One thing I love about The Outdoor Preschool kids is that all it takes is putting out a toy and they get right to "work". Usually one of them decides how to use a new tool-in this case shovels and pails-then pretty soon many of them follow the idea. It takes very little direction from us as teachers.
There is new research that has come to light about what happens when you "show" a child how to use a toy. The toy that has been given without any instructions is used the most creatively. A toy that is shown how to be played with is often played with only one way.
Yesterday cups and straws were offered out by the swings and soon the kids were making "ice cream" and "smoothies" with their utensils. This play was spontaneous and deep learning was happening on many levels. There was creativity going on, sharing, social interaction and fine motor skills to name a few.
On the swings the kids are learning how democracy works. After the kids clamber onto the swings and before I begin pushing, I tell the kids to ask their friends on the swing if they want to go high or low, fast or slow. This gets the kids talking to each other about what they want and like. Often one of the children doesn't want to go high or fast. The other children sometimes seem a little disappointed but they go with the flow and have a slower ride. After they have swung for a while I might say-some kids want to go high and fast. How about if we give them a turn? The children who don't like the wild ride will get off voluntarily and let the other kids have their turn. After doing this for a month the kids will begin to automatically ask the other kids on the swing how they want to be pushed as soon as they get on. I like to think that this exercise in asking what others want in a ride will extend to their life. Perhaps they will learn to communicate their own desires and how to listen to others.