Saturday, October 08, 2011

"I Want To Learn How To Play"

Yesterday, I was talking to Audrey. She's two-years-old and has known me her entire life. In fact, she first started coming to Woodland Park in utero with her older sister Ella. She has always treated me as a trusted familiar, comfortable, clambering onto my lap, already an accomplished conversationalist.

We were in the outdoor classroom. I was sitting on the log staircase that leads from the lower sandpit to the upper. Audrey stood beside me. I want you to know that this conversation was broken up constantly by interruptions from other children wanting to get my attention, so you're getting it with those edited out.

Me: "I'm just sitting around."

Audrey, after a pause: "I'm just standing around."

I then went through the laundry list, narrating everything I saw around me: "Mason is digging around," "Liam is balancing around," "River is running around," and so on. Then I blathered out, "I want to learn how to play. Can you teach me?"

Audrey seemed, for once, at a loss for words. She was thinking about the question. I try to stay focused on being silent after I ask young children questions, even semi-serious accidental ones. Unlike most adults, they actually take time to think about their answers and that often means waiting for a response, at least if you want an honest answer. If you're only looking for the "right" answer, it's fairly easy to gently badger a child into it, but I'm not interested in doing that.

Finally, she answered, "You throw things."

"Hey, I'm gonna try that." I picked up a plastic snake that Grace had brought to me. I said, "I'll throw the snake into the bucket." I threw the snake at a bucket several feet away and missed.

"No, Teacher Tom, you have to throw something up."

I picked up small pine cone, "I could throw this," and proceeded to toss it into the air and catch it. I said, "Look! I caught it!" showing it to her. I did this two more times.

She took the pine cone from me. "No, you have to throw it like this!" She threw the pine cone into the air and let it fall to the ground somewhere behind her.

I asked, "Is that playing?"

Audrey answered, "Yes."

"That was fun. You really know how to play. Who taught you how to play?" 

I waited while she thought. Finally, she shrugged, "Ella taught me."

"Ella knows how to play."


I said, "Thank you for teaching me."

She answered, "Yes."

That's when Liam approached, toy dinosaur in hand, "Let's play a story."

Audrey and I said together, "Okay."

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Let the Children Play said...

One of the things I remember learning at Uni was to wait for a child to answer a question - the wait can seem like ages and it is just so easy to jump on in with a prompt or another question. I still have to remind myself to shut my mouth and wait.

Deborah said...

I love how you patiently wait for a response. And what a thoughtful set of answers you received. I love it Tom - this post would be a wonderful book idea for children (and adults) to read.

CK said...

Wow! I am a new teacher. Glad to see this post because I do this kind of stuff with my early years children. Thrilled to know that what I was doing instinctly is a good approach. Thanks for sharing.

mel said...

too true...and what a wonderfully insightful response!

The Knitty Gritty Homestead said...

Yes, to Deborah's could write wonderful teaching books and/or children's stories! A Teacher Tom series. Then it would become a TV series, Disney would buy rights, you'd be played by Brad Pitt, then would come the happy meal toys and action figures...imagine! Haw haw. I'm kidding of course. But what a beautiful moment, and wonderful for you to have this written account of it.

Kristin said...

Hi Tom,
Thanks for such an inspiring and exciting blog. Your ideas are amazing! I am the Outdoor Curriculum Coordinator at our school and I am always looking for ways to shake up some fun. We will be working with pendulums next week as I was totally intrigued by your post a few days ago!

We are having a bit of a debate at our school. I've posted it on my blog. Perhaps you could offer your comments? Thanks!

Unknown said...

I enjoy playing with my kids and guess what I learned - great imaginations - something that only kids can naturally do with their young minds. It great and feel refreshing to play with your kids.

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