We are hard wired to say no. Maybe this is why a child’s first word is usually “NO”! And when we say no either verbally or non-verbally this can limit children’s play.
When we use the Environment as the Third Teacher and strategically set up the physical environment with the materials this will directly impact the kinds of interactions and play children choose to engage in.
We may not be able to know exactly what will happen, but examining our observations of children’s play over time and using them to self-reflect on our practice we can make some predictions as to what may potentially happen.
As well as combining these observations with our theoretical knowledge on how children play, such as schemas, social development, and physical development our planning of the potential interactions becomes more predictable.
For example, a common observation is transferring of items out of the sensory bin.
Tom Bedard shared his experience with this, and its a perfect example of plan for YES!
He observed that the children wanted to transport the sensory fillers out of the table, so to follow their lead and encourage their ideas he simply began to place a large pail next to the sensory table for the children to transport their filled scoops and containers.
widens children’s opportunities to explore theories and ideas
children are able to engage in problem solving, exchanging ideas, & having rich social interactions
can decrease potential frustrations from ECE and children
children will typically play for longer periods of time
we can begin to see the children’s thought processes as their ideas change and evolve
Educators will be able to transition from observer to passive/active participant with ease
able to document the learning with ease and with a variety of modes
When I really started to plan for yes in my own practice and program, I felt a calmness and ease occur within me on a regular basis. Thinking of the potential issues that may arise, such as messes and cleanup, transporting items, adding new items, dumping, etc. allows you to be prepared and encourage their ideas in ways that work for your program.
When I prepared a messy play experience, I had extra towels on had, opened the door to the bathroom so the children didn’t have too, and planned for the experience to be located close to washing facilities.
I also preplanned by having a messy play policy and we went over this when families were registering for my program.
All of this on a daily basis allowed me to be highly engaged if invited, could document what occurred easily, and I could follow their lead with ease.
PLAN FOR YES IN THE MOMENT
We can prepare provocations based on observations and have some idea as to what may happen, but often children will come up with new ideas as well! And this is what we want!
Creative thinking, new hypothesis, and experimenting. This is why planning for yes in the moment is just as important.
I still find myself instinctively wanting to say no sometimes, but I am catching myself and planning in the moment to see how I can adapt the experience or materials to encourage the children to explore their new ideas.
Here’s an example of planning for yes that happened with my little guy.
I had originally set up a simple sensory experience with coloured water, paper towel and our mice.
Joshua happily began to dip the mice in the water and created all sorts of new colours. He began to pour and mix the containers and asked for more water, so we refilled the containers.
This occurred about three times, and the metal tray was becoming VERY full.
The play began to change and the mice were jumping in the water and then all of a sudden a lion was there!
The play had evolved from experimenting with colours and exploring pouring and dumping to more about creating an action story.
I felt myself becoming more tense and worried about the amount of water in the tray and the potential mess and wanting to say, “Be careful, gentle please.” But I didn’t want to say this, as it would have resulted in limiting his play.
So I began to replan in the moment and adapted the set up to continue his play. All I simply did was scoop out a few containers of water to get the water level to a more reasonable amount for the action story and I added some towels around the tray.
I also did this without disturbing his play or saying anything. Because I was very aware of my own reactions when the play evolved and planned in the moment, this storytelling and sensory play went on for 2 hours!
HOW TO SAY YES MORE
There are a couple key strategies I recommend to plan for yes:
widen your own personal boundaries
self-reflect and ask yourself why you are wanting to say no
notice how you feel when when you want to say no or limit the play
what materials can I add/adapt to encourage children’s new ideas
In the book, Brining Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman, the French paediatrician in the book makes a great comment,
“Children need very distinct boundaries, but lots of freedom within those boundaries.”
This statement has impacted me greatly as an Early Childhood Educator and a parent.
If my boundaries are strict and closed-minded then imagine what that will do to a child’s play and development. The more we open our boundaries and challenge ourselves the children will have the freedom to explore their ideas and theories that they are naturally creating.
Noticing how it makes me feel when I am uncomfortable with the moment helps me relate and understand what the child is also feeling but might not be able to communicate or understand why then can’t explore their own idea.
That can be so limiting and impacting on a child’s willingness to try new ideas or even express them if consistently not “allowed” too.
I see our role as Educators is really as a facilitator, to observe, listen, adapt, and learn alongside the children.
I found that when I really embraced planning for yes, I loved my job and role even more. This can reduce our fears and embrace the mess or go off on a different path. The children LOVED this, and I could see it in their play, social interactions, independent skills, problem solving, and self-regulation.
I am an Early Childhood Consultant and very passionate about supporting and inspiring my fellow Educators. I will share my reflections and experiences about implementing my philosophy, views, and ideas into my practice.
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