Tag Archives: play

Point of View

A new year has begun.  My mini vacation has come to an end and I sit here reflecting on what I have – or have not – accomplished during this time.

This year, because Christmas and New Year’s Day both fell on Tuesday’s I took the Monday’s as unpaid holidays which gave me a five day weekend and a four day weekend with only two working days in between.  That meant that out of eleven consecutive days I had nine days off – a mini vacation.

Now, anyone who knows me well will ask “What major project did you tackle with all that time off?”  It’s true that even with a three day weekend I usually have some type of grandiose plan to build or renovate something.  With nine days off I should have managed to complete a lot.

It is with some consternation that I now look back on my mini vacation and think ‘I should have done more’.  The one ‘big’ project I undertook really only took two days to complete so in fact it could have been done on any normal weekend.

Yes, I did also do a ton of laundry and some other housework.  I did reorganize the storage area in the basement.  I did spend time with my family. I even – and this is difficult for me to admit – I even slept in until 9:30 am – twice. Seriously!!

I struggle to resist the urge to say that I wasted precious time – to start listing all the things that I didn’t do.  To agonize about all the things I could have/should have done with that much time off.

The one big project I undertook was to reorganize my ‘office’ workspace.  I cleared out much of the miscellaneous stuff that was stored under and on top of my desk.  The desk and storage area were disassembled and rebuilt.

My new desk is smaller – less room for odds and ends to accumulate on top of it.  Instead of facing the corner my desk now faces the playroom.  Turning the desk and making it smaller gives the children more open floor space in which to play – that was my objective when I planned this project.

Yet, turning my desk also gives me a different point of view.  My desk no longer covers my piano – hiding it from view.  My piano and the window are now visible from my seat at the desk – both distract me from my paperwork.  I spent less than one hour on paperwork during the nine days that I had off.

I played my piano more during this last week than I did in all of the first 51 weeks of 2012 combined.  One of the children notice the piano and asked if I got it for Christmas.  No, I’ve had it for a long time but it has been buried under paperwork.

Certainly I enjoy the building and renovating and I think that gardening and yard work are enjoyable activities too – they are forms of productive play.  I don’t even really mind doing housework.  It is unproductive time that causes me grief.

I don’t usually make New Year’s resolutions but this year I think I will.  This year I will try to not feel so guilty about ‘wasting’ time.  I’m going to look at it from a different perspective.  I’m going to take a deep breath and say ‘sometimes it is OK to spend time on things that don’t produce a tangible result – it is not a waste of time’.

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. 🙂

Back to Work

The first week back to work after vacation was very busy.  There have been some periods of adjustment but I think we’re settling into a good routine.  I’ve already written about a few of our activities like the Reno Boxes and the Rona Parts but here is a short recap of the rest of the week.

A mini project from my vacation was the addition of the cat loft.  Mali likes the view from above as the children call her name and wave;

My goal was really just to get the cats’ beds out of the hallway but the cats are thrilled to have a new retreat to relax in;

One of the children made a roller coaster for the toy bugs in the playroom — Mali loved that too, purrr.  I think she missed having the children here to play with.

We had a full day of water activities with five different water stations.  This was the most popular one according to the younger children;

They were making coffee.  The older children preferred the boat locks – experimenting with using the pump to raise and lower the water level to get the boats to their destination.

But by far the favorite activity this week has been watching the leaf cutter bees;

There are two of them that have been diligently working to line their nest with leaves in preparation to lay their eggs.  I believe they are supposed to be solitary bees but both of them have chosen the same crack in a log;

The children have been very observant and have discovered which leaves in the yard are the ones that the bees like best;

And some of them decided to help out by building a ‘bee hive’;

 

The (W)hole Project

It started last week.  The preschoolers were in the yard contemplating what to do.  One of them suggested “Let’s dig a hole”.

This is certainly not a new activity; they’ve done it many times before.  It may seem like a simple task but it is not.  As the hole gets deeper the process becomes more complex. Each child has a role – scooping, filling, transporting, or dumping the gravel – all working together.  They have to be careful as they walk – too close to the hole and they may cause an avalanche of gravel that fills the hole.

The most interesting aspect of the project on this occasion was the amount of time they spent on the activity – almost a week.  Work was not continuous. Some days they worked for only a few minutes at a time before switching to another activity.  Then suddenly one of them would have an idea for the hole project and they would all rush back to it.

It took several days and each day when we went in the children asked if they could leave the hole ‘out’ for the next day.  Of course they could.  The first thing they did each day when we went out was to check if the hole was still there.  Then they’d decide if they were going to work on it or do something else.

Occasionally there were debates about the purpose of the hole. Someone suggested that they were digging for ‘electricity’.  “How will we know when we find it?”  One child asked.  Another responded “When we find the plug”.  🙂 Then they discussed how exciting it would be if they were the ones who ‘discovered electricity’. “Imagine if little children did something like that – they’d write a newspaper story about us.”

They added pipes because ‘there are always pipes in holes’.  Later they poured in some water which flowed directly into the gravel – that didn’t bother them since containing the water wasn’t the goal either.

 

They reached the landscape fabric and decided to expose as much of it as possible – and then they needed a bridge to cover the fabric at the bottom of the hole.

They tested the structure;

Then suddenly they put all the stuff away and filled in the hole.  For over a week they had been working on this project and now these photos are the only evidence that is left.  The ‘product’ was never their goal, it was the process. Collaboration, communication, problem solving, cooperation, innovation, imagination – all part of the process.

Indoors or Out

We’ve had some crazy weather recently.  Some days the temperature has been above zero but within days it is back to a frigid -30C. We’ve even had days where my sheltered back yard has been whipped by wind.

This weather has resulted in the daily dilemma — ‘Should we stay indoors or go out to play?’  Actually, the question really is how long we should stay out since only once have I decided we should not go out at all.  Some days we’ve only been outside for 10 or 15 minutes but usually it is much longer.

The cats seem to think they’d like to go out;

But that’s really only because they want the neighbours ‘pets’;

When the children and I are inside we work on projects like these sun catchers;

Outdoors we’ve made cakes;

I love the ‘fire’ that the children make — they sit here to ‘warm up’

Their biggest complaint is the lack of snow.  They spend a great deal of time relocating the little snow we do have to the area of the yard they want to play in;

Indoors or out — working together and having fun.

Laying a Foundation

There has been some amazing development around here.  The children have been busy building more than just towers. The addition of the wood scraps and other loose parts have enabled the children to create some really impressive structures.

They’ve been laying foundations. Like piers for bridges;

Solid footings for buildings;

Able to support traffic;

Additional design elements;

Incorporating different sizes and shapes;

Experimenting with angles and viewpoints;

Amazing architecture;

Creativity and imagination;

To build foundations and develop skills for problem solving, colaborating, communicating, calculating and so much more.

 

The Rope

Today I planned to write about some of the changes that I made to our learning environment during my vacation but when I checked through the pictures on my camera I realized that there were still a bunch of pictures from the last week before my vacation.  So, before I forget again, here’s the story of the rope…

My nearly 17 year old son has been enamoured by the Wilderness Survival book we bought and has been practicing various knots.  He joined us outside one day and showed the children how to measure distance using a rope with knots tied at one foot intervals;

Then the children asked him to tie the rope to one of the logs — they had a plan;

The log was on one side of the yard;

And they stood on the other side — and working together they pulled really hard;

And successfully tipped over the log;

But what were they looking for?

Aha! The prize;