Tag Archives: Unstructured 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.

Alligator Hunt

I went to Ikea last weekend and picked up some new stuffed animals;

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Back at home I put away the toys from the loose parts bin – they’ve been out for several weeks and it was time for a change.  I replaced them with some miscellaneous toddler toys.  These are odds and ends that don’t fit with other toy sets so I grouped them together;

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This was an unintentional set-up.

The Duplo blocks have been available in the block bin for almost two months – I won’t change the blocks until the children start losing interest in playing with them.   One of the toddlers found an alligator in the loose parts bin and decided it belonged in the block area with the Duplo alligator;

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We then decided to go on an alligator hunt to see if we could find any more alligators.  They found the new stuffie and put him in the ‘water’ area so he could ‘swim’;

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I found an alligator in one of the November/December books but the toddlers were more interested in the other ones – the ones they discovered.

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Going on an alligator hunt may have resulted because I had all the ‘right’ items available but maybe….it was a connection the toddlers made during free play and I just noticed what they did.

Let’s Be Fair

Every day begins the same.  As the children arrive they agree on an activity to play together and begin the process of making sure everything is ‘fair’.  This is a very, very, long process.  In fact, often the actual game never even begins because they can’t agree on what is ‘fair’ so they switch to another activity instead – another activity with another set of toys and another lengthy period of deliberation over what will be ‘fair’.

The problem is that each has a different definition of ‘fair’.

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The ‘quantity’ child believes that it is fair if everyone involved has the exact same number of toys.  ‘Quantity’ maintains that everyone must have the same number of characters, blocks etc. before play can begin.  Even if the other children involved only want one or two toys this child delays the game until everyone has an equal number of the toys to use.  “That’s not fair!” is often heard.

‘Ruler’ insists that all the biggest, most powerful toys belong to their personal group of toys.  ‘Ruler’ often tries to use ‘Quantity’ as an ally by pointing out that each of them has the same number of toys so it is fair.  In essence it is not fair because although the number of items is equal, the quality is not. ‘Ruler’ is a very competitive child for whom ‘fair’ means they are in charge and their team always wins.

‘Cluster’ doesn’t really care how many toys are on their team as long as they all match.  ‘Cluster’ wants all the members of a family group and doesn’t worry if someone else has more toys or better toys. ‘Cluster’ believes it is fair when everything matches and gets frustrated when ‘Quantity’ insists on assigning additional dissimilar members to ‘Cluster’s’ families.  Another conflict occurs because all the ‘fathers’ of the family groups tend to also be the power toys that ‘Ruler’ has already claimed thereby leaving ‘Cluster’s’ families incomplete.

‘CoOp’ will happily accept any toys the others don’t want to use.  CoOp has favourite toys but they don’t mind if others use them and will wait patiently while the others choose and set up the activity.  ‘CoOp’ will never complain nor be assertive.  ‘CoOp’ believes it is fair when everyone is able to participate harmoniously – conflict is their greatest fear.  ‘CoOp’ often ends up playing alone either because they felt overwhelmed by the negotiations or the others failed to invite them to play.

‘Tyrant’ is impulsive – recklessly stumbling through block structures and grabbing any toys that appear interesting at the moment.  It doesn’t matter if the toy is in a bin, on the floor or in someone else’s hand, the moment ‘Tyrant’ wants it ‘Tyrant’ takes it.  Thankfully ‘Tyrant’ tends to have a short attention span so the toy is usually soon returned to its original user. Sometimes ‘Tyrant’s’ behaviour is fuelled by the reaction so it is important not to overreact to because it will intensify the conflict.  “Tyrant’ is usually a toddler so the behaviour is a ‘normal’.

Actually, all these children are ‘normal’.  They represent the children of various ages, temperaments and developmental levels who co-exist in a family childcare setting.  The conflicts don’t mean the children need to be separated or that an adult needs to intervene.  The conflicts mean that the children are learning to get along with others who have a different point of view.

Fair is not always equal.  Fair is not always the same.  Fair is not always without conflict.  Accepting the conflict is difficult but it is part of the process – the process of learning to be fair.

A Week in Pictures

Last week was the first full week back after my ‘vacation’.  I am super excited that this summer’s group seems to be getting along so well.  Their creativity and cooperation have been demonstrated in many ways.  Here are just a few things I saw out in the yard last week.

An interesting roadway built for the cars;

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This contraption;

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Of course there was plenty of ‘cooking’;

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And some mashed plant artwork on the tree stumps;

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Some interesting ‘leaf art’;

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There was a campfire;

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And some ‘jerky’;

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I was told that these were ‘tweezers’;

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And these were ‘chicken rolls’;

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This was a ‘wishing web’;

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I wished for more fabulous activities like these. 🙂

My favourite comment overheard this week was “I like making things with nature items because even if we don’t clean up our stuff we are not hurting the environment.”

