Category Archives: Dramatic Play

The Dishwasher

About eight years ago I replaced my old basic dishwasher with a fancy new one.  It  didn’t take long to find out that all those extra features also meant there were more things to break and the first ‘on warranty’ repair was made within a couple months.  Luckily I had also purchased the extended warranty because there were other necessary repairs after the original warranty ended.  The most severe one required a six week wait for parts.  Considering that I often run two full loads of dishes each day, six weeks is a really long time to go without a dishwasher.

Early this spring the old, no longer on warranty, dishwasher started making unusual noises and gave occasional error codes.  So, I decided to begin a search for a new dishwasher before the old one actually died.  It took a while to find one that met both my ‘features’ and ‘price’ criteria.  The old dishwasher kept working but it did get so loud that it was difficult to hear anything else on the main floor if the dishwasher was on.  Last weekend we finally installed the new one and with every load I find myself wondering ‘Is it working? The lights are on but I can’t hear anything.’  The dishes come out beautifully clean and sanitized so yes, it is working.

None of this really matters to the children except for one thing… a new dishwasher comes in a big box.  Cats like boxes too, but only when there are no children;

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This big box even has a window;

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All week, this has been the children’s favourite toy.  It has been a camper, cave, spaceship and more but no matter what it is being used as there is one common issue – it is always in need of some type of repair.

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Maybe I should have asked the boys to take a look at the old dishwasher.  The old one is still sitting in the porch – I’m trying to figure our if we can use any parts from it – after all, we haven’t got a dishwasher in our play kitchen…

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Robots

Lately the toddlers have been infatuated by robots.  Originally it was just one of the children but the others have caught on and now they incorporate robots – or at least the word ‘robot’ – in all their activities.

In one of my favourite observations the 2-year-old boys were bouncing about chanting “Ro-bot, ro-bot, ro-bot”.  They do this on and off all day, every day, indoors & out.  Sometimes the girls join in briefly but most often it is just the boys.  On this particular day the 2-year-old girl joined in as a “robot butterfly”.

As the boys bounced around chanting, the girl ‘floated’ around gently waving her arms and whispering “robot butterfly, robot ballerina butterfly”.  It was beautiful – mesmerizing – I couldn’t stop watching.  Even the boys stopped briefly and stared.  They looked at each other and then continued bouncing around the room madly waving their arms a shouting “ROBOT BUTTERFLY”.  There were no ballerinas in their description.

The robots are not limited to active play.  There are musical robots and cooking robots and animal robots too.  Almost everything they build is at some point called a robot even if it starts out as a tower or a house…

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Last week they started using the shopping baskets as robot helmets. The basket is placed upside down over someone’s head and the handle is used as a chin strap.  It is interesting because this has been done by many other children throughout my 18 years in childcare (the baskets are more than 20 years old & originally belonged to my own children).  I’ve never suggested that they could be helmets and often there is a lapse between one group of ‘robot children’ and the next so the helmet idea is not passed on as a ‘learned’ activity.

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Yesterday I gave the toddlers some foam shapes and let them design their own robots;

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These are their finished creations;

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I think there may be some robot engineers in this group of toddlers 🙂

Nature Area Mini Scenes

The major portion of our most recent playroom renovation took place back in April – read about it here.

There were some smaller projects – both indoors and out – that I planned to work on as time permitted throughout the spring and summer. One of these was the mini-scenes in the nature area. They were originally built back in November of 2011 (wow, doesn’t seem like it was that long ago).

Last year I wrote a post about how the children were using – or rather NOT using – the mini scenes. That post is here.

The original mini scenes were created using scrap lumber and was attached directly to the wall. The decorations also were attached to or painted on the wall and shelves. This made it difficult for me to modify or repair them when necessary.

Last winter we decided we needed to put a heater in the nature area because it does get cold in there. In order to put the heater under the window we would have to move the shelves – perfect time to rebuild them.

This time I planned to build free standing shelf units that, although they are attached to the wall for stability, can be moved. The decorations are now attached to panels that fit in the shelves. This way we can change the mini scenes panels later without taking the whole unit apart.

The new scenes are slightly larger than the old ones and the heater separates the ‘indoor’ house section from the ‘outdoor’ scenes. It is impossible to get all of the nature area in one photo but this is an overhead view of the new nature area – it shows the shelves and the floor space but not any of the trees;

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The ‘bridge over the river’ is also the stool the toddlers use to look out the window. My daughter sewed the felt logs and fire for me – I don’t like sewing but that is another post.

