I like providing lots of different materials for kids to explore and experiment. Give them lots of different things and watch them discover how the world works. This week the kids reminded me that they don't need all the "stuff" to have great play experiences.
I put out the boats and a piece of blue fabric for water. I've put a container of water with the boats before so the kids could sail, float, and sink the boats. But this time I just put out the fabric.
The boys sailed the boats around. Several boats sunk to the bottom and had to be rescued. (I smiled when the boats "sank" on the fabric.) There were races and teams of boats working together.
I've blogged before about the power of kids' imaginations. I saw that power again this week. As kids play, fabric becomes water or tissue paper become flowers. The floor is a fertile ground for growing plants. A container becomes a spaceship and four chairs with a steering wheel become a car. Kids don't always need lots of props or materials. A few simple toys can stimulate great play experiences. Sometimes fabric is just as good as water.
But as a teacher I can go beyond just the surface of dramatic play. What can I do to stimulate their imaginations? How can I engage their imaginative skills as we talk about stories and concepts? Do I use (or encourage them to use) language that stimulates imagination?
At times I'll still bring in lots of different things to encourage kids to think and learn. After all, a early childhood teacher must have his stuff! But it's good to remember that each child brings with him tools to create wonderful play and wonderful learning. I must be willing to let him open that toolbox.