We met at Children’s House today, and after talking with the class about what everyone was doing, we decided to go outdoors with the children. This was mostly in response to the unseasonably warm (and inviting) weather, and it gave an interesting perspective on how kids engage in active motor play. Our focus has been on how kids play indoors, and in devising strategies to increase opportunities to move and play inside. This is different for each pre-school, depending on how much space is available. Children’s House has less “open” indoor space than most centers, being based in a residential home rather than being build as a child care center. It just felt too cramped to try to have the group of us (now 8) inside trying to play with the kids in a small space.
The advantage to moving outdoors was that we could take a bigger group of kids, and spread out and observe as they figured out our new toys. This was another session where we brought several of the toys students had purchased for their “equipment reviews” for some real live testing out. We had five different activities available that kids could choose to try. We had two ball stomps with different sized balls, two “spooner boards”, two foam pogo sticks and a “zoom ball” game. Megan also brought her “bucket stilts”, but the wood chip surface made it hard to keep your balance. I found it fascinating to watch individual children as they approached and figured out what the toys could do, and had to interact with each other to take turns and play. There was some adult supervision, but I especially enjoyed seeing the children figure out turn taking on their own. I watched a 4 year old transform in 10 minutes from a very cautious and tentative bounce on a pogo stick (with a fall or two) to a confident and joyful hopper all over the yard as she “got it” all by herself.
Several children stuck by the ball stomps for a long time (10-15 minutes) and just repeated stomping and catching and enjoying the feeling of mastery of a new game.
The spooner boards were very different outdoors on the wood chip surface, and adults got more involved when we brought out a rope and tried to use it to pull (and let the kids pull) themselves across the yard on the boards. One little boy took a spooner board all over the yard and kept experimenting with different places he could get it to slide over while he tried to stand on top. A risk taker seeking out new horizons! I’m sure he would have ridden it down the outdoor slide if we let him (we were there to supervise). The zoom ball game seemed to need the most supervision, coordinating the two partners who open and close their arms to send the ball back and forth on the strings.
There was so much to see as we watched kids either active or more passive, independent or looking for help, going about the important work of play!!