Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Valuable Moments

A jar.
Some balls.

Whoop. dee.doo......right?

Just listen:
Ty had one of the large plastic jars. (the type that the average person buys at Sams or Costco for the good deal they will get on pretzels, but brain developers like you and I buy them with our eye on the jar...and the potential play it will inspire).  Using every ounce of strength in his hands and forearms he unscrewed the lid, and plopped two ballpit balls inside.  One red, one blue.  Repeating the muscle workout, he replaced the lid.

"Denita.  Do you remember this?" 

He proceeded to grasp the jar at either end, then moved the jar quickly as once again, he used every ounce of strength in his hands and forearms as well as his biceps and shoulders.  Plus, his facial muscles were working beyond belief (can you picture this?!!)

What on earth was this child having me remember?  About a year ago, we discovered the fun of a jar and balls.  If you move the jar in just the right way, when you stop moving it, the balls inside will continue to circle the jar SUPER fast.  We adults know this as centrifugal force.....for young children it's's's FUN....and they want to try it again and again to see if it happens everytime!!  This is called CURIOSITY and we brain developers WANT children to be curious!!  We want an environment that fosters CURIOSITY!
Last year, during our "Jammin' J" week we discovered how fun
a giant jar can be!  read more about "Jammin' J"

Ty tried.  He tried.  And he tried.  He could NOT get those balls to move in the centrifugal motion that he knew was possible.  They moved while he was moving, but the minute he held the jar still, the balls came to a screeching hault as well.

I quietly, patiently and painfully observed.  He was SO close to the correct movement, it took every ounce of self regulation (which I sometimes am REALLY good at...and others...not so good!!) to keep from helping him!!  Finally, he asked for some help.  He and I tried it together.  SUCCESS!  Again, we utilized teamwork, and again SUCCESS! 

Our cheering caused Cole to join in on the excitment. Ty tried it on his own.....again...and again.  No success.  Cole came up with an idea....let's ROLL the jar!!  That will do it!!

Of course I knew that would not work...but I did not say a word.  Again, I quietly observed as they tried the new method (imaginations solving problems that caused curiosity....I could have NEVER planned such an amazing moment!) They quickly realized, after four tries, (even children know that one try is not enough...just as scientists try things again and again, children do the same thing when they are given enough time to explore) this method, although fun, was not going to keep the balls rolling.

The child-led learning continued as Ty suggested we add a third ball to the mix!  Then, with a little requested help from me......SUCCESS!
A fourth ball was added.....SUCCESS AGAIN! 

Then Cole suggested we put "ALL THE BALLS IN THE JAR!!!" (with eyes open OH. SO. WIDE!!)

I couldn't resist asking how many balls they thought would fit in the jar.  The answers were all over the board as a greater crowd had formed.

"4"  To which someone was quick to respond "We already KNOW that!"

In the end....TWENTY balls fit in the jar.

The learning STILL wasn't over. Cole suggested we SPIN the jar and see what the balls do!  The colorful results were AMAZING even to an adult!  The kids wanted me to take a picture.  (they had learned from the fun we've had with glowsticks how different a picture of something can be!)  read more about GLOWSTICKS!!

All of this learning occured in a matter of 15 minutes. Trial and error, persistance, teamwork, problem solving, adding, cause and effect, small motor skills, using imaginations to create new ideas, hypothesizing, estimating and cooperation.  All of it unplanned and lead by a child's natural curiosity!!  Show me a worksheet that can do that!

As a brain developer (aka: early childhood profesional), you need to be present, be observant, and see the value in little moments like this one in order to educate parents of the power of play!

You just can't deny's a fact....Play Counts!!