I can’t wait to see what they think of the changes I made to the the yard this weekend – and what they do with it.

New Toys

Back in April I wrote about our process of selecting some new toys – you can read about it here.  In May, when I attended the Manitoba Childcare Association’s Annual conference, I was able to connect with Chris at the Quality Classrooms trade show booth.  She was able to have my order brought to conference the following day so I didn’t have to wait for delivery – I was so thrilled.

So were my boys – they may be 18 and 21 now but they have been then official toy testers for the last 16 years and don’t seem to want to give up the role.  The toys were thoroughly tested over the weekend and introduced to the playroom gradually over the next few weeks.  Introducing many new items all at once would have created havoc and made it difficult for me to observe and evaluate.

The Geometric Stacker was the only item on my list that was wooden.  I am trying to eliminate much of the plastic from our inventory and so whenever possible I will choose items made with natural materials instead of plastic.  I introduced this toy first because it was one of my favourites.  Fitting those square blocks together before stacking them was surprisingly challenging even for the older children.

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The Caterpillar Gears and Butterfly Gears were also introduced.  The infants and toddlers love to remove the gears – and leave them that way so most of the time it looks like this;

NT02I tend to put the gears back in the ‘wrong’ spots which annoys the older children who then feel compelled to fix it for me.  Occasionally someone will ignore the ‘proper’ placement and use it to create a pattern instead;

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The Therapy Tangles (I bought two) are popular with the toddlers but some of the older children get very frustrated because they cannot ‘straighten’ the loops;

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The Swiss Melody Bells were the ‘must have’ item that all the school-age children selected from the list.  They clamoured for those bells every day eagerly anticipating their arrival.  The thrill wore off quickly once they actually tried them;

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My favorite feature of these bells is that the actual bell is suspended inside;

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So the tone is never affected even if the babies hold the bell like this;

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The most popular item has been the Star Buttons – which were not actually chosen by any of the children.  I selected them because I wanted something that was easy for the infants and toddlers to put together – they tend to get frustrated by some of the more complicated manipulatives and I wanted something they could successfully assemble.  However, first they have to get them away from the older children who make patterns;

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And tall towers;

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And people and animals;

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And even ‘flowermids’ which combine flowers and pyramids;

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I am pleasantly surprised by their interest.

Ice and Outdoor Play

We’re nearing the end of Spring Break with a mix of sorrow and relief.  We have enjoyed the reprieve from the rigorous school schedule.  However, I have found that the school age children require considerably more structure and guidance than any of the younger children and I am exhausted.

Luckily Mother Nature has provided us with terrific weather – warm enough that we can spend our entire morning outdoors but not so warm that we get completely soaked.  Outdoors is the only place this group of school age children have been able to demonstrate any cooperative play.

I mentioned in my last post that my husband shovelled the snow off the roof of the shed and buried the garden path – we still haven’t managed to clear out all that snow.  Now my husband chopped off some of the thick layer of ice from the shed roof. We have found that the ice pieces are far more useful to have in the yard;

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One of the children thought they should “put together the puzzle’ but that activity only lasted a few minutes before it was deemed to be too difficult.

Some of the ice chunks were huge and required some problem solving skills to move;

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After spending two days clearing most of the snow from the tunnel under the hill the children now used the larger pieces of ice to block the tunnel entrance;

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I was informed that this piece of ice was “too heavy to carry” – probably due to the weight of the ‘skater’;

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They even found a small patch of fluffy snow in the corner of the yard that was perfect for this little snow person;

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Yes, hours of outdoor play is the best way to spend Spring Break.

Keeping Busy

We’ve been keeping busy.

Some of the children have done lacing activities many times but for the toddlers this was new and exciting;

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Making designs with bags of coloured gel was a new experience for all of us;

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In the playroom the boxes and ponies were used for chariot races;

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It was part of a ‘video game’ dramatic play activity that the preschoolers created. They used this ‘timer’;

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Tasks had to be completed before the spinner reached the bottom of the track.

They used this set-up to control the action – ‘press B to jump’, ‘press C to crawl’ etc.

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This has been an ongoing activity that has evolved throughout the last month.  I’ve enjoyed watching the preschoolers play and develop more elements to their game.

We are still enjoying all the snow outside – running, jumping and climbing everyday.  My husband cleared the snow off the roof of the shed and completely buried the garden path.  I spent several days trying to dig it out again;

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Even with help from the children this project is not yet complete;

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We’ve run out of good places to move the snow to.  Besides, the children have decided that they like using this spot as the ‘booth’ for their restaurant;

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Next week is Spring Break.  As much as we’re enjoying our time indoors and outside in the snow I’m eager for ‘real’ spring.  I have several projects planned but the snow need to go before work can begin.  I wanted an early Spring.

Keeping busy is hard sometimes when Mother Nature has other plans.