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4 yr old totally freaked out by playground

(14 Posts)
Mrshighandmighty Wed 21-Sep-11 13:00:22

My youngest son has started Reception and we are on day 21 of term and he is still crying his eyes out every lunch time when he is sent into the playground. He just stands by himself, rocking from foot to foot, crying and crying. I know this because I foolishly thought i would pop around the back of the school where the playground boarders a public footpath and see how he is getting on ... and that is what I saw ... it broke my heart ..

The teachers think its the 'anarchy' of the playground that he can't handle - he loves the classroom, eats his lunch, partakes in all the group activities - its just when he hears the word 'play' he falls apart ...

I've started going into the playground at lunch time just to calm him down and try to prevent the dread he feels at the prospect of going outside - but of course I have to leave eventually and all I can hear as I go are the wails of my boy as he sees me leave ....

I don't know whether to be firm and say he's making me cross, or comfort him and tell him he's going to be ok - or maybe I'm making things worse and its my fault!

I have three older boys, and none of them suffered like this - I feel like a new mum all over again (and I don't like it!) ....

Other experiences gladly sought please ...

Sirzy Wed 21-Sep-11 13:05:25

Are his older siblings on the same playground? Would one of them be willing to take him under there wing for a few weeks until he is settled?

Could a teacher/dinner lady get him and a small group of friends distracted with some sort of game in a quiet corner of the playground? Perhaps even take them out at another point in the day for a play and run around without everyone else so he can see its fun not frightening? (if the staff are willing/able of course!)

I can understand it being quite a daunting experience and with time he will get used to it.

piprabbit Wed 21-Sep-11 13:07:27

I think the school is a bit odd allowing you to pop in at lunchtime, as you say it is only a temporary distraction for your DS and ultimately seems to be leaving him as much (if not more) distressed.

I'd talk to the teacher again. They must have come across this before and they must have techniques for dealing with it. When I was at school, the worried ones could hold the hand of the playground adult while they walked around; or the school could buddy your DS up with another quiet child and encourage them to play in a quiet corner (rather than join the general bedlam).

The school should also be thinking about introducing the children to the playground in a sensitive way - perhaps staggering play times for the reception class so they are the only children in the playground; or having an area which is only used by the reception class.

So sad for your DS.

MrsGravy Wed 21-Sep-11 14:00:51

I agree with Piprabbit, your presence is only going to help while you are there. Ultimately he needs help to 'survive' the playground without you. I'd be pushing (hard) for the school to help him with this.

Merrin Wed 21-Sep-11 15:43:06

Perhaps they need a buddy system, and a quiet area where those who dont want to rush around can play with small toys.

Jools0812 Wed 21-Sep-11 15:45:20

I am surprised that the school are allowing you to come into the )playground..My infant school would not allow this at all. I don't think this is helping your son...more making him even more upset. I think you should stop doing this as it also upsets the other children who also might want their mum to come in (Also we only allow adults who have been crb'd into the playground
Our reception classes have a special fenced off playground so that the yr r's get used to the playground noise. They are not allowed onto the big playground till after half term and even after that they still have their own playground to go to if they feel scared. I would be asking your class teacher to have a word with your class dinner lady so she can watch out for your DS.
(i have several children who I always make sure are 'buddied' up at lunch time. We also have playground friends who look after children and a friendship stop
Definately talk to the teacher again - I am sure she is used to this as are the dinner is quite a common problem with new yr r's

Oggy Wed 21-Sep-11 16:42:29

My son struggled in the playground in Reception. I never saw him at lunch time but before the whistle in the morning when I was there he would cling to me and refuse to go over and play with his friends. Drove me mad and broke my heart simultaneously.

His problem was partly shyness but also that he didn't like the chasing, fighting games (he is a sensitive soul who preferred role playing games to chaotic chasing etc).

I spoke to his teacher about it and she picked a like-minded playground buddy for him (I hated the idea at first as didn't like the idea of other children being told to play with my son) and they were paired off together at play time.

We also started a reward chart so that every time he went over to another child to play with them he got another sticker and once he got them all he got a remote controlled R2D2 - this really motivated him. He still obviously found it nerve-racking but the incentive was enough to make him try. By the time he completed the sticker chart it had started to become a bit more second nature to him to go over and start playing.

The teacher also knew about the reward chart and reinforced this at school too and once he had completed the reward chart he got given the class bear for the week for "being brave in the playground".

Long post, but in a nutshell the combination of a buddy initially to give confidence, followed up with reward chart to encourage mixing behaviour had a fantastic effect.

