Last week we took many trips to the playground… nothing new there, we are regulars! But, rather than simply go to the playground, we treated it as our school experience. This is a play-based curriculum; one of the things that as a teacher in a play-based preschool I learned that curriculum planning is largely about teacher preparation, rather than about worrying what exactly the kids are doing at every moment. We create situations that invite children to learn, we observe their interactions with each other, adults and the environment, and we respond accordingly. I’ll reflect more thoroughly on our experiences later this week, but I will say now that our trips to the playground last week were a significant learning experience for me. B played, as always… but I was much more engaged in observing her and noticing her interests and learning; I was relatively surprised by what I saw!
This week we’ll continue to explore the playground but with a new focus. We live in a busy urban area where playgrounds are usually filled with kids. The books we read this week will focus on friendship and interacting with other children. During our time at the playground, we’ll set up conditions that encourage socialization (more about that below) and I’ll focus my observations on noticing how B socializes with her peers.
Fox Makes Friends by Adam Relf
This is a longtime favorite of mine! As a preschool teacher, I often used it in the first few weeks of school to open conversation about how we make friends. It’s part of our personal collection and B and I have read it together before, but I’m excited to introduce it to her in the context of our school experience.
In this book, Fox is lonely and wants to “catch” a friend. His mom explains that friends aren’t caught, they’re made. Fox then sets out to “make” a friend using sticks, apples, and other found items. Preschoolers – of course – catch on to the absurdity of Fox’s misunderstanding immediately! However, in a fun twist, he does finally make friends as other forest creatures join him and begin to help him in his quest. This book effortlessly leads into a conversation about how we can make friends by doing things together and helping one another!
Swimmy by Leo Lionni
This is a classic text about a little fish who finds himself all alone in the big ocean. He swims through the ocean where he sees a variety of sea creatures. Finally, he finds a school of fish who are just his size. They’re worried about the bigger fish in the ocean so they work together and form a plan to explore the world together.
Please Play Safe: Penguin’s Guide to Playground Safety by Margery Cuyler
After my mixed feelings about this book last week, I’m going to go ahead and suggest it again. I’ll mention again, that I don’t necessarily agree with all of the “rules” described in this book. However, as we’re revisiting the playground, I believe continued discussion of rules and how to play safe is appropriate. As we discuss this time, I intend to focus on how rules might help us to play with others safely. For example, while I’m ok with climbing up slides, it’s important that we always check first to make sure no one else is coming down the slide.
Plan playground activities to share: It’s a general guideline in our family that we only bring toys to the playground we’re comfortable sharing with others; the parks in our neighborhood are bustling and there are almost always kids interested in novel toys that find their way to the playground. This week, we’ll use that reality to our advantage by bringing toys that are easily shared by multiple children. Some that I have in mind are a jump rope, bubbles (we have a no spill container with 3 wands), several matchbox cars, and buckets and shovels. I’d love to hear other ideas for easily shared toys – leave your ideas in the comments J.
Play a favorite game with a new friend: Last week I introduced B to the game tag. She also enjoys playing hide and seek and ring-around-the-rosie. We’ll talk about how these types of games are a good way to play with other kids. We’ll also consider how we might follow Fox’s lead and make something with friends, perhaps castles in a sandbox?
Notes about your child’s learning:
Early social learning is largely about learning to navigate various social situations. What are the norms in your family? …in various community places, such as the grocery store? …and, of course, when interacting with peers? Children are remarkably good at working together to establish rules and expectations while playing. Supervision from adults to keep everyone safe is important but letting them work out what to play and how to play it is equally important. This week, B and I will talk about suggesting games to friends on the playground, but if that’s not of interest to B or her peer group, I’ll simply observe as they figure out how they would like to play. Following rules established in collaboration with peers is also learning to work well in a group and in society as a whole.
One of the materials I plan to bring to the park this week is matchbox cars. Honestly, these are a staple in my diaper bag (Mom bag? What do we call that now that we’re done with diapers? It’s still MUCH bigger than a purse…). Anyway, matchbox cars are inexpensive, small, lightweight, and fun in a variety of situations. Anytime we take them out, kids are drawn to them, and they’re easy to share! At the park, a favorite activity is sending them down slides and ramps. Beginning physics… it’s in the bag!
As noted last week, a trip to the playground also includes literacy, math and motor development. Please see my notes in that post for ideas about how to promote each, and keep in mind that repetition supports learning. If your child enjoyed last weeks activities, feel free to continue or repeat them this week!