*Note: This morning when we were playing outside before circle we noticed that our bunny Lucy was out in the yard behind The Commons. While watching her we realized that our other bunny Ginger had also escaped and that she was dead. We think a raccoon killed her last night. Many of the children saw her dead body and we talked about and processed this event with them all day. We are very sad to lose this dear pet and your children may have more questions for you about it. Feel free to refer to the blog post Talking Children about Death for guidance.*
Yesterday at circle time I read a beautiful story by Tomie dePaola, Now One Foot, Now the Other. It tells the story of a close relationship between a grandfather and a grandson, Bob and Bobby. Bob helps Bobby take his first steps when he is learning to walk and they have a special game they play together with some wooden blocks. When Bobby is five years old, Bob has a stroke and is in the hospital for a long time. When he returns home he cannot move or talk, but slowly, ever so slowly, supported by the love and courage of his grandson he regains some of these skills.
The children were riveted by this story and had many questions at the end. AO asked, “Why didn’t the kid get sick?” So we talked about how some sickness is contagious and some is not. They wanted to know if everyone would get a stroke. KM shared that her grandma had a stroke and now uses a wheelchair. Due to their interest I followed up today with a small group appointment using the medical equipment loaned to us by AH’s mom Andrea, an occupational therapist.
It was helpful to use the characters from the book to talk about how people might use this equipment and how it would be helpful. For example, I could say, “Remember that part in the story where Bobby had to help Bob hold his spoon?” Well, Bob could also use this tool–a thick foam cylinder that a spoon or toothbrush handle can fit into to help someone hold it better. Once we had examine all the equipment and I explained how it worked, I let the children play with these tools.
During the play I invited children to come over to the drawing table and draw a piece of equipment. Many children opted to draw the “Reachers,” grabbing tools that help you reach something down low or up high. RR drew this picture of the walker–looking carefully to capture all the parts.
We hope that time with these tools at preschool will help preschoolers feel more at ease with someone who uses medical equipment in their daily lives. Additionally, books like Now One Foot, Now the Other that compassionately explain how relationships might both change and stay the same in the wake of significant illness are also very powerful tools for helping children understand events that can be confusing, scary and sad.