In the current scenario children are confined to their homes. Keeping in mind their need to play and the relevance according to their age we have customized the ‘loose parts’ play and taken them into the virtual classroom.
By Naimisa Tolety, Shradha Thakur, Pratima Sabnivis, and Madhuri Raju Penumetcha, pre-primary educators at Silver Oaks International School, Hyderabad.
“Play is not only for pleasure and enjoyment but also promotes a child’s cognitive development and socio-emotional wellbeing.“
The Coronavirus pandemic has changed life on a daily basis. Life isn’t as it should be. It’s a confusing and lonely time for adults and more so even for children. As children are social beings, one of the most challenging obstacles for them is the absence of play. Children gain their life experiences through play. Play is not only for pleasure and enjoyment but also promotes a child’s cognitive development and socio-emotional wellbeing. Play supports Learner agency (voice, choice and ownership).
As a part of the inquiry into the theme How we express ourselves, to address the central idea “Play, music and movement create patterns”, we explored different ways to take play into our virtual classroom.
Planning for teaching and learning through virtual classes for children in the age group of 3 ½ to 4 ½ and to involve them in play was a tough process. After a lot of brainstorming of how to involve the child in play, we came up with many possible play methods and we also came across few challenges such as:
- a) availability of required material.
- b) availability of space around.
- c) parent time constraintsfor arranging the required material.
“Play with loose parts kindles creativity and imagination in children.“
Then we came up with thinking about ‘loose parts play’. Loose parts are random materials that can be moved and played around with endlessly. These materials can be as simple as bottle caps to blocks and can be used and played with in different combinations. Play with loose parts kindles creativity and imagination in children. It encourages open ended learning.
Loose parts play had also been given to the children in the physical classroom in the previous year. Our goal then was to have uninterrupted play using the materials given and we also wanted to see what children made with them and what meaning they made out of it. We provided different loose parts like blocks, pebbles, straws, toilet paper rolls, pom poms, leaves, twigs, beads and placed them in stations. The children were given the choice about what he or she wanted to do.
We observed that in a physical classroom scenario, children were able to
- make different models
- interact with peers
- inquire about their friend’s models
- exhibit social skills by waiting for their turn and by sharing the materials provided to them
Now we would like to discuss how we have taken loose parts into our virtual classroom.
We informed the children that we would have a play week. We asked children to get different objects which they could find in and around the house and asked parents to check if they were child friendly. We gave examples of a few things which were easily available at home. Children along with the parents went around the house and brought together the objects.
We planned a 45 minutes session with 12 children in each session. Initially, children brought a few objects like blocks, stones & nuts. A few proactive parents sat with the children and observed them play along with us. Most of the children played with blocks and they built different structures. A few of them didn’t have any clue on how to go further. Once their friends started showing their models these children got motivated and started playing with the things they had.
Next session with a few prompts, children brought different things like leaves, stones, pebbles, nuts, blocks, vessels, glasses, spoons, mugs, cups, crayons. Some of them built tall towers using glasses, spoons and bowls. They built a school and office using blocks and spoons. Some children cooked using vessels and glasses, a few arranged the objects in patterns and a few played music using spoons and glasses. This went on for the whole week.
Children showed what they had built and they were curious to observe their peer’s models. They inquired and exchanged the information with others.
Here are a few quotes from the children about their models.
- A child arranged a few cups and spoons pretended to stir water in them and said the corona vaccine is ready. From this we understood that the child could relate to their experiences of the immediate environment.
- Another child expressed her love for flowers, and she made flowers using pompoms.
- Another child arranged different nuts in a pattern and said that it is a train.
We observed that children were organized and were able to wait for their turn. They were able to communicate about their models to others. We also came to know that children were able to engage with loose parts even after the virtual session.
“They were able to relate to their present environment and also to their happiness and insecurities.“
After week-long play, a few children created different patterns. This helped us to tune children into the concept of patterns and rhythmic patterns. In addition to this, we noticed that children could make meaning out of their models and were very creative in making different models using the same materials. We have also observed that children were able to develop:
- communication skills while communicating about their models.
- thinking skills by giving thought to making different models using the same material.
Surprisingly, we also noticed that children could organize themselves (for example, respecting the speaker and waiting for their turn) and their materials. They were able to relate to their present environment and also to their happiness and insecurities.
Though there were a few limitations in virtual classrooms when compared to physical classrooms, play provided many opportunities for children to develop their curiosity, creativity, and imagination as well as some of the Approaches to learning in virtual classrooms too! So finally, we were able to achieve our goal of tuning into the concept of patterns through loose parts play.
References: Loose Parts: A Start-Up Guide by Sally Haughey and Nicole Hill
Naimisa Tolety has been associated with early years education since 2013. She strongly believes that education through play in a healthy environment can bring a positive outcome to the child’s life.
Madhuri Raju Penumetcha has been working with the early years since 2017. She is passionate about teaching early year children. Her mission is to provide a loving, safe and personal learning environment for each student in her classroom.
Shradha Thakur has been associated with early years since 2014. Her true passion is working with early year children. She loves to promote self-help skills and empower children to believe in themselves.
Pratima Sabnivis has worked in the early years since 2015. She is motivated to help children become happy, healthy and independent.