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 Question 2 11/28/00

Dear Visitors,
     I have two four year olds that I watch in my daycare home.  Lately, they have been pretending to smoke cigarettes.  At first I told them that I did not want them to pretend that because it was bad for their health.  This did not stop the behavior so I explained that smoking is no longer allowed inside buildings so they would have to wait until we were outside to pretend.  I am feeling guilty allowing them the opportunity to smoke--am I doing the right thing?
Concerned Provider


Dear Concerned Provider,
      If the children's parent or parents smoke, they are merely imitating what they see at home.  This is, of course, completely normal and to be expected.  That is not to say that you have to allow it in your home, though. Personally, I would tell the children that smoking is not good for your body and it is not an acceptable pretend play activity.   It is your home,  you can set the rules on what they can play, inside and outside also. If they know you are serious, most kids will accept and follow the rules. Good luck!

Donna

Dear Concerned Provider,
    
Wow! This is a toughy!  I do not like to see children pretend to smoke either.  I would first try to redirect the behavior and if you need to verbalize your disapproval I would keep telling them that it is bad for their health. I would try to redirect without drawing attention to the behavior-much the same as you would with other types of behaviors.  Keep it positive and low key.  Hopefully, if you need to tell them it is an 'outside thing only' they will forget about 'smoking' because of the active play that goes on outdoors.  A couple questions: Are the parents aware of this problem?  And do they smoke themselves?  Good luck!
Tricia


Dear Concerned Provider,
     First sometimes the more we make out of a situation the more the child seems to continue that behavior, sometimes ignoring them works. If this is something they see at home, then of course they see nothing wrong or inappropriate about pretending to smoke. Talking with the parents would be the first step, next depending on the age handling it the way you approached it, smaller children probably will not understand but realistically will grow old of this and move on to something else. Of course redirecting this area of Pretend play to something else each time you see them pretending to smoke will lessen the amount of time they continue this. Example instead of smoking lets pretend to bake cookies? Or even redirect them to another area of play; block area, sand or water, drawing, something that keeps their hands busy.
Sheri


Dear Concerned Provider,
    
Don't allow it at all!!! Just tell them that while some people do this and they are not "bad" people, you do not want this done.  Try using the word "unacceptable".
Gwen O.


Dear Concerned Provider,
   
What you told them was very creative in a tough spot, but probably no the best thing to say.  Believe me, as an Early Childhood educator, I have been thrown some curve balls too and in the moment have said things that I wished I did not, so we all do it :)  Anyway.........
I would suggest that when and if it comes up again, let them explore this a bit in play so maybe you can get more clues as to why they are doing it.  Maybe simply reflect back to them... "Hmmm...I wonder if you are pretending to be a grown-up smoking a cigarette".  See what they say.  They will probably say yes.  Ask..."I wonder if you see grown-up smoking at home or in your neighborhood?"  Ask them.. "how does that make you feel when you see them smoking"?  Try to generate a discussion that helps them to explore this unknown phenomenon.  Children use dramatic play to help them make sense of their world (and believe me, they got quite a world these days to make sense of).  Playing about it will not make them future smokers, it will only help them to make sense of what they are probably seeing.  With that play you can be the facilitator who helps them to do this, with open ended questions. 
Dana :)

Dear Concerned Provider,
    
It is normal for children to imitate a behavior they have seen from adults. Especially those adults that have the most influence in their lives, such as parents.  I usually tell my preschoolers they can't smoke until they are much older. I do tell them it is risky to their health. Sometimes I have to remove the toy they use as their "cigarette" to stop the behavior.
Jackie Kilmer

Dear Concerned Provider,
    
It sounds like they are imitating what they see at home. I would discourage this type of pretend play and explain the dangers of smoking, second hand smoke in a simple way. What they do at home you cannot control, but what they do when in your care is totally your discretion. I think pretending to smoke sends the wrong message to these young minds
Another home daycare provider

Dear Concerned Provider,
    
I am 40, and as a child I pretended to smoke with candy cigarettes.  I have never smoked and am STRONGLY against smoking.  I realize that back when I was a kid, they didn't know all the health problems that would be associated with smoking.  However, I feel that pretending to smoke is just imitation play coming from curiosity.  My kids also pretended with the candy cigarettes.  Now that they are older (11 & 14) they realize the dangers of smoking.  I think it's something kids are naturally curious about but doesn't mean they will turn into smokers.
Peg


Dear Concerned Provider,
    
I usually do the same sort of thing.  If I see a child in my class doing something like that, I tell them "We don't smoke in my classroom.  Please stop."  They will usually stop.  They usually do this with food so I just tell them to eat.  Do they take the opportunity to "smoke" outside?  I have also told them that you must be an adult to smoke.  So maybe if you are outside, you can ask them if they are old enough and then stop them, as they are not old enough.
Nikki May


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