Monday, November 25, 2013

Letting the kids drive the play

One of my real joys at teaching outdoor education to children under 5 is watching their transformation physically.  Some of the kids arrive at The Outdoor Preschool already climbers and explorers but many are new to the thrills of going deep into the woods.  As we end the first trimester of TOP we start seeing such adventuring in the kids.  Even the littlest ones are ready to go off trail and do some scrambling.

Last week I attended to a preschool conference and heard some speakers that are very cutting edge with play-based education.  I came back to The Outdoor Preschool ready to try some newly learned techniques. One was to really let the children lead the learning.  Now-this has always been my philosophy but I wondered if I could try and relax even a bit more and see where the children would lead us.

As the yellow group left circle time and we headed into the woods the hike took us by a favorite log to walk on.  As we passed the log, Clara and Adela naturally stopped and began walking and balancing on the log. I made a conscious decision not to tell the rest of the kids to STOP and wait.   As one child asked for my hand and the other said she didn't need it, I looked ahead on the trail to see how the other children dealt with this hike delay. As the two girls walked again and again on the log I quietly observed a few of the boys hanging out by a bridge-but they appeared to be just chatting away.They had stopped on their own. No one said to the girls to stop climbing and balancing.   I could see the boys gesturing towards the running water and perhaps to the horse and property next to the fence.  They didn't seem bothered or bored-just hanging with friends.

So-I kept standing near the balancing girls while they practiced - again and again and again walking the log-jumping down-climbing back up and walking again.    Their bodies were beginning to understand balancing-And they were gaining confidence in their skills.  Pretty soon-neither wanted my hands and they walked further on the log until it met another log and another.  As they naturally finished their exercise Conrad said, "Let's go this way!"  Then the whole group was ready to move on.  They were calling to each other "come on! Over here!"  Everyone joined back up and we were going off the trail, over logs and into uncharted territory.  Sometimes they helped each other get over the difficult bits.  They waited for the group patiently and exclaimed over found mushrooms and crunchy leaves.

They had become a community, a unit working together for the overall fun of the group.  What a wonderful lesson in life.  There are challenges, some waiting and hanging and some exploration.  It might be difficult and it might be scary but it might be exciting and rewarding. However it turns out-let's do it together!

PS  If you want to learn more about the invigorating speakers I heard,  try:

Teacher Tom
The Ooey Gooey Lady
Erin Kenny


  1. Very thoughtful reflective post, Ann. Sometimes we need to go away & interact with other practitioners to refresh our practice.

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