What’s the purpose of toddlers?


Unruly toddlers, toddlers with iPads – it really is a bumper news week for the toddler watchers amongst us.toddlers

(Latecomers may now swivel their eyes to the left and note that I wrote a book called Toddlers: An Instruction Manual, so I have form for this).

Education minister Liz Truss has criticised the lack of structure of UK nurseries, calling them “chaotic”. In particular she talks about children running around “with no sense of purpose”.

Au contraire, Ms Truss – having studied them at length, I can tell you that the main defining characteristic of your average toddler is that they are very, very purposeful indeed.

They live in the moment, know what they want and they want it right now.  It’s just that their idea of purpose is often not the same as what an adult’s might be. But that’s OK, because they’re not adults.

Truss claims that young children aren’t taught manners in nursery, but I wonder what evidence she’s basing this on? Who says nurseries aren’t hot on manners? My children even learned to say please in sign language in nursery. Social skills including taking turns and interacting with others are exactly what many parents send their children to nursery school for, as well as creative play and – yes – the chance to rush around a bit.

In my book I talk about the fact that the presence of boundaries can help children feel secure. A good nursery can help with this. It’s not about drilling children like little soldiers and dampening any sparks of creativity, but rather helping them behave as social beings who are aware of the world and people around them.

Life as the parent of a toddler is hard enough. Many parents have no choice but to use nurseries. And now once again a government minister is choosing to tell us that whatever we’re doing, we’re doing it wrong.

And life as the carer of toddlers must be pretty challenging too. We all know that nursery workers do a tough, badly paid job. How depressing for them be be told that they’re doing it all wrong too. 

So if the Minister for Education and Childcare doesn’t seem to be on the side of the children, their parents or childcare workers, you’ve got to wonder exactly whose side is she on at all?


image credit: linh.ngan