While most of the things in this website appeal primarily to older children, young-at-heart adults, parents, and educators, I would like to share my experiences as a preschooler, considering some of you might have children at that age or you might even happen to be a preschool or child care worker.
By the time I was three years old, my social skills were noticeably different from my peers. Although I was very affectionate, and bratty only occasionally, I was not conversing the way my peers were. I mostly spoke in one- and two-word sentences, often accompanied by gestures, such as pointing. I also tended to mimic what other people had said, which was often inappropriate in certain cases. My parents were getting concerned, especially because there weren’t any kids my age in our neighbourhood, so they thought my social skills were lagging because I wasn’t around peers. So they decided to enroll me in the preschool at the Arizona State University campus. We were living in Tempe, Arizona (a suburb of Phoenix) at the time.

I enjoyed this preschool very much. I was very scared at first, though this was a child’s normal fear of going to new places. So, when my dad would take me over to the preschool, we would do fun things, at my level, on the way. He would ride me to school on his bike and we’d look into the storm drains to see if there was any water in them, since I loved water at the time (This included watching water in the toilet after flushing it). As well, we would look for puddles on the parking lot. And if there were no puddles, we’d shake the trees (these were new, small trees).

Soon, I was no longer afraid, and I liked the school. This place was at First Congregational Church in Tempe. It was a white stucco church that looked like somewhere from the Mediterranean, maybe southern Spain or southern Italy. The teachers at the preschool were close to the kids, were called by their first names, and had loving characters. I didn’t mix well with other children, so I pretty much depended on the teachers for companionship.

In addition to the loving atmosphere created by the teachers, the building atmosphere itself was memorable, particularly the church’s courtyard (Many churches in Arizona and the American Southwest have courtyards). We would linger out there in the summer, when it was a nice, cool, and shady retreat from the scorching Arizona heat. There were wading pools and we would play with water hoses. I also remember playing Red Rover in the courtyard.

Another thing we’d do in the summer was go for short walks to a campus fountain and bathe in it.

I attended this preschool for 18 months, from March 1972 to September 1973, when we moved to Rochester, Minnesota, for a year, where my dad was to complete an internship for psychology at the Mayo Clinic.

The first half of that year, I went to a daycare at a suburban Lutheran church, since my mom also had to work (at McDonald’s). Unfortunately, the MP Daycare was not as loving as the preschool in Arizona. It was much more regimented (and the teachers were called Mrs. and Miss So-and-so). The place was big and airy and not very cozy or homey. I was especially afraid of Miss R, who was short and young and would get mad at me for doing things I didn’t know I’d done.

I don’t know that the daycare staff liked kids who were “different”. I’m especially saying this because, for some reason, I wasn’t allowed to attend, or even go to, the Christmas program. Probably because they didn’t know what I could do in the program. I don’t remember that incident, but I remember my dad talking about it. (When I was in Grade 1, our teacher kept the whole class out of the Christmas pageant because he “didn’t know what we could do there”. This teacher and class are further described in my essay “K-12 education”.)

One of the biggest issues of the MP Daycare was when I had to take a nap at naptime. If I fell asleep at all, I would, for some reason, wake up very depressed and in tears. On a few occasions, I would go to sleep not bothered about anything, but the next time I was conscious, I would find myself sobbing and crying out of control. I was even up on my feet when I came to, and naptime was already over. Ever since then, I’ve been mystified by this, wondering how this sobbing fit had started. The teachers weren’t much comfort to me when this happened. They probably thought I was just having a tantrum. But I was afraid to take naps for this reason, afraid of falling asleep.

Fortunately, for most of the rest of the time I was at that daycare, I was put in a small group of children that was mostly involved in listening to stories, and I liked being in that group a lot. I don’t know but I think I might have been moved there because naptime was too much of a dilemma for me. Once, however, when the teachers thought I needed a nap, I was put into a small, quiet room with wall-to-wall carpeting by myself. I slept, but slept peacefully, and when I woke up, I was somewhat dazed, but it was far from being a dilemma.

Another thing that helped me at the MP Daycare was colour spots. At this age, I was wild about crayons and loved to look at them. So I loved it when there were big paper crayons on the bulletin board in the playroom. They must have been put up there to teach kids about colours. The paper crayons were only there temporarily, but one of the teachers – Miss R, in fact – painted a mural on a glass door. The mural represented a donkey and was very colourful. I loved it. The donkey mural was at least a warm and comforting contrast to the airy and not-very-cozy atmosphere.

Later, in what must have been March (I didn’t know the months at the time), I was moved to another daycare. This one was in the Rochester city centre, only a few blocks from the Mayo Clinic. We had heard about the CL daycare right after we first came to Rochester, but there was no space for me until now, and all the time I’d been at the MP Daycare, I’d been on a waiting list to get into this one. My mom and dad really wanted to get me in the CL because they didn’t have to pay for it, but more importantly, it seemed much nicer than the other one, and much homier. It was. It was in a nice old house that had existed at least since the 1930s, and it was cozy. The teachers here were loving (even though they too were called Mrs. and Miss), whereas those at the MP Daycare had been much more regimented.

I still didn’t relate well to other kids, and I do remember getting teased by the kids at the daycare, but that wasn’t much of a concern to me at the time. What counted was that I could depend on the teachers for companionship. I loved being pushed on the swings outside and would get quite frustrated if teachers tried to encourage me to pump up under my own strength.

Lunches here were great, with home cooking, whereas we had to take our own lunches to the MP Daycare. As well, naps at the CL Daycare weren’t so much an issue for me as they had been at the other place. In fact, I used to enjoy naps here. I rarely slept, but would lie quietly on my back, especially if music was being played on the record player. I enjoyed the music and remember hearing selections from Snow White, Peter Pan, the Three Bears, the Wizard of Oz, etc., as well as Burl Ives songs.

I missed the CL Daycare when we moved back to Arizona. Even though I was now five, I resumed preschool for a brief time when we got back because my future was up in the air and we didn’t know what school would be appropriate for me. I went back to the university preschool for about a week, but it wasn’t working out for me anymore, I think because I was getting too old for it. Then, upon recommendation of a family, my parents tried me out in PA Preschool. It was a disaster, since the teachers were regimented and paid little attention to the kids, apart from lectures and discipline. But I only stayed there for about a couple of weeks. My one fond memory of the place was playing with water in the church courtyard (PA Preschool was in a church). But then I was enrolled in kindergarten in a self-contained classroom at an elementary school, and this went very well for me. More details in my “K-12 Education” essay. “A Nursery School Trio” is really a prequel to that essay.

Strictly speaking, a warm and accepting atmosphere was vital for me when I was a preschooler. It still is. It’s hard for me to function in a cold and regimented environment.