Hannah is, at this point in time, an only child. She is also, on both sides of the family, the only grandchild.
As a result, she gets plenty of attention from the adults around her. She has adults on tap, to play with her, to read with her, to make silly faces and to cheer her up when she’s feeling down. After all, there are no other kids around to divide attention. Hannah has lots of adults, and she has them all to herself.
I like to think that Emma and I cater for Hannah’s intellectual and physical development quite well. We do all the things that experts say are important. Yet, I sometimes feel there’s something missing. Something we can’t provide – the example of a slightly older peer – the role models.
I used to be of the opinion that an empty playground was a good playground, as it would allow Hannah free reign without being bothered by others. However, after watching Hannah on some recent occasions around other kids, my thoughts have changed completely. I now head towards the playground with the hope that there will be a few other kids there.
Yesterday I took Hannah to our local toddler playground. I was relieved to see three other kids hard at play – potential role models! Two of them were about four, and the other about two.
I put Hannah down on the soft-fall ground, in a place where she could hold herself upright on a rope spider web. I slowly retreated to the edge of the play area, my eyes glued to Hannah the entire time. As I had expected, she was no longer interested in my presence. She was completely infatuated by the older kids.
Hannah held herself steady as she watched the girls play. She watched intently as they interacted with each-other and their mother through mutual play. Hannah watched them climb and slide and jump. She moved to get closer. Even though she wasn’t at all involved in their play, I could see how much she felt as if she was a part of it.
Hannah isn’t walking independently yet and I wonder how much that is down to not having other children around to follow. She certainly has the physical development, her core strength and balance is good enough to climb almost anything. While at the park, Hannah was able to observe the way the younger girl picked herself up off the ground. She saw the older kids run around after each other, and she had the safety of the soft-fall surface under her feet. It was the perfect environment for learning.
Eventually, Hannah’s desire to be a part of the action led her to a slightly dangerous position under the fireman’s pole. I took that as my cue to jump in and have a little bit of daddy-daughter play time (as this is also very important), before we finished our outing with a visit to the shop.
As I approached Hannah, she looked up at me with a giant grin. I asked her If I could pick her up and she held her arms out obligingly. She pointed to the slide and we had a great time together as I placed her at the top and held on while she slid to the bottom. After, we watched her new role models play some more.
In the evening, Hannah seemed somehow to be more full of play. She crawled back and forth between Emma and me, all the while chatting away. I really don’t know if that was just coincidental (or perhaps even a strawberry-induced sugar high), but it seemed to me that she was mimicking the play she had watched earlier in the day.
After Hannah went to bed, I made a promise to myself and to her that I will take her to more places. I wholeheartedly believe that even just being around other children, who are slightly older, is beneficial for Hannah. They are the role models she needs to boost her understanding of her world.
And so, today we’re off to rhyme time!