Thursday, April 26, 2012

April 26 - Legos and Learning

                Legos truly are one of the most amazing toys ever invented.  How many other toys are there that change with your child, and can be added to over time?  Legos last!  We have some 25 year old Legos mixed in with the newer sets and you can’t really even tell them apart.  Legos capture the imaginations of boys and girls, young and old.  They’re compact and when we’re not playing with them they can easily tucked away.  Now that the kids are “older” I would probably choose Legos as our favorite toy. 

                Today Nate came home with a new book from the school library featuring Legos in space.  Upon walking in the door he immediately went to the Legos and started making “his own Lego kit.”  This included scalping pieces from other vehicles to make a space station, rockets, and Mars rovers.  His creations then played out the story in the book and went on some new adventures.  This is an exciting process to be a part of; a display of what true play is really all about.  Using his imagination he stepped beyond the original use of toy to imagine new scenarios.  He was focused and doing it because it's what he wanted to do.  It was totally intrisically motivated.

                Nate included Elli and me in his play after a bit of a chat about letting us play creatively too.  When he first invited us to sit down, he kept taking things out of our hands and being bossy about what pieces we could use or not use.  He wanted us to play, but he wanted us to share his vision.  The problem was that he hadn’t shared his vision, nor was he communicating his desire for us to play with him properly.  Our chat basically went like this.  “Nate, you invited us to play.  If you don’t allow us to play in our way (using the pieces we want to use) then it’s not fun for us.  We want to play with you, but we want to be able to build using the extra pieces to connect with your story.  If this can’t happen, then we might go play something else.”  This seemed to get through and I got an “ok.”  From then on we were each able to add our contribution to the space play.  Elli contributed a girl in a tank top who Nate helped equip with a breathing apparatus so she could live in space.  It turned out to be a really fun time.

                One of the major benefits of play is this development of social skills.  When we play we have to learn social norms.  Today Nate learned that if he was rigid and didn’t allow input from others, we would find something else to do.  Sometimes play is about learning to interact with people that you don’t like and helping them feel included (Paley, 1993).  Play also teaches us that it’s ok to stand up for what we want; Elli saw this demonstrated today.  I could have gotten up and left without expressing my frustration.  I could have also grabbed the Legos and insisted that I be allowed to use the pieces.  However by using my words I was able to model an appropriate solution.  Hopefully this is a lesson that will stick. 

An interesting read about sharing and inclusion:

Paley, V. (1993) You can’t say you can’t play. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

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