“In fantasy play, children learn to envision new roles for themselves and for other people.They learn to change and redirect the outcome of an imaginary plot and to include the ideas of others in their plans. When the common story becomes more important than one’s habitual stance, the individual mind expands in the search for more common ground. Experience teaches us that we and our narratives become more interesting when we add maximum variety in people and ideas. It is a tall order, but the more we play out the problem involved, the more likely we are to find the right balance between the individual and the group.”- Vivian Gussin Paley, early childhood teacher and researcher
Following our recent fire drills, small groups ventured to the play yard to act out fire fighter scripts. Most donned hats and hoses. Some made 9-1-1 calls while others jumped into their trucks, dashing to blazing buildings. Others rescued animals and offered first aid to critters with smoke-filled lungs. After children had opportunities to play this thrilling, high speed cooperative rescue game in small groups, we invited the entire class to join in.
Pretending to be firefighters offers exciting options for team work and enriching fantasy play. It’s a satisfying game for a range of developmental levels given the simplicity and variety of ways to get involved. There are ample opportunities for gross motor play and physical challenges, as well as myriad options for taking turns, sharing ideas and swapping roles.
We invited some of the oldest children (Friday class) to draw and dictate firefighter rescue stories. Children used red cellophane to represent the flames and invented characters and contexts for the flames to burn — before the big rescues transpired. We brought their stories to circle. The authors and artists beamed with pride as their peers listened attentively. A variety of firefighter scripts came to life — more fuel for dramatic play.
Children were captivated by Susan Middleton Elya’s picture book, Fire, Fuego, Brave Bomberos a fast past rhyming book with Spanish sprinkled throughout.
*Using Inclusive Language: We make a point of using the term firefighter rather than the word fireman. In this way we name the work of the person doing the job and use a term that includes males and females. When a child uses the word, fireman, I’ll typically let them know that that word doesn’t include women and girls so I like to include firefighter instead.