Monday, January 29, 2007

Gingerbread Houses and Puzzles and Swings, Oh My!

Each visit to Theo’s preschool brings mixed emotions to me, but my most recent was the best visit yet.

Previously, I had been there in the mornings during breakfast and the afternoon at lunch, so this time I wanted to observe the time in the middle. I got there at about 11, and when I walked in, the kids were all seated around the tables, which had been pushed together. They were about to start an art project. When Theo saw me, his face lit up. “Hi, mommy!” he waved. “Hi, Theo’s mommy,” the class chimed in. I said hello to all the kids and told them how Theo talks about them all the time, and sings about them. Because of this, I know their names well and felt like I knew the kids.

I sat next to Theo at the table and listened to his teacher, Grace, give instructions on how to build a gingerbread house. Each kid had a mini empty milk carton on a plate in front of him. She showed how to take icing and spread it on the house, and put on graham crackers to make a roof and walls. Then more icing. She decorated her house with all sorts of candy to make windows and doors. The kids watched her, enthralled. Many shouted out suggestions of what color and candy to use next.

Now it was time for the kids to build their houses. Theo enjoyed the project thoroughly, although he was the only kid who didn’t understand that he was making a house. As other children chirped about their windows and how they’re building two doors, or uh oh their roof broke, Theo just liked spreading the icing and putting candy on the house. His was the only house without a roof. But he had a good time, and responded well to the help he got from me and one of the TAs. (There are three assistants in the class.)

Grace had instructed the class not to eat the candy. I giggled, figuring it’d be like telling a cat not to play with the ball in front of him. But they really obeyed! I was very impressed by Theo’s class. Sure, a kid or two snuck a piece. Including mine, who couldn’t hide the evidence – icing on his face. But even the teachers snuck some candy. At the end, it became allowed.

I’m glad I got to sit in on this project, because whenever Theo comes home with art projects I wonder how much he did and how much a teacher did. Now I see how the kids really do have to do everything themselves. It’s great for them.

Next was free play. Each kid gets to choose a station to play at. There’s a kitchen area, train area, puzzle area, a library, etc. Theo was the only kid who stood there, a bit lost, while the others ran to do what they wanted to do. Finally, he chose puzzles. Another boy sat at the table with him, but Theo had no interest in interacting, he wanted to work by himself. However, I did see him bring a Blues Clues book to a boy and say “Look, Paul, Boos Coos.”

The free play was adorable. A boy brought around freshly baked (fake) oreos from the kitchen to share with everyone. Other kids had on hats and dresses, even boys. And while Theo played I got to talk to Grace and Jeannie, the speech therapist, for a bit.
They said he still needs to be pushed, but he is progressing. He is starting to ask for assistance more. And the Theo I saw at school was much more the Theo I knew from home. Last time I went, he was a different kid. But this time he was talking and “with it,”
just not as much as the rest of the class. I couldn’t figure out why the other kids in his class were at that school. They didn’t have speech problems, so I guess it had more to do with PT or OT, although that wasn’t evident either. And I saw my favorite kid (besides Theo) go off with a psychologist. What could a 3 year old need to see one about? Poor guy.

Lee, the physical therapist, came in to take Theo with her. Theo said “bye, mommy!” I laughed and told him I was going with him. We went upstairs. Lee is great. She adores Theo. First, he chose to ride the tricycle. For the first time I got to see him pedal on his own! The steering needs work, but he’s getting there. I bet he’ll be a pro by summer.

Next, we went to the mat where a rubber cylindrical swing hangs from a rope. I wish I had a picture of this swing, but it kind of looks like a small punching bag, around which he wraps his arms and legs. Theo loves it! He looks in the mirror as he swings with an enormous smile. Lee has him hold on tight and spins him. She says it’s great for the soft muscle in his back. I got on the swing with him (I couldn’t resist, it looked too fun!), and we both had a blast soaring together. How Theo laughed! He probably thought the notion of mommy on the swing with him was silly. At that point I had to leave, but Theo begged me to come back and get back on the swing with him.

I left feeling good. I had a great time visiting Theo, and watching him learn, socialize, and have fun, as a little boy should.

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