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Early childhood education has been my life for over 30 years. I have taught all age groups from infants to 5-year-olds. I was a director for five years in the 1980s, but I returned to the classroom 22 years ago. My passion is watching the ways children explore and discover their world. In the classroom, everything starts with the reciprocal relationships between adults and children and between the children themselves. With that in mind, I plan and set up activities. But that is just the beginning. What actually happens is a flow that includes my efforts to invite, respond and support children's interface with those activities and with others in the room. Oh yeh, and along the way, the children change the activities to suit their own inventiveness and creativity. Now the processes become reciprocal with the children doing the inviting, responding and supporting. Young children are the best learners and teachers. I am truly fortunate to be a part of their journey.

Thursday, March 17, 2011


If you look at last week's post you will see two boys making accommodations so both can play in the same space.  They were not cooperating, but each allowed the other to play in the exact same space.  There is a certain beauty in that coexistence that we far too often overlook.

In this post, let me give you a few examples of more cooperative play fostered by this apparatus.
In the video below, one boy is pouring sand into the top of the tube through a small plastic base that has a small hole on the bottom so it acts like a funnel.  At the bottom of the tube, another child is arranging a sauce pan and scoops so the sand flows just right into the sauce pan.  I was asking Gabriel to clarify where the sand was going and he said: "Owen is collecting it down there."  In the meantime, Owen is saying that he "...can't get it to go right."  He removes one of the scoops and says: "There we go.  That's good."

(Just a quick note about YouTube videos.  I have trouble uploading videos longer than 15 seconds directly to Blogspot, so I upload longer clips to YouTube and then embed them in the blog.  The quality is better, but with any YouTube video, there are suggestions for related videos.  The suggestions for related videos do not have anything to do with this blog.  Please be aware of that if you decide to browse the suggested YouTube videos.)

In this video each child's action is an extension of the other's.  One is pouring and the other is collecting---and they acknowledge it verbally.   

Here is a another video in which the children are working together.

These boys are making a concoction.  Each is adding an ingredient.  One child has taken the lead and the others are following and even echoing the named ingredients. This is rich role play which often gets more and more imaginative.  Near the end, they are adding lobster heads and medicine. Role play by its very nature requires cooperation.  They take turns pouring and naming what they are putting into the concoction.  Take turns is used loosely, because there is no order and at times they are all pouring  almost simultaneously.  As the activity progresses, you can also notice how the excitement of one feeds off of the excitement of the other.

Another play that takes cooperation is one in which the children give themselves a task.  In this next video, some of the children at the table have decided they want to fill up one of the tubes.  That is no easy task because the tube empties into a tray. Watch.

Three boys have indeed filled up the tube, but then the sand drops as if it was a sink hole.  It takes only a short time before one of the boys figures out why the sand level drops: another child is scooping the sand from the tray underneath causing the sand to drop in the tube. The drop seems to nudge them to refocus their efforts to fill up the tube again.  This cooperative play is a little different than role play because the task is a physical task for which the completion has more to do with the properties of the sand, tube and tray than on their imaginations.  

What is amazing even in these videos of cooperation, you can see individual play right along side the cooperative play.  For instance, if you look at the last video again, you will see four other children operating with no conflict in much the same space as the group of three. Accommodation, coexistence and cooperation are all things children do well---and we should give them their due credit.


  1. I created a VERY simple version of some of your sensory table tubes! I'm going to blog about it over the weekend probably (I will definitely add a link here)! It's been a great addition to our sensory table and has sparked some wonderful discovery! Thanks so much for the inspiration!

  2. Pam, great! The beauty of simple is that the apparatus accommodates more of the children's ideas and imagination.