I spy is a popular activity for the preschoolers that I currently have in care. The school-age children are not as enamoured. You see, it is not that the school-age children do not like the game – but rather, they don’t like the way the preschoolers play it.
My current group of preschoolers range in age from 2 to 5 and most have been with me since before their first birthday. For these children I Spy originated as an activity initiated – and controlled by – two school-age children who dictated every aspect of the game ensuring that everyone followed the ‘correct’ rules. Most often the preschoolers were simply props in the older children’s game.
The first time I heard the preschool children engage in an I Spy game on their own was last spring. We were in the van on the way to a field trip and the school-age children were not with us. I was concentrating on driving so although I could hear the children in the seats behind me I was not involved in their activity.
When the game first started I anticipated some disagreements since the children were ‘spying’ objects outside the moving vehicle and the other children were guessing objects they could currently see and the original object was far behind us.
As the game evolved I noticed that the children didn’t always describe their chosen object by color – sometimes it was shape or use or ‘starts with’ a specific sound. The ‘correct’ answer really seemed irrelevant to the game – their focus seemed to be the turn taking and I was engrossed.
Essentially, one child would start by saying “I spy with my little eye something that is/starts with…” and then each other child would guess one or two objects. Sometimes the guesses were related to the clue, other times they seemed to be random objects. One child in particular always guessed ‘a dragon’ – this was also the correct answer when it was her turn to provide the clues yet none of the other children ever guessed it and I resisted the urge to do so.
After everyone had a chance to guess the answer was provided and another child was chosen to give the clue. Everyone was involved even the youngest who’s “I, My, Boo” received many giggles as well as guesses. The game continued until we reached our destination.
To this day, every time this group has to wait someone will invariably say “Let’s play I Spy”. Whether they are waiting for lunch to be served, waiting for circle to begin or waiting for everyone to finishing dressing for outdoor time ‘I Spy’ is their solution to pass the time. Recently, while waiting for the other children to arrive for circle the conversation went like this;
- 2 yo – I spy with my eye something green
- 3 yo – That? The orange thing over there (pointing)?
- 2 yo – No,
- 3 yo – OK, my turn. I Spy something that is yellow.
- 2 yo – TV? Book? My Mom? (giggling)
When they are present the school-age children want to intervene and correct the game – this is where I intercede. I point out to them the turn taking, the equal opportunity, the conversation, cooperation and developing social skills.
The older children are learning too. Learning to stop, watch and listen before making assumptions. Learning isn’t all about having the correct answer.