What I love about preschool is that the children are still free. Free to play as they choose. Free from the judgement of their peers. Free to come up with ideas that are their own. And I love to sit and watch the play develop.
When I first sat down to take an observer/supporter role in the play the intensity was growing. There were four boys doing typical “boy” things. Three of them were driving cars around and one of them was holding a large dinosaur. The cars had to quickly get away from the dinosaur. I was so excited about this because A (who was holding the dinosaur) has just begun his first year at preschool, he is our youngest child, and solitary or parallel play are very common for him. He had entered into play with G, JM, and JR who are all in the second year at the preschool and very established in their friendships. I am happy to see that the older children are including A and I did not do a single thing to get this play started; they did it all themselves. These children are so capable!
At the same time, the teacher in me felt compelled to keep them safe and I noticed that they were getting super excited and moving faster with their cars. I started giving a few gentle reminders about moving safely around the classroom. Then I asked a couple of questions. What if the cars get a flat tire? What could happen next? They continued on with this play for a little while and then JM took the play in a completely new direction. He had a fresh idea.
JM picked up a pair of binoculars and looked through them at a tall plant we have in the corner of the room. He said, “I think I see a bird up there in that tree.” He repeated this a couple of times until the others realized what he was talking about. Then he handed the binoculars to JR to have a look for the bird. Before I knew it the 3 older boys were being birds; flapping their wings and flying around the room. Were they running? No. They were actually quite light on their feet and moved about in a bird-like fashion. Then they built little “nests” for themselves and “trees” for themselves with some stump type blocks that we have. They stacked up the stumps and stood on top, and practiced jumping down off the teetering stumps. They knew exactly what they needed: to get moving! (It was a very rainy day and we had been inside a bit longer than usual.)
I asked them “What do birds do?” and they had a few ideas:
-Sit in their nests, eat worms, fly, sleep
They enjoyed practicing “flying” off the stumps!
Where was A at this point, you ask? He was totally engaged in solitary play with cars and quite happy and content. Did I feel the need to bring him into the “bird” game? Not at all. He was playing in just the way he needed to at that moment.
More thoughts from Teacher Cindy:
I recognize their need to move, take risks in their play and allow the jumping off the teetering stumps to continue on while ensuring that they have the space to safely do all of this. I marvel at their creativity, their cooperation, their desire to take risks, and their joy. I am pleased with their inclusiveness.
And finally, I marvel at the power of self-directed uninterrupted play. It is such a pleasure to be a witness to this kind of freedom. Their freedom makes my heart happy.