In a safe environment where they feel secure, even very small children can enjoy constructive problem-solving and concentrate for surprising amounts of time, says Anne O’Connor…
Jamie (23 months) is on the floor, playing with a variety of everyday objects, including plastic cups, pots and large wooden curtain rings. Her grandmother is watching her nearby.
Jamie is very absorbed in her play, carefully manipulating and placing the items in ways that make sense to her. After lining up the cups and pots she carefully puts a ring in each one.
She shows persistence in placing the items exactly as she wants them, and setting them right when they topple over. She becomes frustrated when she cannot get the rings to stay on top of one another and looks to her grandmother for reassurance. She is easily soothed and returns to her self chosen task. There is evidence of a range of schema.
1 Watching Jamie at play provides us with powerful evidence of the ability of very young children to persevere and concentrate.
She plays for more than ten minutes, with no direction from the adult, and with an obvious purpose in mind. She has set her own targets and perseveres until she is satisfied with the result. She is completely absorbed in the task she has set herself.
The skilful way she manipulates the cups as she pulls them apart and stands them up suggests that she has previous experience of similar materials. Not only has she mastered a range of skills that require fine motor control, she also appears to have some conceptual awareness of one to-one correspondence as she care fully selects a ring for each pot or cup. Jamie is a perfect example of a child engaging in ‘free-flow’ play – wallowing in her past experiences and the technical prowess, competence, mastery and control she has acquired, just as Tina Bruce has described (in The Excellence of Play, ed Janet R Moyles, OUP, p193). In fact, she is working very hard at playing…
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Article written by Anne O’Connor and published in Nursery World © www.nurseryworld.co.uk