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Certified PreK-6. Masters in Child Development. Advocate for play, teacher & children choice, & the family's voice. Believe in volunteering as social justice.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

negotiating through big body play

Little people are very creative in how they use their environment.  They will often come up with ideas for materials that aren't necessarily what the original uses for those materials are.  When they do this I think it's a wonderful thing.  Who's really to say what the purpose of a material is?  I believe that any action that a little person is making in play serves a purpose.  It then becomes our job to observe them and discover what that purpose is.  It is not our job to stop them from using the materials simply because they are using them in a different way.

Yes, as early childhood workers we must facilitate a safe environment for our little people, but not to the extent where creativity, risk taking, and problem solving are missing.  Little people are competent and when we do our job of modeling for them how to problem solve and how to show compassion when their play may interfere with another's play they are able to successfully explore their environment.

At playgroup today the little person decided that the foam balance beam pieces simply must be taken apart and used in a different manner.  This big body play of his didn't come without negotiation.  He and another boy who were interested in carrying the pieces around had to convince the girls who were walking on it to allow them to disassemble it.  The boys then had to negotiate how they would move around the gym without knocking over other people.  They also had to negotiate with their bodies as they found the best way to pick up and move these objects that are much bigger than they are.

Through their play, these crucial problem solving and getting along with people skills were able to be practiced.  In addition, the boys were also able to engage in that big body play that is essential to their growth and development.  Rather than sit passively by, they were engaging in such movements as crossing their midline, lifting things over their heads, pushing and pulling objects, and navigating obstacles.  All of which are necessary for them to read, write, and think in the future.  

As the caregiver had I stepped in and intervened, making them stop this activity, I would have taken all of these opportunities away from them.  Instead, I trusted them to experiment and observed them, knowing that I was there if the need arose for me to step in.  

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