I’ve spent too much time lately on the websites of fellow early childhood educators, cruising for ideas. And I’ve found them: brilliant uses for stacks of cardboard paper towel tubes, explorations of heat and light, and invitations to play with perspective and emotional engagement. But the crew has had different, more brilliant, more “exactly-what-they-needed” plans.
They have developed a play rhythm that is so tight and seamless, that the days can almost run without me. I continue to offer, but increasingly, my offerings are unwanted. The crew knows what they are doing, and while still need my support to enter and exit play successfully, negotiate over the use of materials, or offer hugs after a bump, they do not need me to tell them how or what to play.
Take today for example. I had ideas to repurpose our painted cardboard tubes into three-dimensional works of art. I’ve planned on doing this for several days now, but it just hasn’t seemed any bit more important than what was unfolding without my involvement.
There was the perfectly symmetric block tower that went up first thing this morning:
Or the baby hotel that appeared a little later:
Once the hotel opened, one child sensed a strong need for more dolls, so she went to design some that the other children could come and purchase at her store:
Then there was the musical play:
And the child who is “reading” to the other after a miscommunication caused a break in the relationship that needed tending:
And of course, we went outside on this gorgeous day and built a snowman:
And climbed a tree:
I’ll be honest – I am proud of how self-directed the Abundant Life crew is. And I’m proud to be working myself out of a job. That’s the goal, right? Children who know what they need, and can find paths to meet those needs? I believe passionately that open-ended, child-directed, play-based learning is the way to build lifelong skills, and their driven and focused play is a sign that what I know to be true is actually happening. While I’m waiting for an entry point for my fabulous cardboard sculptures, I stay present: offering materials when possible, extending the scripts when appropriate, and intervening when necessary.
Someday - maybe – I’ll show you pictures of the crew and their sculptures. And truly, if I’m that interested, I can make them myself.
For more reading on play-based learning, check out: