As we moved into the end of our third month together, the children have had more time to interact and form ideas about each other. They are getting to know each other better, some of each other's interests, and are starting to figure out who likes to engage in certain activities. At the same time, they are becoming more familiar with the forest, the equipment and tools they have access to, and the games that can be played.
Our young learners most frequently engage in independent, onlooker, parallel, and associative play, which is developmentally appropriate.
Independent play is when the child is playing on their own and are uninterested in what others are doing. This is a great stage of play as it supports children to learn how to entertain themselves, as well as test how things work and make their own discoveries.
Onlooker play is when the child watches others engaged in play but does not join the play. Sometimes the children are curious about what is going on but are not feeling comfortable enough to join yet. Other times, the child is observing how others engage in an activity and later will go to try it out themselves.
Parallel play is when children are playing with similar toys beside each other but not necessarily interacting with each other. Often though, they are observing what the other child is doing. We notice a lot of parallel play occurs around the mud kitchen tools. The children have their ideas of what they want to make and sometimes will all use the same area for the oven to cook their food. As well, when children see another child using a scoop or bowl that they want to use, they have a chance to practice waiting and turn taking skills.
Associative play is when the children are playing together, or exchanging toys or words, but without a common goal. Often when two children are wanting to climb on the spiders web at the same time, they are feeling the push and pull of the ropes as their classmate is climbing. While they are not working together towards a common goal, they are negotiating space, time, and each other's movements while working towards their own goals.
As the Fresh Air Learners get older, we start seeing more cooperative play happening. This stage of play begins in the later preschool years, around 4-6 years old. Here play is more organized and the children have a common goal or specific tasks that they will carry out. For example, some of our older learners will decide they want to play the whistle game and find some others who would like to play too, and then with minimal teacher support to organize, they will play and take turns in the hiding or seeking role. In one of our classes, a few of our learners discovered that they all love storytelling, and they spend much of the class finding hideouts, forts, and bases in the forest, creating stories along the way.
It is quite exciting and heartwarming to see new friendships start to blossom! Sometimes these friendships take off right from the start with a sudden click! Other times, they form slower as the children notice that they are interested in the same things. Since we only see each other once or twice a week, perhaps the children may be interested in setting up a play date with their friend outside of Fresh Air Learning classes?
As we move to the last bit of 2018, and the beginning of 2019, we are excited to see the friendships grow and adventures that are to come.