Not A Box is our current Story Book Journey, at Children’s House Preschool. This book, written by Antoinette Portis, beautifully illustrates the “out of the box” thinking we seek to develop in our students. The little bunny in the book uses imagination to see the box as a race car, a burning building, a hot air balloon, a howdah on the back of an elephant, a crow’s-nest on a pirate ship, a rocket, etc.
Preschool children are in an important stage of development in which they begin to use symbolic thinking to represent the world around them. Symbolic thinking is what is used for pretend play, and although on the surface this may not seem important, this type of thinking allows for the use of letters to represent sounds and numbers to represent quantities. By encouraging children to use the abstract objects around them to symbolize objects in play, we increase their future skills in literacy and math, as well as other areas. Pretend play is also where children learn and practice important social skills of turn taking, negotiating, listening, leading, following, as well as respecting others thoughts, ideas and space.
The teaching staff at Children’s House puts great thought into planning our classroom to maximize the opportunities for children to stretch their thinking in this way and to connect back to our Story Book Journey.
Last week teachers used blocks and objects to represent people and places and together with the children, story lines were constructed. One tool we use to tap into, and ignite, the creativity of the children is to ask them open-ended questions. Their answers become part of the storyline, thus demonstrating how to symbolize their thoughts, as well as building confidence that everyone’s ideas can contribute.
To act out Not a Box, we used a small stuffed bunny and a small cardboard box. The children were able to call out the different objects the bunny was pretending the box was. The experience was deepened, by asking what noises and movements the bunny might make for each scene. Then we asked what other object the bunny could pretend with the box. This type of oral story telling not only uses symbolism, it also enforces sequencing, another important pre literacy skill.
In art the children used shapes and objects to represent faces and familiar objects. During the process children were encouraged to look at the shapes for what they could represent. Objects were looked at and children asked what could this be? Children used symbolic thinking to create their pictures: triangle as a hat, a bottle cap as an eye, etc.
Another art project involved giving the children a box shape to color, and the prompt, “It’s not a box, it’s a….” Many of the children quoted directly from the book, while other came up with their own ideas.
While many things are planned, we leave ourselves open to where the children’s curiosity leads us. This week the classroom was greatly influenced by the construction work happening just outside our doors. The construction workers, big dump trucks, cement cutters, backhoes, and bobcat were so exciting and interesting.
They afforded the opportunity to study these people, vehicles and tools in action, and as fodder for dramatic play. Together we symbolically represented our experience with blocks and abstract objects as well as wooden trucks and little people.
Here is an example of how the children used a cardboard box, cardboard wooden corners, a wooden block, a chair and a steering wheel to create the bobcat they had just observed. Later further details were added: a cardboard tube for a concrete mixer chute, a wooden piece for a pedal, and foam for a brake.
The children worked together, ideas were shared and turns were taken. The process was directly tied to the experience of observing the workers, as one child said, giving up control of the newly-built bobcat, “Construction workers do different jobs.”