna, two and a half, was playing with the water wheels. She would pour water on both the wheels and see them spinning. I heard her muttering,
“This one spins slower, that one spins faster.
So this must be the dryer and that is the washer.
Oh! I can make ice in this one and frozen yogurt in that one!”
She was so happy at the thought of frozen yogurt! It’s amusing to glimpse into the funky, almost non-sensical world of these children! I’m still trying to figure out how the association of washer and frozen yogurt could’ve come about…

“Teacher Sujeet, look what I made, look what I made” an excited Henry came to me, holding a glue-smeared model of something in his hands. “This is a garbage truck. This is where the smoke comes out.” Henry’s fascination with chimneys reminded me of my own childhood obsession of the same. “Look, this is where the garbage goes in.”
“Oh, is it? Where does it come out from?” I was interested to know.
Not having thought of that, Henry had to think now. Thinking hard, his face lit, enthusiastically, he said “The garbage doesn’t have to come out because it is invisible!” The esoteric logic of these children, it never ceases to amaze me.

When Senan kicked Jim, a teacher was trying to resolve it. Yamini, four years old, saw that, quickly ran inside, and came out with a green dish-washing sponge. She had thought it is some first-aid thing! “Teacher, teacher, use this for Senan, he is a boy, so I brought him a boyish color.” Seeing a four year old talking about girlish and boyish colors, a tiny part of me died that moment…

I told you, Nila was making an ‘animal jail’, right? Krish came there with what he was calling his ‘automobile’. “boom boom boom” he knocked out her jail with it. Now she’s gonna start crying… I’m a new teacher… I don’t know what to do… I was getting worried. But Nila surprised me.
“Krish broke my buildings! I feel sad!” Nila said, all her sadness clearly visible on her face.
“Krish, do you know that it made Nila feel so bad! You won’t do it again, right?” I said to Krish, remembering from the textbook how we are supposed to address such situations.
“But I’m a block smasher!” Krish said.
Didn’t make any sense to me. How does that change anything, I thought.
But Nila seemed to have understood. She built other structures.
“Krish, you are block smasher, right? Here, I made these for you. Now you can smash them”, said a happy Nila. How resilient! She had felt bad not because of the smashing, but because she thought Krish wants to trouble her. When she realized “Oh, he doesn’t want to trouble me, he’s just a block smasher!”, she incorporated this block-smashing player into her game!

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