These are closer shots of the shelves – ‘The Forest’, ‘The Meadow/Garden’, and ‘The Beach’;

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‘The 2nd Forest’ (would be the jungle if I had other decorations), the ‘Winter’ scene, and the ‘Underwater’ scene;

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The house scenes are still a work in progress. I started decorating but there is some more furniture I want to make and I want to add a bathroom too – bathrooms are the children’s favorite rooms;

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I will be adding some windows and other decorations – winter projects. I considered cutting a whole in the back of the kitchen shelf because the ‘real’ window is directly behind this shelf so there could be a ‘real’ view from the dollhouse kitchen window. My husband muttered some comment about a ‘sickness’ that he thinks I have…I’ll just paint the kitchen window like I was planning to do in the other rooms.

The new scenes have been very popular. When we are inside there are always children playing here. There are many different toys the children can use here but they particularly like the dolls I recently purchased from Quality Classrooms;

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It has been difficult to take pictures of the children playing here because it is a small space for the six or seven children that like to congregate here. I’ll keep trying. I’ll also post some more pictures when I have added more decorations and furniture. As usual it will never be ‘finished’ but it will continue to evolve like all our other spaces.

The Store

We’ve had a covered seating area in the yard for several years. It was originally built to cover the BBQ and benches were added later after we no longer used it for the BBQ. Over the years the configuration of the benches and the position of the entire structure has changed.

Most recently we moved the benches to one long side and added a fold-out table to the other long side by the storage box. Both ends are open and the decking provides a bridge-like walkway from the grass area to the gravel area.

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This summer the children have decided that this area is ‘The Store’.

Every day ‘customers’ line up in the grass area by the ‘counter’ and a ‘store clerk’ stands on the walkway and gives the customers the items that they request.  The items are always imaginary and the clerk sometimes has to search on/under the benches for quite a while before finding just the right items.

Often the customers are very specific when placing their orders.  “I would like a small green rubber ball with yellow stripes and pink dots.”  The clerk cannot always find the exact item but will offer substitutions. “I can’t find one with pink dots but this one has yellow stripes and purple dots.  Is that OK?”

This store is a magical place carrying almost anything you can imagine.  One of the favorite items is ‘A hamster…in a cage.’  The customer placing that order always pauses briefly before adding the cage as if they are not certain if they want/need the cage too.

Yesterday there were three children playing in the store.  The three-year-old was the clerk and the two almost-two-year-old children were the customers.  The clerk asked ‘What would you like?’ and one toddler replied ‘Apple’ so the clerk handed over an imaginary apple.  The other toddler held out her hand and asked for an apple too.  The clerk said ‘Sorry, no more apples today.  The store is closed.’ and she walked away. 

That was how the riot began.  Two toddlers screaming at each other, pushing and grabbing an invisible apple from the others hand.  I tried to offer them another apple……

Silence….

The two toddlers looked at me.  They turned and looked at each other and then looked at me again.  They seemed confused. ‘Who is this crazy person and does she really think there is an apple in her hand?  Does she realize that we see only air?  Back away slowly and maybe she will not follow us.’  

United they retreat to the other side of the yard, whispering to each other and looking over at me.  I’m standing alone at the store – wondering what is wrong with my apple….I thought it was a perfectly wonderful apple…. 

Rockets

For many years there had been rockets in the playroom.  I don’t think I have ever had an actual toy rocket but the children have built rockets to play with.  Their preferred rocket building materials don’t come from the block bin.  They use items from the housekeeping area.

There hasn’t been any ‘rocket’ play for the past year so I looked for an old picture of the children engaged in this activity.  I have nearly 4500 childcare photos on my computer so this proved to be a time consuming task.  The only one I could find before I gave up was this one;

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I don’t remember which child originally discovered that those cups fit perfectly on those bottles – it was so very long ago.  It has been an ongoing activity passed on through several groups of children over the years.  There has always been one problem and you might be able to guess it if you look at the above photo (hint: how many cups vs how many bottles).

If only one child was playing then all three cups would be put on one bottle – like the shaker in the first photo.  If two (or more) children wanted to play and have ‘rocket races’ then this would happen;

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Seriously, they would never agree to only use one cup on each bottle and put the third cup away.   There was always one rocket that was bigger, and more powerful, that the other.  Some days I dreaded the rocket races.

