Friday, June 21, 2013

Natural Learning in Pretend Play

B Snug Bugs have been a favorite story telling toy for Natalie for almost two years.  Like her other dolls and animals, she likes to name them, create a family, and have them act her favorite activities (napping, shopping, dancing, birthday parties, etc).  When she started to play with them this morning, I grabbed a notebook and asked her to tell me a story about the bug family.  As she spoke, I wrote down what she said as close to her words as I could. (We've played this game before so she knew to wait for me to stop writing).  As I wrote, I asked questions including asking for more information and if we should include certain things.  I read the story back to her a couple times.

Here is the text of the story typed out:
Once upon a time there was a family of bugs and they lived in a family house made of logs.  The daddy was named Richard.  The sister was named Marie.  The baby was named Gerald.  The mommy was named Sally.  They looked kinda like caterpillars and beetles with dinosaur smiles. 

And they had a birthday party.  But there was one problem.  They needed an uncle to come say surprise.  The uncle’s name was Brian. 

But it was too late and they couldn’t get him picked up.  The family felt sad.  They didn’t think he was coming so they stopped the party for a little bit. 

Then the uncle came in.  They jumped up and down and said, “Oh my god! It’s the uncle!” 

They had hot chocolate and cookies and sing a song. 

The End. 

As soon as we were done, Natalie asked to make a picture to go with the story.  We've done this before with drawings, stickers, and paintings.  I suggested she arrange the toys and I take a picture because she loves to arrange dolls with their accessories.  She had other ideas.  She wanted to help cut the bugs out with paper.  So, we got out the construction paper.  Natalie helped make the legs and antenna and I did the other shapes.  We then worked together to glue everything.  I drew on the faces.

Natalie is cutting the legs out. 

Natalie made different voices for the bugs as they were excited to find the pictures of themselves.

When you are done with this game, type up the story and keep it with the picture.  Post it somewhere the child can see it (such as the fridge or their room), or if you do this often, make a story book (a full sized binder with the story in one page protector and the art in an adjacent one).  Another great way to celebrate the work is to have your child share it with a sibling or other family member, such as "reading" it to a baby or over Skype to Grandma.

Daddy reading Natalie's story with her.

This activity took us over a half an hour.  Natalie stayed fully focused the whole time, even though I put the TV on for William so that he wouldn't destroy all our paper pieces.  I am sure that Natalie stayed focused because she was invested in the project; it was her idea to play with the bugs and make a story and it was her idea to practice the scissors while making the bugs out of paper. 

Skills naturally present in playing this game:
  • playing with the parts of a story
  • learning about writing through adult modeling (the physical process as well as the mental process)
  • color and shape identification
  • counting
  • one-to-one correspondence
  • fine motor skills through cutting, gluing, and manipulating the paper
  • following directions
Our specific story covered:
  • family relationships
  • parts of the body
  • conflict and resolution in story

After playing something like this, you can expand on it again later.  For example, we might read some books about bugs later or watch a TV show about bugs.  We sang Ladybug Picnic.  Natalie is scared of real bugs, or we could go on a bug hunt.

Natalie continued playing with the bugs.

She made them Lincoln Log houses.  

She put them to bed. 

She pretended her stool was a cave and had them go camping underneath it. 

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