During our outdoor play time one of the children built an interesting structure. When I asked what it was she replied “A fire” The other children had been playing a follow-the-leader/obstacle course game and asked her if they could use her ‘fire’ to set off their ‘fireworks’. She agreed so they built an extension to channel the fire to the fireworks station.
The obstacle course was redesigned — over the balance beam, across the walkway, jump on and off the log, and complete a circle on the stepping stones. One by one they tried the course while the spectators watched from the log seats.
After each successfully completed course the imaginary fireworks were triggered and the audience applauded. They adapted the course for the age and skill level of the participant. The baby didn’t have to complete the whole course without touching the gravel area as the others had to. If the course was too easy for some they had to complete more laps in order to trigger the fireworks. Bonus fireworks were awarded for doing spins or fancy tricks along the way.
This is the power of free play. An independent building project evolved into gross motor activity that enhanced social skills and creativity for the whole group. It was better than anything I could have planned.
Our outdoor play space contains a wide variety of loose parts. Some items have been donated by parents, some are found items, and others are leftover pieces from various projects. Whatever they were before it’s always interesting to see what the children can do with them.
Sometimes the children work independently, other times the whole group is involved. Often there is an intricate story behind their creations.
This was a shed on the side of the roadway:
These were part of and elaborate zoo:
And here they are going on a camping trip. Most of the group is waiting in the car but some are hooking up the trailer.
which is on the other side of the yard….
Today all the children aged 3-12 were digging holes in the pea gravel to see how deep they could make them. As they were digging many of them were also collecting rocks that they found interesting or unique. Two of the girls decided to use the hole they had made to create an “underground church” and recruited the others to collect the supplies they would need. They began by using sticks to reinforce the edges of the hole.
Suddenly, one of the girls realized that she had misplaced her “pretty rock” and the whole group stopped construction and began searching for it. As she provided details about the size, shape and color of the prized rock the other continued to scour the 350 square foot area of pea gravel without any thought to the chances of finding the correct one. Their optimism was amazing and their efforts paid off when they located the “smooth rock that looked like a broken sea shell”.
They now returned to complete construction of the church. They assigned roles including “architect”, “designer”, and “supplier”. They put a sturdy roof on the hole and added steps, decorations, and fancy stonework until an hour later they completed their project.
As they admired their work and asked me to take a group photo I heard “Hey, where’s my rock?”….