Monday, January 13, 2014

Today I Played With Dinosaurs

I was shocked back in to the reality of how much I had been neglecting my blog today when someone told me they heard from another that I no longer had a blog!  I'm here... busy teaching an active class of inquisitive four year olds, co-directing our school, presenting workshops...and oh yes, mothering three teenagers-one of whom has been applying to colleges. Then the list of blog posts that I want to write gets longer and longer...until it seems overwhelming.  But this comment and the simple and yet, profound experience that I had today, has brought me back.  I hope to be catching up on writing about our last project on the Fire Station and the beginning of our next which is just starting, as well as the fun, playful, good stuff we have been doing in between.  

Short and sweet to get back in the swing of I played with dinosaurs.  I had put out dinosaurs along with leaves, vines, tree blocks and river rocks as embellishments in our block area this week.  I have a few students who are challenged with sustaining productive play unassisted and often end up banging toys together, kicking over structures or turning everything in to something that is shooting.  Excited to play with the dinosaurs they started their playtime in that area.  It only took a short while before the dinosaurs were flying around the rug, shooting.  I observed this for a few minutes somewhat close to them.  Then I went over and sat on the carpet near the materials.  I started my engagement with them by merely sitting close to where they were standing.

As the dinosaurs flew over head shooting down a few blocks, I picked up a smaller dinosaur and began walking in around the floor and making him talk out loud.  "I wish I had a place to hide from all of this.  I do not want anyone to hurt me."  I think I will build a cave to hide."  Then I proceeded to use the materials to build a structure for the dinosaur while "he" talked about what he was doing.  
The boys lowered their dinosaurs to the floor and walked them closer to me.  I added a felt river since I was thirsty and when one of their dinosaurs came a little closer to me, I had my dinosaur introduce himself and explain what he was doing.  That's all it took for them to creep closer to me and start to play with me.  One boy had his dinosaur offer to give me a ride on his back to see his home.  Another asked if there was room for him in my cave.  There wasn't enough for both so we built a new home together.  The play became much more constructive and communicative and cooperative.
As I reflected on it later talking to some colleagues, I remembered feeling guilty that I wasn't over at another table doing the small group fine motor lesson that I had planned, but knowing that this was where I was needed.  These boys need help with their play.  This is happening more and more these days-children coming in to preschools not knowing how to play with other children or how to play imaginatively.  This will be a whole other post someday. But today-this dinosaur play- seeing the changes it made to the dynamic of their interactions without me saying anything negative about their initial play, "dinosaurs don't fly" "our dinosaurs do not shoot", etc. reinforced the critical importance of  teachers and parents playing with young children.  I should not have felt guilty about not getting to my "small group" work because I was doing small group work.  I was teaching playing- an activity that requires imagination, creativity, flexibility, planning, characterization, empathy, problem solving, cooperation, language development and so much more.  Today I played with dinosaurs....what did you play?

On another note, if you like to play in the kitchen, you need to visit a new blog written by my talented assistant, Katherine, who will be featured in Fine Cooking this month, This link brings you to a post about our class, but she writes about home cooking as well.  Enjoy!

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