Our play yard class offerings rotate each week. Just like they are with our indoor classroom, each area is provisioned with supplies, materials and provocations for children to explore. Children make choices of who they want to partner with, what area they might try out, and how they will use the open-ended materials provided. Children are constantly learning from one another, sharing ideas, narratives and wonderings. Adults are nearby to offer assistance in myriad ways. Here’s a glimpse into a few recent interactions.
Children use magnifying glasses to get a close look at the song bird nest with abandoned eggs. When one child accidentally breaks an egg, children discuss the importance of “looking without touching” while the child with the yokey hands heads to the handwashing station. Adjacent to the nest we shared two wonderful picture books “Bird Builds A Nest : A First Science Storybook” by Martin Jenkins and “The Dead Bird” by Margaret Wise Brown.
We added an array of recyclables and open-ended materials to collage, build and create together. Some children shared their experience of how to attach things to one another (using glue, tape and stickers). One child assists another with how to spell “mom.” And a parent dictates how to spell “protect” for a child’s sign, “Protect the ants.”
Substitute Teacher Sandy comes with over 25 years teaching experience. She jumped into a game of rescue rope, offering the physical resistance children need to engage and calm their bodies. After children rescued me from the ocean, a child suggested Sandy might fall into a waterfall and need to be pulled to safety. Sandy excitedly narrates her walk along the waterfall’s edge before she fell down awaiting the cooperative rescue.
The teeter totter is an ideal play offering to build skills. When a child decides they would like to try it, they need to find a willing partner. Sometimes a child runs over to the empty teeter totter awaiting a playmate. They might just sit there and hope someone joins them. This presents an opportunity to offer some gentle coaching about how to get their needs met. I might observe out loud, “Do you want to try the teeter totter? I wonder who you will invite to join you.” Sometimes a child jumps on one seat and then hollers across the yard, inviting a friend to join them but get no response. This is the perfect opportunity to suggest they walk over close to that friend’s ears and then ask them.
Once two children are balancing up and down together, they may get some coaching and support of how to safely work together (“Push your feet hard off the ground so your friend goes up) and how to safely let their friend know when they’re done so nobody unexpectedly plummets to the ground. If a child is taken off guard and is surprised or hurt by their partner’s unanncounced dismantling, adults can offer support for children to check in with each other.
Children get lots of practice taking turns and trying out challenging ways to make their way up and down the slide. When a number of children gather, it becomes apparent more challenges are needed. I invite children to help build a course challenge, extending it off the slide. We add a trampoline and children team up to carry planks over.
Following our tap dancing lessons via our online circle, we donned tap shoes, dancing to the accompaniment of eager musicians. We move around and listen to the sounds are feet make on the platform.
Our manipulatives table is getting lots of action. Children gather in a quiet area of our play yard to explore the week’s offerings. Colorful magnatiles and window blocks became houses, buildings and sculptures. As two children want the final square pieces, they get some support to determine how they will solve that problem.