Tag Archives: Unstructured play

A Compilation

Every once in a while I find I have collected a few photos from activities that don’t become a blog post on their own but I’d still like to share them.  These are a few from the past month;

This was the result of nearly an hour of independent play after we got past the ‘There’s nobody else here to play with me’ stage;

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Here is a picture of a cooperative game these two enjoyed;

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I thought this was a pretty amazing tower built by a three-year-old;

 

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And this two-year-old sorted these blocks like this several times, every day for more than a week!

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Finally, this was something I made to use some extra acorn squash.  It was definitely not my favourite squash dish but it had the preschoolers clamoring for more.

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  • 3 cups acorn squash, cubed
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 Tbsp margarine, melted
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon

Mix all ingredients together and place in a greased baking dish. Bake, covered, in preheated 375 F (190 C) oven for 30 minutes; uncover and bake for another 20 minutes or until squash is tender.

 

Variety

Sometimes I feel like I should be writing more posts.  I reflect on why I haven’t been writing.  Have I been too busy? It doesn’t always take long to write a post but if I haven’t got a solid hour of time to commit to it I usually don’t start.

Lack of inspiration?  There is always some type of activity or a change that I have made to our play space but sometimes I hesitate to write about it – again.  Maybe I’ve written about a similar activity with a different group of children.  Also, I make so many changes to our environment sometimes I wonder if readers get tired of hearing about them all.

Mostly, I think it is a matter of ‘not enough’ for a full post.  A cute story, exciting activity or pictures for which the description is just missing something.  Sometimes I just can’t explain in a post what was going on and why I thought it was interesting.

Today I simply have a few photos that I want to share along with just a sentence or two – not enough for a full post for each but things I like.  A small variety of pictures such as this one of the toddlers using twigs to go ‘fishing’ in the snow;

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And this one I took when all five of the little ones spontaneously decided to cozy up on the step together and read books;

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And when I brought out the sensory bin with sweet grass, dried herbs, and animals etc  and as the children played the 3 year old stopped briefly, closed her eyes and said “Oh Cheryl, I love it – it smells like your garden.”

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Yes, I love that too. 🙂

Favourite Things

I always find it interesting when an old favourite toy from the play room becomes popular with a new group of children. Many of the toys once belonged to my own children and are no longer available in stores.  There are no commercials on TV to entice the children to want to play with these toys.

With a mixed age group in Family Childcare often the younger children develop a preference for certain toys based on their observations of the older children at play – a learned behaviour.  The younger children use the toys the same way the older children use the toys.  The toy itself is not necessarily the attraction – the younger children just want to be with/like the older ones.

There are some items that one or two children may love but others never show much interest in.  Of course, there are often items that are popular simply because someone else wants it.  These items are rarely actually ever played with – just hoarded for the sole purpose of being in control.

Some toys are loved by many of the children – different groups, various ages, over long periods of time.  These are the toys that interest me the most.  Why are they so popular?  One such toy is this little set of 25 year old blocks;

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Every time the Duplo/Mega blocks are out in the play room there will be at least one child in the group who will choose these nine little blocks every time they enter the room.  Of all the blocks in the bin the child/children prefer these ones.  Sometimes just one particular one – like ‘the puppy’ – which is the current favorite for this toddler.

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Yet many children have never even attempted to put the blocks together create the characters.  They don’t seem to care or even notice that there are three feet blocks, three body blocks and three head blocks that together can form 12 different characters.  Yet, of all the blocks in the bin these nine are almost always chosen first.  Some children never even play with any of the other blocks – just the white ones or none.

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There are other people/animal toys in the block bin and other areas in the room but they are not as popular.  There are other ‘rare’ blocks – there are only a few black or purple blocks compared to the plentiful red, yellow, blue or green ones yet only the occasional child will specifically seek out the other rare ones. There are other puzzle/matching toys throughout the playroom – they don’t engage any of the children the way these nine little white blocks do.

I regularly rotate the toys in and out of the playroom.  Two of the children in my current preschool group have never seen these blocks before and have not been influenced by the older children yet they still choose the little white blocks first.  Why?

I may never know the reason these toys are so popular.  There may be a different reason for each child.  I do know that I will continue to enjoy observing the children as they explore and make discoveries.  I will continue to wonder why.  I will continue to be amazed.

Summer Holidays

So, today is the last day before my ‘holiday’ begins.  As usual I have a HUGE list of projects to complete this summer.  Some of them are smaller projects that will be done on weekends.

The ‘big’ project will involve rearranging the parking area, moving the fence,  and an overhaul of the gravel area and loose parts storage.  I wrote about the plans last Spring – read about it here.  We already built/moved the sheds but ran out of time last summer to complete the project.

I’ve had nearly a full week with my new summer group and it was wonderful.  Everyone is settling in to our routine and the lack of a school-defined schedule has greatly improved the ‘flow’ of the day.

Outside I have all the new stumps stored in the corner of the yard waiting until the yard project begins.  Interestingly, the older children have deemed this to be the ‘perfect cooking spot’.  Hmmm, I’ll have to modify my plans a little so we can continue to accommodate this;

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The old stumps are still as popular as ever.  The lone boy in the group seems somewhat concerned about all the climbing and jumping about.

