A puddle is a wonderful thing all by itself. Add loose parts and it becomes something beyond wonderful! It started with T, who was looking for something that would float in the puddle. She tested pinecones and bark but they both sunk to the bottom. She already knew that leaves would float but that was her focus last time; she was looking for a new idea.
One of my co-educators asked if we had any boats outside for the children to play with. She looked around and after a while, she found something better than boats; she found these sticks. Boats can only be boats but sticks… sticks can be anything the children want them to be.
The sticks served their purpose; J and G had ideas and they got down to work. They discovered that they could move the sticks along in the puddle like this.
And they simply started moving sticks along the puddle, helping them float down the ‘river’.
This took real work as they had to bend over and use a little hand-eye coordination to keep the sticks moving along. And I know they were determined because they continued the task for a total of 30 minutes. I believe their hope was to get all the sticks to the end of the puddle in this way.
Did they accomplish their goal? Yes! I wish I had the after photo for you but reality takes over and Teacher Cindy had other distractions that did not allow for a final photo. I promise you, by the end of the play time, nearly all of the sticks had floated to the end of the river and were piled up together.
What exactly were they pretending? You would need to ask them but I do know this: Their play was self-directed, intrinsically motivated and uninterrupted. By using sticks to represent something else they are taking a step into the world of literacy where squiggles on a page can represent ideas. Hooray for play for loose parts and for creative imaginations!
This is the kind of intrinsic motivation we want to nurture for our future generations.
“Give me a sticker and I will do my very best for a few minutes.
Give me a warm smile and I will do my very best for a little while.
Give me encouragement and I will do my very best for a long while.
Give me the experiences that help me believe in myself and I will do my very best forever.” -Annonymous