Thursday, November 17, 2011

"I Made A Teeter Totter"

Once more, this is how to play.

One of us, several weeks ago, dragged a long plank out of the sand pit and positioned it along one side of the concrete slide. Some of us tried climbing up that way, but it just made it more difficult than before. A few of us tried sliding down it, which made it faster. A few days ago, a different person took it down and left it atop the backfill of wood chips we piled at the bottom of our big incline in order to shorten the slope. On Monday, yet another person put the plank across the balance beam and gave it a good tipping back and forth with her hand.

"I made a teeter totter."

She sat on one end. I said, loudly enough for others to hear, "We have a teeter totter."

Someone asked, "Teeter totter?" I answered, "See saw."

First one, then two, then three friends joined her. We messed around with where our bodies ought to be and how to use our legs to get it going.

We did it for awhile, then we were done.

Afterwards, I asked several of the kids, "Were you playing?" They all answered, "Yes."

On Wednesday, I pursued the question further with other children, asking Jody, "What is playing?" 

"It's when you run around and stuff."

Sasha answered, "It's when you make things and do things." I followed up, "Is doing puzzles playing?" She answered, "Yes, of course," as if I'd become too silly for her time.

Siena said, "It's when you play dress-up."

And Violet added, "It's when you play with your friends."

I tried to sum things up, "So playing is running around, making stuff, playing dress-up, and playing with your friends." They all nodded, although Sasha added, "And doing puzzles."

When the 2-year-olds discovered the teeter totter on the following day, they didn't at first think to sit on it. Instead they tried walking across it. There was a lot of falling down, especially as the child providing a counter balance would suddenly step off, or when one of us experimented by jumping up and down while standing on it. None of us got hurt. Most of us got right back on.

It was tempting to intervene, but I didn't, instead letting them figure out what the intriguing new toy would do.

Eventually, when the walking across craze had burned itself out, a few of them had the idea of sitting.

Then someone wanted to use the balance beam to play stories.

(This post was inspired by by Alfie Kohn's essay that recently appeared in the Washington Post, in which several intelligent adults attempt to define play. Thanks to the wonderful Sherry and Donna from Irresistible Ideas For Play Based Learning for bringing it to my attention.)

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1 comment:

Amanda said...

I love watching kids work through something new. It's always fun to see what they come up with! Sometimes I think play is just too big of a word to define. I hope you'll join me for 31 Days of Play in December at where I'll be trying to define play and have lots of fun along the way!

Thanks for what you do.