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Early childhood education has been my life for over 40 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.

Saturday, August 9, 2014


For the past couple of weeks, I have written about play around a particular apparatus at the sensory table called Computer Box with Cardboard Tubes.  The first post dealt with how many children can play at the table at one time, in other words, capacity.

The second post talked about how children often create their own physical challenges---even at the sensory table.

For this post, I would like to tell you about a game created by the children when a child who is not part of the regular class enters the room and begins to play with others.

It begins with the child a little apprehensive about coming into the classroom because he does not know the children.  On the other hand, he is excited to spend the morning because he is familiar with the classroom and the adults in the classroom because he was in one of our classes last year.

What he does first is to go to the sensory table and set himself at the end of the longer of two tubes. He is content to kneel there and catch the pellets tumbling down the tube.  A plastic car is sent down the tube.  He is surprised and delighted at the same time.  Another child picks up on the surprise and delight and continues the game by gathering cars and sending them down the tube.

These two are now engaged in a game that can be called "Surprise Down the Tube."  It happens spontaneously.  It would not have happened without the apparatus.  More importantly, it would not have happened without the visiting child and his reaction of surprise and delight to a car landing in his cup instead of pellets.  And it would not have happened without the child in the red shoes reading the visiting child's cues of joy.  And it would not have happened without the child in the red shoes wanting to partake of that joy and to create more.

The beauty of the game is that it is attractive to others and easy for them to join in the fun.

This is a simple game: pellets down the tube with a car or two interspersed.  Though it is simple, it is also very complex because the variables are numerous.  For instance: What can cause one child to react to a surprise in such a way as to draw others into the action?  Is it his tone of voice; is it the genuine expression of delight?  How is a child able to pick up on another child's cues so the game continues and evolves to the point where others are partaking in the original surprise and joy?  At many points, the game could have ended, but it continued and expanded to include others.

Though it is such a great game, it can never be duplicated, nor can you buy it in the store or from a catalogue. This game is unique to the physical and human context of this particular day.  From this perspective, there is no limit to how many games can and will be created.  Let the games begin--- and begin again and again each and every day.

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