The Lost Mittens
By Miss Sandra
Several years ago, when I was still working in Viroqua, I had a young friend named Elizabeth who could not keep track of her belongings. Mittens would go missing, socks and shirts--a hat too. It was very upsetting for her mother and she made her unhappiness know to Miss Shannon and me. Yet we had 18 children in our care and the primary responsibility we felt belonged with the children (ages 3-6) to manage their possessions. Elizabeth was not a particularly dreamy child in fact she was quite observant--she was the child to ask who a glove belonged to or who had left a scarf in the hall. Yet she was unable to identify and keep track of her own belongings. Miss Shannon and I decided to observe Elizabeth and hopefully come up with a plan to assist her to keep track of her belongings. What we observed was that Elizabeth's mother loaded and unloaded the backpack. It was her mother who hung up her coat and put her mittens on the shelf above her hook. Elizabeth had no real connection to her possessions or how they ended up where they did.
The act of moving her mittens from the mitten basket at home to her pockets to her hands to the shelf above her hook would have tremendous value in helping her keep track of her belongings. Working together with Elizabeth's mother we were able to help Elizabeth gain a connection to her belongings by having her take charge of them. While it might take longer for a child to load their backpack or hang up their coat than a parent or caregiver, in the long run it is beneficial. A child as young as three is able to manage their belongings if given the opportunity and a child as young as 18 months can make their boots "happy". A big part of my responsibility when working with the young child is to help them on the path of independence -- to be free human beings. And hanging up one’s own coat is a small step (among many) on that path.