I like to play a game with kindergarten children that I call “Toilet.” Children sit on my lap and I bounce them up and down. Then I put out my right hand like a handle and they hit it. I open my legs and the child drops down. Then I close my legs. Little ones love it, especially girls. Boys try it once, but they prefer to run and kick balls. Girls seem to like it much more, I think because it has elements of danger (bouncing up and down) as well as safety (trust that the adult will not hurt them), combined with the marginal naughtiness of playing a game that plays on the idea of urination and defecation.
I don’t think it is inappropriate for kindergarteners, but for first and second graders I do think so. First, those children are too big and heavy to play the game. Second, their age makes it a marginally sexual issue. Let’s not go there. But for children up to five, I think it’s okay.
It is a game my brothers and I learned from a baby sitter when we were young, and I remember the excitement of bouncing up and down and the expectation of hitting the handle and falling.
When I was in teachers college in Ontarioin the late 1980s we were warned against ever touching students for any reason - even to separate children in a brawl. I remember as a substitute teacher in Ontario a young child once asked me to help her zip up her winter coat for recess. You know how zippers sometimes get really annoyingly stuck. In consideration for the rule against touching students I moved into the hallway to work on the zipper rather than inside the classroom, sequestered from public view, just for safety. For a long time I have felt that the different body culture in Japan allowed me to touch children - a pat on the head or the shoulder, for example, or to pick up babies in pre-school. At my current job, however, I am increasingly wary of that conviction considering the unpredictable, volatile nature of students’ mothers. Who knows what idiotic stories they invent as their personal inner narrative of life and how it reflects upon and affects others, especially me? I don’t want to risk it, so the Game has become extinct.