I have far more toys than our play space could contain so I rotate the toys in and out of the room regularly. I generally don’t tell the children about the changes because the ‘Hey, look what I found’ reactions are one of the highlights of my day.
Certainly it is noticeable when I put away the blocks and put the train set in the basket instead or replace the farm animals with some from the jungle. However, some of the changes are more subtle – the square I found at the hardware store and placed in the tool belt or the empty container from yesterday’s snack that is now on the shelf in the housekeeping area.
More interesting than the children’s initial reaction is the way the new discovery can change an old game. Such was the case this week when the children found the new book. Actually, it is not that new – the weekly planner book was donated by one of the parents and has been sitting on the shelf with the cookbooks and photo album for a couple weeks already but no one had noticed it.
When they did, everything changed. It is amazing how one small item can have such a major impact on the group. Cooking and serving food is a popular dramatic play activity here and often involves packing lunches and heading off to school/work – an activity they are all familiar with.
With the addition of the new book there was no “I want it first” or “when is it my turn” like there sometimes is when a new ‘one-of-a-kind’ item is added. Instead, it was as if the entire group of eight children suddenly had the same idea. With a ten year difference between the oldest and the youngest this is an amazing occurrence.
The book was the resource that connected all the intricate details of their new restaurant. Some children quickly donned dress-up clothes and phoned to make dining reservations. Others began planning the menu and cooking meals.
Along the way there were several imaginary incidents – a broken pipe, a kitchen fire. A quick change restaurant patron was suddenly a plumber or a firefighter. They even had an organized escape plan to get everyone out of the restaurant safely!
All I did was add a book and sit back to wait and watch. The best days are the ones when they don’t really need me at all.