Wednesday, March 18, 2015

If You Give a Child Plenty of Time to Play...

There is a natural flow that happens when young children are leading their learning.

If you pay close attention to child's play, one thing always leads to another...there is always one connecting factor between what they are doing now, and what they were doing just moments earlier.

Child's play is really a situation similar to the classic:  "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie".

If you Give a Child Plenty of Time to Play.....

Yesterday and today this truth was blatantly obvious in my play school.   
One moment logically led to the next...and the next...and the next.  And every moment was oozing with valuable learning.  Learning that I couldn't even imagine replacing with something in my lesson plans.

Here's the thing:  
when you give a child plenty of time to play, and you closely observe and facilitate that play; being present with just the right amount of you that each child requires (I need to write a blog post on that topic) the learning is AUTHENTIC.  It is ORGANIC.  It is NATURAL.  It is led by the child's own curiosities and interests AT THAT MOMENT.  THAT, my friends, is the kind of learning that STICKS with a child for the rest of their life.

Child-led play is not teacher-driven, skills and drills learning where information can be regurgitated on the test, or for an assessment only to be forgotten a week/month later.  It does not teach a child to be dependent on an adult to tell them what they will be learning next, or what they should be interested in now.

Child-led play is meaningful learning that is self motivated and easy to recall.  It is based on what is happening NOW and how that affects a child NOW and what it  motivates them to do NOW.  It teaches a child that their independent thoughts are valuable and worthy of being explored.  It empowers children to work through problems and struggles, to try new things, to fail and persevere. 

Without further aduex (I have no idea how to spell "aduex" and judging by the red squiggles, "a-d-u-e-x" is not correct... but since this is not a test... I do not care...and, in case you are wondering, if it were for a test, I still would not care :D  I have lived a fine life without spelling every single word correctly, and though it drives my mother crazy..I quite enjoy using inventive spelling when necessary!)

I present to you:

(Clears Throat)
If You Give a Child Plenty of Time to Play....

When they cut apart the yarn from the trap the leprechaun built in retaliation for the one they built to catch him, the yarn will turn into spaghetti.

When the yarn turns into spaghetti, they are going to need some meatballs to go with it.  Imaginations will be at work as they scrounge around for something to use for meatballs.
When they have cut up all of the yarn, they will realize they need more spaghetti and ask you to get them some more yarn.
When they have access to the yarn, they will be empowered by knowing they are trusted to choose and cut the yarn themselves.  The cutting of the yarn will become the focus for some.

As they add more spaghetti to the mix, they are going to play and play and play...cutting more yarn, mixing it in and building scenarios.  They will be working together towards a common goal and practicing how to compromise as different ideas are offered.
The spaghetti play continues into the following day...when new ideas emerge.

When new ideas emerge, the sensory table needs to be cleaned out (the new idea was:  "let's put the spaghetti in the sensory table!")

When the sensory table gets cleaned out and  they put the spaghetti in, they realize they need lots more spaghetti to fill this large space.  This gives them an opportunity to ask for what they need.
After asking for what they need, and adding more spaghetti, the teacher also adds in some spools of ribbon just for fun.
The spools of ribbon create a moment of curiosity that is immediately explored.

Upon exploration of the ribbon, they decide to unravel it to see how long it is.  When it stretches almost all the way across the room they.....
...are amazed by the length of the ribbon and soon others follow their lead.

They discover that some ribbons are very short.

While others are very long.. maybe even longer than the first one.

When they pull the ribbon, they will discover that it follows them where ever they go..but they constantly test the theory by turning around frequently just to see if the ribbon is still there.

When all the ribbons are stretched out on the floor, and all have been compared by length, color and width. A complete accident happens and they discover that if they jump with the ribbon in their hand, the whole long piece of ribbon will jump with them.  This is a completely fascinating moment.
Meanwhile, another child grabs the odd-shaped PVC pipe that has been removed from the sensory table in order to make room for the spaghetti and uses it as an addition to the raingutter ramp he has built.
They discover that this is crazy fun as the ball doesn't always come out the same hole.

When a game is super fun, they are going to continue to play it, and maybe even make some changes to it.

When they add four balls they learn that not all the balls will make it into the tunnel.

When all the balls do not go into the tunnel, it gives them a reason to fix things a bit and see if they can solve the problem.  After tinkering with it and trying and failing and trying, they determine that the game works the best with one or two balls...but not four!
When one friend is being super clever and inventing a new game, it motivates another to go exploring and invent a game of their own.  While sitting and thinking, they make an awesome discovery about magnets!
They learn that magnets can make each other move WITHOUT touching each other!
When they learn something new, they want to test it again and again just to make sure it is true.

After they have exhausted their testing, they reverse the rolls to see if it works with the other magnet in their hand.  
When they have explored something to exhaustion, it's helpful when their teacher sets up the environment in a way that motivates them to continue exploring in a different way.  They head over to check out what has just been added.
They discover that magnets can move metal balls through paint like magic!  They then discover that the large balls become easily stuck in the paint, but luckily -- 
there are also small magnet balls to manipulate too!
When they discover something that is super fun and exciting, it's very empowering to have the opportunity to teach someone else.

Whenever someone else gets involved they get to work on getting along and taking turns.  These are always valuable moments filled with social skills that will last a lifetime.

Tummies tend to get hungry while they are busy playing and messes have to be cleaned up before snack comes out.


If you give a child plenty of time to play......they are going to need plenty of time to pick up and some magical moments to make it motivating.

Remember all that ribbon spread across the room?

Guess what is the best way to pick it all up that is also CRAZY FUN?!

A shop vac!!!

When all the ribbon is cleaned up, they are going to want to "DO IT AGAIN"!!
And so....
They lay the ribbons all back out on the floor.  When they lay the ribbons all back on the floor, they are going to want to use teamwork and think about the process a little bit.  This can take a whole lot of collaboration and coordination, not to mention hard work!

But it's worth it:

When you give a child plenty of time to play......they are going to look like this:


Denita Dinger is a play school teacher, author and a professional speaker.  Her most popular training is "The Defender of Play Boot Camp".   To book Denita for your upcoming event, or just to receive more information, email her at
Make sure to check out Denita's Facebook page:  "Play Counts" too!