He just started Y1 and I don't see him for dust in the playground now before school starts. I cried many tears over it but it does get better.

Haberdashery Wed 21-Sep-11 16:53:09

DD is having some of the same issues. She's actually just five so older in her year but doesn't like the running about and shouting etc. Playtime for her at the moment is only fifteen minutes in the morning but she finds it very hard (she doesn't cry but apparently asks her teacher and TA constantly if it is time to go in yet) and is particularly upset because a couple of children she knows are telling her she can't play with them. Her teacher is really nice and has promised that when she starts lunches and has playtime with a larger group she will find her a buddy in Year 1 or 2 to help her out. And at the moment, this is just reception in the playground as the playtimes are staggered. I'm thinking of asking the teacher if there are any quieter more sedentary little girls who might be interested in a game of eg Mummies and Babies and steering her towards them. Does that sound like a good plan or should I just let her get on with it?

whatdoesthisbuttondo Wed 21-Sep-11 18:22:59

It could be fear of the unknown causing the problems. In class he has a task to do whether it is drawing, sitting and listening or playing in the home corner. In the playground he is left to make his own choices - a good thing as all children need to develop this skill but only if they are ready and confident to do so. If he isn't ready his anxiety levels will increase as he just doesn't know what he should be doing. He could be given a job to do before he goes out to play so as soon as he goes out he knows what he will be doing. Sort out a bag of balls for pe - large ones together or all the blue ones in one bag or put out cones for the children to dribble balls around if he enjoys being with the other children. Before he knows it he will be concentrating less on the task and more on the play. May be worth suggesting it to the class teacher or class assistant - best of luck

madwomanintheattic Wed 21-Sep-11 18:37:43

usually <sigh> schools are well aware of this issue and have a small section of the playground marked off for yr r children - and when they are brave enough they can venture 'outside' into the bigger crazier bit. and most have a 'friendship stop' or buddy system in place. the better ones have yr 2 buddies for yr r students as well, to integrate them into the whole school.

school need to deal with this, not you. just mention to the teacher in passing - they should be more than used to this.

treas Wed 21-Sep-11 19:12:20

Does your school have a buddy system in place?

Dd's school allocates each reception child an older child from Yr 4 or 3 (small school) to help them at break times and ensure that the each lo has some one to play with etc.

Could you suggest this to your ds's school it would definitely be more of a solution than you having to go in.

Mrshighandmighty Wed 21-Sep-11 19:38:11

thanks everyone - good points made - a few responses:

- the fact that the school is letting me sit in the playground during lunchtime demonstrates their willingness to try different solutions to get over this problem ... they know me as an established parent - not just anyone .... and I'm crb checked ...
- I have twin older boys in year 6 who are being a huge help - but obviously their year is kept well away from the lower school, and I can't pull them out of their routine to help in such a crucial term unfortunately ...
- the buddy system is a great solution ... and ds does have some nursery friends who try to involve him in their games - but I can't blame them for wandering off when all he does is wail!
- I agree that my presence is becoming more of a hinderance than a help - in fact I've agreed with his teacher to stop coming in ... they are going to find a small part of the playground that he can call his own (in a manner of speaking) and maybe bring a toy to play with in this little space
- Haberdashery - whilst Im sorry for your dd, its a comfort to know we are not alone ... the thought of one of your own being cast adrift in the jungle of the playground is really upsetting - I hope you find a solution with your teacher that will solve the problem
- all of you are right in that the teachers have to use their established knowledge to find a way to get past this hiccup - I just wanted to be proactive and a help ... but really I must step back and let them/him sort it out

legobuilder Wed 21-Sep-11 19:48:44

has the school got a buddy bench/ buddy bus stop? a brightly coloured "stop" in the playground, where children who feel vulnerable/want a buddy/want to sit quietly can go to non verbally ask for attention? many schools do now, and i find them very effective, particularly if playground assistants are asked to keep an eye on them too, and if teachers/SMT are asked to say hi if passing the buddy bench. i find it removes stigma and supports children who don't enjoy playground time.

letsblowthistacostand Wed 21-Sep-11 20:22:09

My DD struggled with the playground. For the first few weeks she just hung around the playground supervisor, holding her hand, 'helping' her open gates and put toys out etc. I think there were some older kids whose job it was to play with and help the more nervous young ones so as she got more confident she made friends in that group. They showed her how to do the playground iyswim. Slowly she made more friends in her year and now she's a big Y1 who knows everything!

The school should have a place he can go if he feels insecure. Surely this is not the first time they've had a child who was nervous in the playground?

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