Since the new year started, my son has attended playschool four times. There are more kids in the class now; where there used to be only 3 or 4 boys all about the same age, (with Little A being the youngest at 18 months) there are now over half a dozen, including a few who are 3 years old.
When he first started attending "classes" in November, Little A was intrigued by a new environment, different toys and the presence of other people. (both children and adults) While he didn't want to join in group play and showed little interest in art activities, he willingly played with the train sets, puzzles and his special favourite, the shape sorter. Most of the time he still looked to me for comfort, and many times I spent anywhere from a few minutes to half the class time inside the play area with him.
The month of January was like a vacation as getting back into the post-holiday sleep schedule meant Little A missed most of his classes. This month though, things have been back to normal and he's started going back to thrice-weekly sessions.
The interesting thing about watching young children in this type of play-learning environment is seeing just how differently each one develops.
While Little A is still the youngest in the class, there is another boy just a few weeks older than he who is already talking. All of the children speak at least a few words, but my little boy is just starting to regularly babble. He still refuses to join group activities and with more children in the class, we've noticed he prefers to stay apart. When all the kids are where the toys are, Little A sits by the door on the far end of the play area. He likes to look out the window, but yesterday when it started to rain and all the kids rushed to see it he moved away to the other side of the room.
His teachers have also noticed that he is not interested in the toys. I didn't expect him to want to play with the food toys, "cutting" and "serving" various fruit and vegetables, because he hardly sees raw food apart from when we are at the supermarket, and may not be able to connect real broccoli, carrots and the like to their small plastic counterparts that have velcro in the middle. But the train sets, puzzles and other small toys no longer hold his attention. He only likes to run around the play area, climb and roll about on the large cushions shaped like cylinders, pyramids and rectangles.
Things out of his reach catch his eye, like the foam alphabet shapes the teachers mysteriously stuck onto the wall at an adult's eye level. When someone can lift him up, Little A reaches for these. He also likes looking at the framed animal prints in the reading corner. Occasionally he can be persuaded to play with something, but he doesn't keep at it for long before going back to his gymnastic activities.
While a part of me does worry about my little one's refusal to socialize with his classmates, I know there is nothing wrong with his attention span, as at home he spends ages poring over his books. He prefers to play outside, swimming, climbing, jumping and running, rather than rolling tiny cars over the floor. Maybe it's a stage, as he used to play happily with his small toys, particularly those that improve fine motor skills. Perhaps he's just looking for something more challenging. At any rate, he is continuing to grow and develop, and one thing I have learned by watching the children at play is that they all do this at their own rate and pace.