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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Engaging the Mind with Play

One of the dynamics that I love at school is introducing a couple tools for exploration and seeing where this will lead the children in their play. 
There are many articles and books in favor of and emphasizing the power of play for early childhood.  One of the biggest proponents for play is that it increases intelligence.  Some scoff at this idea, but when I watch the children play at school, I see first hand their minds busy at work as their bodies move excitedly from one adventure to the other.

These pictures show the way they explore and problem solve in their play.
The children love playing with cars and trucks at school.
I have gathered many different sized tubes, and I will often place them on the rug and see what sort of journey the cars and trucks will be taking during free play.

This particular day I offered up PVC connector with different tunnel options.

The boys were attempting to get the cars and trucks to go through the side tunnels, not just the one straight ahead.
They felt further investigation was needed, and took out the flashlights to look at the make up of the pipe.
They discovered many things, the first being that when you shine the flashlight through the tube, the light travels to the different tunnels.

At a certain point, they no longer wanted to have the cars move through the tunnels, instead they wanted to see how the light moves through the tunnels.

It was a simple game, but the play stimulated exploration, which stimulated more questions, this in turn brought about more exploration to answer these questions.  They were building problem solving skills, but more importantly, they were having fun and enjoying the learning process.
And my boys weren't the only ones exploring with tubes, at that same moment
the girls were off to the side trying to see how many tubes it would take to reach the ceiling.

This led to them trying to construct their own building.
Play and exploration often move in this direction, children at this age are so eager to learn.
When I taught high school I would long to see this kind of spark in the kids; a desire to learn how the world works. At some point in time, many children and adults lose the passion for a love of learning.  I know for myself there have been many moments where I have not felt it, but if we can foster it day to day with these little ones, my hope is that it will stick as they continue on with their schooling and life.

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