If you’ve worked with and/or are a parent of younger children, you know that almost all toddlers and Kindergarten-age students have an interest in “bodily functions.” Nothing is more amusing to them than “peeing” or “pooping,” and they like to discuss these topics while eating, while playing, and while doing everything else in between. I’ll admit that as a teacher, I’ve vacillated on how to respond to these conversations.
- Sometimes I tell the students that this is not appropriate “school talk.”
- Sometimes I just stay out of it and see how the children respond. Some like to add to the discussion. Others ask for the discussion to stop.
- Sometimes I’ve made use of this interest when there’s a need to teach a specific skill.
Today I had one of those moments when I questioned what to do. For the past couple of days, we’ve put some baby dolls in the sensory bin with a few other materials. Early this afternoon, I saw a large group of students gathered around the sensory bin playing with these babies. What initially caught my attention was the “pee all day” song that one student shared and another student copied.
I actually loved how this child experimented with music to create his own little song to communicate a message. Some could question the appropriateness of the message, but what I noticed here is that none of the students were bothered by the song. Nobody asked him to stop singing it, and one child also started to sing it.
I can’t help but think of the updated Health and Physical Education Curriculum. I know that this curriculum document does not include Kindergarten, and I also know that there’s a lot of controversy around the expectations. My blog post though is not about either of these points. There’s one point that I remember Cindy Merritt emphasizing last year when she spoke to the staff about this document: “consent” is essential. I know that “consent” can encompass a lot, but I wonder what this word might mean in Kindergarten.
- Is it listening to the “no” if another child says that he/she does not want to talk about this topic?
- Is it being respectful if a child says that this topic makes him/her uncomfortable?
It may seem strange to think that a Kindergarten child would even indicate if a topic makes him/her uncomfortable, but this is exactly what happened a couple of weeks ago when a conversation started outside in the mud pit. Not only was I proud of the child that stood up and said that he “didn’t want to talk about this,” but I was equally as proud of the other child that apologized and switched conversation topics. Even young students can make very mature decisions.
While I realize that “bodily functions” may seem like a strange topic for a blog post, I think that “bodily functions” is really just the underlying point. As adults, I wonder if sometimes we — including me — make a bigger deal of things than we need to. In time, peeing and pooping (and the ways we do both) will become more embarrassing (or gross) than amusing. Talking now, also means asking questions, developing theories, and ultimately learning the truth about how our bodies work. And at times, as students grow older, their bodies change, and we want them to feel comfortable opening up to us, we may start to appreciate how willingly young students do just that. What do you think? I hope that we can talk as openly about this as our children do.
It’s just so developmentally normal for children to use toilet talk. As adults we attach our own embarrassment to all things “body”. I agree with your point that in time (a short time) they will all feel embarrassed about this stuff, stuff we ALL do!
Thanks for your comment, Jane! You make such a great point here. Maybe it is our own embarrassment that makes us want to stop these kinds of discussions. As a teacher, I also wonder what others will think if I allow these discussions to take place, and maybe sometimes this also impacts on my decisions.
Having taught children from Kindergarten to Grade 6, I’ll say that it really doesn’t take long for students to want to avoid these types of discussions instead of wanting to have them (and often when we want (and need) to have different kinds of conversations). Maybe if we show that it’s okay to talk about bodily functions — and possibly the appropriate times to do so — children will become less embarrassed about their body and the many things that we all do.