It all started out with the creative chalk drawings during out outside time. While we were making our grand creations of tracing someone and then decorating them, a man in a wheelchair, along with his dog, rolled past us. The littles immediately noticed him and called out inviting them to play.
As with most young children, the littles are naturally curious when they see someone with a different ability. When I noticed them starting to stare, I narrated, “I see you are looking at the man in his wheelchair. Maybe you are wondering why he needs it. Most of the time people use a wheelchair to help them to move around.”
He was quite the sport with their obvious enthusiasm, demonstrating several features his wheelchair could do. And, I was there to explain that as cool as his wheelchair is, it is not a toy, and that wheelchairs are there to help the person who needs them. Somewhat deflated, their attention turned to his service dog. To which I then clarified that his dog isn’t a pet, he is a working dog and it is his job to help his person. So, we won’t distract his dog while he is working. Boundary setting seems to be all the rage when parenting threenagers.
Henry then asked, “Excuse me. Why do you only have one leg? You don’t have to tell us if you don’t want to, though.”
Our new friend explained that he lost his leg to disease and so he needs his wheelchair to help him get around easier. After a few moments of awkward explanations about a “lost leg”, I switched gears and asked the littles if they could find similarities among us. George (age 3) noted that we all like being outside. Alexandra (age 3) figured out that we all like music. And Victoria (age 3) discovered that, if we had a choice, we would all eat ice cream for dinner. Henry summed it up by saying, “We are really more the same than different. But some of our differences are still important. Because if I didn’t remember about his wheelchair, I might go someplace that he can’t get to and he would get left out.”
Our new friend then allowed Henry to do a chalk drawing around his wheelchair. Henry asked lots of clarify questions as he finished his drawing, such as if his wheelchair had an electric engine or combustion engine. When he finished the drawing, he explained that he even put only one leg in the drawing, to which George exclaimed, “Maaaaannnnn, we really need to find that leg!”
After waving goodbye, we talked a bit more about our new friend and how we are the same and how we are different. It seemed like the time for me to reinforce, “Yes, our outside differences may mean that we notice that someone uses a wheelchair or that someone has newer clothes than you. However, who you are is not the same as how you look. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses and we can help people with our strengths and we can ask for help or accept help when we are struggling.”
Alexandra said, “I like to help people, but I only like to be helped when I am asked.”
Victoria clarified, “I only like help with things that I don’t like to do.”
George chimed in, “I like to help and be helped anytime!”
Henry (age 5) summed up our unforeseen Adventure Day learning in one fell swoop when he declared, “I think that if we see someone who needs help and we don’t offer to help them, it is just the same as hurting them.”
#4fiveandunder #adventureday #threenagers #helpinghands #newfriends #boundarysetting #similaranddifferent