The rocket play has fizzled out over the last year.  The older children have not passed the game on to the young group I currently have.  Yet, earlier this week the baby of the group did something that was very, very interesting.  Take a look;

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I didn’t manage to get them all in the photo but there are three of those milk jugs.  Three jugs, three cups, three rockets that have yet to lift off.  Impressive.  The others haven’t noticed yet, but there are four toddlers….

 

Traditions & Giving

There’s just one more week until Christmas.  It’s not my favourite holiday – I find the overindulgence to be off putting.  Yes, there are some traditions that I enjoy but I’m more of a ‘if you want to’ as opposed to ‘you must do this’ type of person.

Traditions – the handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs, information, etc., from generation to generation, especially by word of mouth or by practice – are often viewed as requirements.  When it becomes compulsory to participate the enjoyment is sometimes lost.

Personally I love Christmas music and I would enjoy listening to it all year round but I don’t (when other people are around) because I respect that not everyone wants to.  I also enjoy some aspects of Christmas decorations but I prefer ‘simple’ over ‘extravagant’.

Every year my step-grandmother used to make Christmas tree ornaments for each of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  I have many more ornaments than I could ever use on any tree even if I did put one up especially for the Christmas season.  I do use some of these ornaments to decorate the tree in the nature area.

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My mother briefly continued this tradition with my own children but many of these ornaments were very fragile and didn’t often get displayed.  Last week I found this unconventional tree at Ikea and thought it was perfect for these ornaments. Yes, I continued to defy tradition and hung this ‘tree’ from the ceiling – because I have toddlers, cats, and no extra floor/table space.

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This year I am including a Christmas decoration in the gift bags that I will give to the children.  I plan on doing this every year from now on.  This year I purchased the ornaments but in the future I hope to make some.  I also wanted to have some type of free play Christmas activity available for the children so I placed these little gift bags on the shelf.

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I gave no directions, I just waited and watched.  Of course the infants’ favourite thing to do is fill the bags with various items – they’ll do this with any container.

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The older children immediately chose to ‘go shopping’.

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There were some sorting games where they tried to place specific coloured items in the bags. They also used the bags for ‘hide & seek’ and guessing games.  It took a couple days but eventually they began to exchange ‘gifts’.

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I love it when giving is a choice not a obligation.

A Lesson in Infant Development

It was 6:40 am and three children – aged 6, 7, and 9 – were in attendance. They were discussing activity options in an effort to find one that they all agreed on.  Much of the discussion centered on competition and power.  These three do not like to play independently but they all want to be the leader in group activities.

They ruled out dinosaurs because they couldn’t agree on who would control the strongest dinosaurs.  They briefly played with cars but there was a disagreement about which vehicle was the fastest.  I tried to explain that it didn’t matter what speed the vehicle was capable of because none of them would be allowed to drive over the speed limit I had set.  They just stared at me and then decided to switch to another activity instead.

No puppet show, no music band, no restaurant, no crafts.  It was beginning to look like they would never agree on one activity and then someone suggested ‘Let’s play Babies’ and there was a unanimous cheer – well, almost unanimous, I cringed and tried to look busy with other work.  If you want to know why ‘Playing Babies’ makes me shudder you can read about it here.

Once the ’parent’ role was assigned they began to negotiate the age of the babies in the game.  When they play this game they consider the power role to be the youngest of the babies – probably because they think that excuses them from more rules and therefore they can be more disruptive.  Sigh.

They decided the babies were both one month old and as the parent was attempting to care for them the babies were crawling around and fighting.  I intervened.

“You can’t do that” I said

“Can’t do what?” they asked

“Crawl, sit, argue, throw things – pretty much anything”

“Why?”

“You said you were only one month old and a one month old baby can’t do any of that stuff”

“What can they do?”

I printed off an infant development chart like the one here.  They read the list for the first month and the ‘babies’ tried to imitate each item. Their favourite was ‘Strong grasp reflex present’ the parent almost couldn’t escape.

The babies were now two months old and were practicing lifting their heads to 45 degrees when lying on stomach.  They began making noises other than crying and their cries became more distinctive.  The parent lamented “I can’t wait until this crying stage is over”.

Through my tears (from laughter) I informed them that it was time to get ready for school.  Playing Babies will have to continue later.  Maybe I don’t find this game so annoying anymore. 🙂