“Through make-believe games children can be anyone they wish and go anywhere they want. When they engage in socio-dramatic play, they learn how to cope with feelings, how to bring the large, confusing world into a small, manageable size.” ~Dorothy Singer
I’d like to share the story of a little girl named Daughtry. This spirited 8-year-old with the long, wild curls, calls me Auntie Kirsty. This is Daughtry.
I recently received an amazing video of Daughtry, playing on her trampoline. Her mom included a quick summation – “She’s pretending she’s hand sanitizer. The small ball is the Corona-virus. And the large ball is her life. So, she has to keep the small ball from infecting the big ball.”
Only a few short weeks ago, bubbly and outgoing Daughtry was the new third grade student at her school. The transition was a smooth one – she is not a child who would be described as shy; and she excitedly embraced all the new friendships that accompany a new school, while also continuing play dates with friends from her previous school and those in her neighbourhood. She has always been creative and adventurous, enjoying crafts, painting, playing outside and building secluded forts for her and her friends to hide in. Now she is stuck at home with a sixteen year old brother she can’t miss “because he’s always here!” and missing a university-aged Sissy who she is used to spending considerable time with in person.
The predictability of children’s routines has shifted drastically in the past two weeks; each day bringing significant changes and daunting news updates. Social distancing has quickly become part of our daily lexicon. As an Early Childhood Educator, I can’t help but think of our children and families during these times. How is everyone coping? What do children know about COVID-19 and do they understand why suddenly everything seems so different in their world?
As I watched Daughtry throwing herself around between the two enormous rubber balls, I was reminded of something I had always known but perhaps had forgotten. Children are incredibly resilient.
“I had these two balls. I was kicking the little one and trying not to [let it] touch the big one. And then it made me think of Coronavirus – the little ball was the virus. I decided to be hand sanitizer to stop the virus.”
When she described her game to me, there was a sense of pride in her voice, not fear. I am certain she has lots of questions, but amid that uncertainty she remains curious and brave.
These are interesting times indeed. I’ve recently heard of a litter of puppies being named after toilet paper brands, and now Hand Sanitizer is the latest de facto superhero archetype. Amid all the unknowns, I take comfort in the fact that children have a unique way of making meaning of what’s happening around them. They – and all of us, will get through this challenging time. Thanks Daughtry for the sweet reminder.
Here is a resource for guiding conversations about COVID-19 with children:
~ Kirsty Mason
Pedagogy, Culture & Administrative Co-Lead, Durham School Age Programs