One of my goals as a preschool teacher is to help children notice, appreciate and lean on each other.
The pull toward competition looms large in our culture, and with it creeps in the notion of better than/less than. Faster than/slower than. Superior/inferior. These comparisons make mutual appreciation a bit more challenging. Simply put, when a young child proclaims, “I win!” we can infer that everyone else loses. In that scenario one person feels good about their accomplishment while the others usually don’t. Then comes the push-back, frustration and argument, “No you didn’t. I win!”
At HFP, we go out of our way to support cooperative efforts, to encourage language of team work and discourage competitive set-ups. We initiate games in which all participants work together and all can relaxedly celebrate their accomplishments and joint victories. And when children want the thrill of being “against” somebody (ie. in multiple variations of chase games), we expect all children to be on the same side and to be against an adult. ie. An adult is the hungry baker seeking their runaway cookies (children).
During rainbow week, Kimberley and I introduce a new cooperative building game that includes gross and fine motor challenges and utilizes every child’s skills.
Everyone is on the same “team” and needed to complete the unifix block rainbow. As each child crawls through the rainbow tunnel, they pick a colored block. After balancing across the obstacle course circling the sandbox, they drop that colored block into a basket. A couple of builders piece together earned pieces to build a rainbow. One child who loves engineering and construction assumes the role of course repair. If the track becomes disconnected, they fix it. We might hear a call for help, “Quick! The track broke!”
Another child notices we’re shy on yellow blocks to complete the full spectrum. They shout out, ” We need more yellow blocks!” so the next couple of children choosing blocks will pick the required hue….There’s lots of excitement and shared investment. We watch and adjust the game as children insert themselves , introducing new ideas. Just like the glorious individual colors of the rainbow, we’re most beautiful together.