In response to Monday’s Literacy Spot post, two readers asked me for suggestions of ways in which they could introduce a ‘prop’ (in this case, a street directory) into their child’s play. I call it a prop as I have long seen the role of ‘prop manager’ as one essential role of the early childhood educator – over time the adult selects and introduces a wide range of toys, learning resources and expressive media to provoke and support the child’s play, learning and interests. As a parent, you decide which toys, books, art materials, etc are easily available to your child at any given time. Whether or not you believe in toy rotation, or regular de-cluttering or even letting them have the run of it all, you are the prop manager. You enable and influence the play taking place even if you are not directly playing at the time.
When introducing a new prop it is important to consider;
- Does my child know what this is? Have they seen me (or others) use it? How much and what kind of support will they need to integrate it into their play? and
- Is this item likely to be of interest to them at the moment? Does it relate to their current preferred types of play? and
- How do I pique their curiosity about this prop?
Here are a few potential ways to introduce a new prop, using a street directory as an example;
Real life experience: If your child is unfamiliar with the prop and its use, create a scenario for using it in real life to provide an example to your child of what it is, what it is used for, and in what context. For example with a street directory, you might plan a trip to play at a new park and use the street directory (in your child’s presence) to work out how to walk/drive to your destination.
Strewing: I have posted before about the unschooling idea of ‘strewing‘ where you add into a child’s play space items which capitilise on their natural curiosity. In the case of the street directory, it might be as simple as leaving it in their playspace or adding it to their bookshelf or book basket and waiting for them to discover it. This way you can follow their lead, seeing if they are in fact interested and observing what they already know about the item before deciding whether or not to do more.
Create a play invitation: I am a big fan of creating fun and interesting invitations to play as a way of presenting toys and resources to capture a child’s interest and set the stage for longer periods of more meaningful play, and therefore learning. Play invitations involving a street directory could include;
- Making a simple roadscape by drawing with marker on a large piece of cardboard or cutting lengths of grey felt or fabric. Arrange with toy cars, people and road signs and your street directory (see photo above).
- Setting up four dining chairs (or child sized chairs) into a car formation. Add a paper plate for a steering wheel, tie on ribbons for seatbelts and be sure to include the street directory (or make a DIY kids car for something a little less temporary).
- If your child likes to play ‘going on holidays,’ adding a street directory or road map to the play is a perfect way to extend the learning potential of the play.
Remember, it is not about prescribing the play which must take place, instead it is a matter of engaging your child by creating an interesting play space and then letting them play and explore, with or without your involvement. And in the case of the street directory, it is not about teaching them to use it correctly or teaching them to ‘read’ street names or symbols, instead it is simply one tool to reinforce the importance of literacy to everyday life.
- Is imaginative play just a waste of time?
- Playful Learning
- Learning That Happens Everyday
- An Outdoor Play Invitation