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Later he put on the construction helmet and did this;

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‘No climbing here’ 🙂

I found a dead moth and gave it to the insect lovers.

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Turns out it wasn’t dead – just injured – so it was rushed to the emergency room. For nearly an hour a team of dedicated medical personnel worked to save the moth – or at least make it a little more comfortable.  Here is his x-ray/chart;

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As excited a I am about all the renovations I have planned for the next two weeks I am also going to miss these kinds of activities too.  However, I’m certain we’ll have many more adventures when we return.

Introductions & Outcomes

I think of a ‘Lesson’ as a planned activity with an expected outcome – structured and defined.  An adult led activity with a predefined goal that upon completion is either right or wrong.  Any activity that requires me to constantly ‘correct’ or ‘redirect’ what a child is doing with the supplies is not a learning activity – it is an obedience activity with the goal of conformity to rules and following directions.

Learning through play is all about exploration, experimentation and observation.  Unstructured play offers opportunities for learning without a predefined result – no right or wrong conclusion – no pass or fail.  I consider the majority of our activities to be unstructured.  ‘Planned’ activities are generally just activities that require some type of advance preparation rather than a specific outcome.

Last week I introduced the infants and toddlers to a new sensory bin.

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You might think that the bin has a Valentine theme but that was not intentional.  I wanted the flower petals and the dollar store only had red ones in stock.  If they had had other colors I would have used more than one color.  The foam hearts were chosen for their texture not their color or shape.

The various pieces of green wool were also added for their texture – I have many different colors and types of wool but these ones were left over from another craft and already cut into small pieces so I used them.  The metal trays, paint brushes and water were ‘extra’ textures outside the bin.

Throughout the activity I didn’t instruct the children but I did describe and comment on what they did.  The baby insisted on sitting in a chair;

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Normally the smaller children just use these chairs when they are sitting at the little table because it is difficult for them to reach items on the table when they are sitting on the floor. The sensory bin was on the floor so it was easier to access without the chair but he wanted to sit in it.  His preferred activity didn’t involve the bin anyway.  He enjoyed using the water to paint his hair;

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That’s still a sensory activity using the supplies provided.  It also helps to develop motor skills and coordination.

Some painted individual hearts;

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And arranged them – sorted by colour – on a tray.  Wet foam pieces stick to the metal trays but dry ones slide off;

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Others enjoyed a more physical approach diving into the bin – stirring, tossing, and squishing the items at the same time as another child was meticulously balancing the white hearts around the edge of the bin;

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And the baby moved on to pushing the hearts and petals through the little hole in the top of his paint container and down into the water.

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All of them are learning and developing new skills. The learning outcome is not their ability to copy what I asked them do.  It is their demonstration of what they have discovered and how they put it to use.

We’ll use this bin again in the coming week(s) and I’ll add some other items too.  Maybe the children will continue to pursue these same activities.  Maybe additional equipment will enable them to expand on these activities.  Maybe they will try something completely new.  I’ll make the introduction but we’ll have to wait and see what the outcome will be.

Machines

It has been nearly two weeks since I added the pipes to soften the corners of the items attached to the loft.  These pipes have been very popular – the children usually refer to them as some type of ‘machine’.

It has been somewhat difficult to get pictures of the machine ‘in action’ because there are usually so many children crowded around.  I have managed to get a few – here they are using the pipes as a ‘drink machine’;

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Which was expanded to include the tubes under the loft too;

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We discovered that some of the milk containers are too tall to fit in the space between the floor and the bottom of the vertical pipe.  There was a bit of panic when they realized they couldn’t get the container out of the bottom of the pipe and none of us could reach it from the top either.

After some trial and error we learned that if several smaller containers are inserted into the bottom of the pipe the ‘too tall’ container is  eventually pushed all the way out the top of the pipe.  This was how the ‘elevator’ was invented.  Since then many of the little people toys have taken a ride in the elevator.

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Add a bin at the lower end of the diagonal pipe and you’ve got ‘the clean-up machine’;

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Sometimes one child will look through the upper end of the diagonal pipe while another child sits under the loft and places various items under the lower end of the pipe.  This creates a microscope/telescope/I Spy game.

It has also been used as a x-ray machine or laser to diagnose and treat injured stuffed animals.  So far I’ve been unable to get a decent picture of the children engaged in this activity – threre is no room for reporters in the emergency room.

Two simple pipes and plenty of open ended creative play 🙂

 

 

Added Features

Last week I wrote about how I renovated the playroom to improve the walkway issues.   As always, no renovation is ever truely complete so now I want to tell you about some newly added  features.

First, I was a little concerned about the corners of the items attached to the loft post;

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This photo angle may show it better;

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It didn’t cause any problems the first week after the renovation but I was concerned that it may at some point in the future.  To address the possible problem I added some pieces of pipe;

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One is there to soften the pointed corners but both of them are used for play.  The words ‘vertical’ and ‘diagonal’ have been used often in our daily conversations this week.  The toddlers have been experimenting with what toys slide best through the tubes;

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I used some pieces of the leftover pipe to create some more tool storage in the workshop area too;

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A mesh curtain was also added at the entrance to the block area;

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Which I have been informed now makes it a pirate ship 🙂

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That’s just a few of the added features – there will be more.