Recently a news article, in Quebec stated that dozens of daycare’s will now be allowing roughhousing and war games (read it here). After reading the article, as well as the many comments written below, I can understand both sides of the argument. But for me, it brings up many more questions. First and foremost, wouldn’t this be more appropriate to start on children who are becoming more cognitive, like in Kindergarten. Children in daycare, have yet to learn conflict resolution. Therefore, when they get angry with their peers, they often try to resolve their problems in an aggressive manner, such as (using their fist, pushing and sometimes even biting the other child).
Very young children cannot easily distinguish what it okay in one scenario, but not okay in another. In the article, they said, “They would welcome war games and roughhousing”. They gave an example that would include structured sword fighting with foam swords. There is almost an assurance that the children who can use a foam sword inside, will pick up a stick while outside and copy that already approved play. Will these children be wearing face shields, like in real fencing? I remember once when my student came back from vacation and was happy to see me, he raced over to give me a hug. However, when he hugged me, the brim on his hat scrapped the cornea of my eye. My doctor had me wearing an eye patch for a while. My eye injury was an accident, are you ready for the injuries that might occur when you give the children toy weapons? Therefore, I disagree with any kind of war/battle games in daycare.
I get it, boys are so different than girls! In 2000, when I started teaching at a new school, my boss asked the staff not to tell me how many boys would be in my classroom that year. She wanted me to find out at the Open House, when I met the parents and my new students. It turns out, that my class of 3 and 4-year old’s, had 12 boys and 2 girls. After the Open House, my boss popped her head in and asked, “Are you okay”? I smiled and said, “Yup, and I’m up for the challenge”.
In the foundation for making roughhousing acceptable in daycare, they had six guidelines. I agreed with all of them, except for the one that says, “welcome war games and roughhousing”. When I had the class of 12 boys, I myself focused heavily on two of those guidelines: 1) Create an environment that is conductive to building a masculine identity and 2) Create opportunities for challenges and competitions. I felt, while working with mostly boys, I had to challenge them and offer them physical outlets. Doing this, made my year successful!
I set up my classroom in stations, to offer physical challenges. I had a basketball hoop on the door and the children used a soft spongy ball to play. There were two stations where I left 2 lb. & 5lb. weights, as well as a mirror so they could watch themselves exercise. Since many of the children’s fathers used weights at home, the children often gravitated to this activity. We had Crocodile miniature golf, Croquet, bowling and even horse shoes for them to use. We did music and movement activities, as well as yoga. Several times a month, we would turn the classroom into an obstacle course or we would just leave out simple balance beams. As the children became more interested in group games, we’d go outside and played competitive games or set up challenges, like the Olympics. I knew that I could not become complacent, I had to keep on my toes to keep them active. While they were having fun, they were learning too.
In the article, Neisha May, a mother of a boy and a girl, said, “I don’t know how I would feel about roughhousing in a daycare setting because the ratio is like 10 to 1, where at home, where they do wrestle with my husband and they love it, we can keep an eye on what’s going on.” So, we’d love to hear your opinion, would you welcome war games and roughhousing in your child’s daycare?