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Building a dragon’s cave

A group of children, ages three to almost seven, start a game about dragons. They work together with resources available in theSteiner kindergarten classroom to build a cave.

Good for looking at

  • Social development
  • Co-operation
  • Pretend play
  • Object play
  • Playing without adult support
  • Group of children playing
  • Leadership
  • Negotiation

A group of children, ages three to almost seven, start a game about dragons. They work together with resources available in the Steiner kindergarten classroom to build a cave.


  • How different age children playing together effect the play?
  • How are the children learning? Which areas of development, engagement and characteristics of learning can you observe?
  • Can you see evidence of any aspects of self-regulation?
  • How does the environment support the children’s learning?
  • What is valuable about the open ended materials for supporting play?


What are your thoughts about:

  • Was there a leader of this play?
  • Did the children have a joint aim?
  • Did they communicate effectively with each other?
  • What effects do you think a mixed age range had on the children’s play?


What would you do to:

  • Support the children’s play? Would you interact at any point if they are playing happily?

What next:

  • What could you do to enable mixed age groups to play together in your setting?
  • Could you provide more open ended materials and resources to support children’s imaginations?
  • What do you know about the Steiner approach to early education? Could you find out more?



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Example Observation

The child in pink starts the dragon game by describing the scenario in a creative way. He gives details of the main pretend character. Younger boys listen and older children ask if they can play too. Once he sees there are a few children wanting to join he suggests they build a cave for the dragon.  The child in pink is still the leader but listens to others’ suggestions. The whole group cooperates together.

Example Assessment

The child in pink seems to have acquired expert skills as a leader – asking others to progress the caves structure so that all feel involved and their suggestions valued. The younger children are exploring how they become an active part of the social group while the older ones are all able to make their own contributions.

This unstructured play gives the children ample opportunity to select materials, solve problems, cooperate, take roles and develop their own ideas without the need of an adult. Learning here is not an individual affair. The younger children are learning through observing the older children and participating where they feel they can. This activity is clearly enjoyable because of the positive social interactions. Belonging to this social game motivates them all and they’re all working towards the same goal – to make a satisfying interesting game for everyone.