Open ended play is such an important part of early childhood education. It is a play experience with no particular end goal. For example – giving scissors and paper with a circle printed on it and asking the child to cut the circle would be a closed activity. Just giving the child scissors and paper and letting them do what they want with it – would be open-ended. In an open ended situation, the teacher will not give instructions but will enhance the play experience by taking cues from the child. (For e.g. if the child cuts the paper in half – the teacher might say – “You cut the paper in half! Why dont you cut it in half again? Now you have 4 parts – look each part is a square” – Thus adding to the child’s mathematical/geometric skills. Learning is child-led and happens through play
At Kanhas, I try to present a mix of open and closed activities. Setting up a play environment that engages and educates the children as they play is one of the creative challenges of preschool teaching. Recently, I set up one such open ended play experience that kept the kids engaged for almost an hour and added to their learning across many levels.
The play set up was really simple – 2 big tubs full of dried beans. Hidden among the beans were diamond shaped wooden blocks. I also added some animals and wooden people figures into the tubs.
There were also different plastic cups and scoops for digging and pouring.
|Beans and diamonds|
After talking a little bit about diamonds and mining to the kids, I asked them to dig out their own diamonds. The children worked in pairs digging through the beans to find their diamonds.
As the children played they learnt valuable lessons in turn taking and sharing. Instead of snatching digging toys from each other they learned to ask nicely, say please and thank you and wait for their turn. The children also took the animals and were making them smell out the diamonds. They engaged the animals in conversation with each other, role playing how to greet and make friends.
The children were talking to each other and with the animals and people toys. There was a whole range of language practise – from social interactions to new action words like scoop, pour etc.
The children were counting out the diamonds they found, sorting them by colour and size and stacking them to make different patterns.
The children explored mining and diamonds through play. They also learnt about different beans as I used 2 types of beans in the play experience. As they played, they poured the beans over the animals as rain and explored rain and weather as well.
The beans enhanced the sensory experience in the play. The children loved feeling the beans and digging through them. They also provided great aural input – the children poured the beans over different surfaces to explore the sounds the beans made as they fell.
An important part of the play experience was the post play clean up. We had taken the play outdoors – but it is a common area of the building, so I explained to the kids that we couldnt leave a mess and go away. The children took turns sweeping up the fallen beans and packing up the toys. Cleaning up is such an important life skill for a preschooler to learn!
It was amazing to observe and participate with the children in their play. The warm weather, the laughter of happy kids, the rattle of dry beans and the colourful diamonds – this is the kind of stuff that makes magical memories