Monday, April 6, 2015

Hogtied and Happy

This was a long morning of the type of play many would stop in it's tracks.. call it " not meaningful" and poo poo it.. We, instead asked the children if we should open the door so that they could have more space to run and hide.. It was a whole class deep meaningful game of, I don't know what to call it.. but "WAR" comes to mind. Although I didn't hear any talk of guns or bombs.. THIS TIME..I did know that there were three sides.. the boys, the girls, and the ones we call the flip-floppers, the flip-floppers are the ones who sway to the side of the winning team or play the part of the rescuers. I remember this type of play as a child, running wildly, almost feeling as though I was escaping real danger, breathing fast and deep, hiding behind rocks and logs to take a breath and then running off screaming " You can't catch meee!"

I am saddened by the thought that many children do not get to play in this wild unbridled way anymore. Adults are typically in the shadows or hovering overhead frantically asking for peace. Peace.. IS being tackled and giggling so hard you think you may pee your pants, peace is sitting watch after you just captured the leader of the other team. Let's take off our old adult lenses and put on our youthful eyes.. remember what it was about this type of play that called us to it over and over again as children.

The most peaceful part about this play is the fact that they know they can quit when they choose to. Each child is a willing participant; they all want the play to be sustained, therefore they are all playing to have fun and not to hurt. Does this mean that no one gets hurt? No, some days children go home with the proof of such play, scratches, scrapes, and bumps.. rarely do we have tears, the children are so enthralled in their play that they don't even stop to nurse their boo boo's. And I know I know I know, many of you are gasping in disbelief that we have rope on the playground.. that we let them play with it and that we let them use it to tie each other up.. Well to start, we did not offer them the string and say, "here go hogtie a friend". The ropes are used for many things including making our beloved swing, but that is a whole other story, I'll get to that later.

It is our job to monitor the play and ensure that the children understand the safe ways to play with the materials that we provide.

When stopping this kind of play we are not allowing the children the chance to use their whole bodies to play, heir whole minds to moderate that play. We are not also  allowing them to practice expressing and reading expressions. We are not allowing them to be the victor or feel defeat. We are not allowing them to be true to themselves. Children need to run, jump, push, pull, roll, hide and be the victor.

Now about that rope..

Here is the same type of rope, this time used to create a swing.

The Story of The Swing

The children created the swing, they asked me to connect the wood to the rope. it has been there for months. In the beginning there were issues with turn taking, as a class we came up with the 7 swings rule.. that quickly became an issue, no one can enjoy swinging in JUST 7 swings.. We as a staff decided to trust the children to govern their own swing. We decided that like with other items they did not have to give it up if they were using it. Every child knew they had the power to use the swing as long as they wanted. At first it was hard for the waiters to wait, but once they realized that when it was their turn, they had the same rights things began to simmer down. We witness children setting their own rules, their own games, and limits. No longer was there begging children posted near the swing, they waited, they waited until the swing was free and then they took their turn. It is so amazing to see the children share, communicate, negotiate, and relish in their freedoms.. the swing is just one example of this.

Again the story is that of children who all have a common goal. They are able to come up with some understandings and agreements in order to make their play community one that they all can live in. By allowing THEM to set their guidelines and standards, they gain the ability negotiate, rally for a belief, or settle from time to time.

So before putting a stop to an idea, type of play, or the use of a material, think about what can come of it, how it will benefit the children and why they are gravitating towards it. Ask yourself, What are they getting out of that play, or material?

here's to many more days of play and being hogtied and happy!

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