Outside Sand Play
During outside free play, the four-hour class has been experimenting with sand, as well as all the new “mud kitchen” materials our new playground has to offer. We noticed something particular about the children’s sand play. When taking a closer look at their creations, we saw there were little rocks and wood chips on top of the sand amongst the pots and pans. This is what the children had to say when asked further about their creations:
“I’m making chocolate cake” – Jeremy
“This one is strawberry” – Adriana
The children continued making various types of pies and cakes, which all had sprinkles (little rocks) on top. Melinda, then placed a long wood chip upright in the center of one of the pies.
“Birthday candle,” she explained. “It’s my birthday.”
“Well, actually, it’s my birthday”. – Amelia
“Mine too! My birthday!” – Many of the children shouted.
As the experience continued, more children gathered over towards the space to create their own sand cakes. This then set in motion a conversation about having a birthday party. We then looked for the perfect place to have the party. Once the children decided on the location, it was time to feast on our pies and cakes. Everybody was invited. Many of the children found leaves to represent their party invitation to a party that was set to start at “2 am sharp.”
There were also many other aspects to the party, such as checking off who’s attending, washing dishes, and having a dance party. The playlist consisted of the ever so popular “Despacito,” “Shake it off,” and “Thriller.” The children loved to be able to have their requested songs played at the party – it meant their ideas were valid and it helped bring the party to life.
Once the children were gathered inside, we decided it seemed fitting to have some birthday hats. We first looked around for some hats, but couldn’t find any. Since we couldn’t find any, we decided to assist the children in creating their own birthday hats. As Educators, we first struggled with the idea of making the birthday hats, as part of our personal philosophy is the importance of process over product. In process art, there are no instructions and no right or wrong way to create, the experience is the child’s choice. In product art, the teacher creates a sample for the children to copy and there is a finished product in mind. Because of this, we decided to provide the children with a variety of materials in order for them to decorate their hats in whichever way they deemed fit. These hats became a part of our classroom resources and the children used them in their play during their indoor explorations whenever they felt it was appropriate.
On another day, we provided the children with kinetic sand alongside small pots, pans, and sticks. It didn’t take long for Adriana to come over and start manipulating the kinetic sand, picking it up and pressing it into one of the pans. She then took the pan and carefully flipped it over, revealing the pressed sand which was inside. This process was repeated a number of times. Adriana then gathered up numerous sticks which were laying on the table, sticking two in each creation.
“It’s your birthday,” she said with a smile on her face, “don’t forget to blow out the candles.”
This seemed to spark excitement amongst the other children, who then joined and began creating their own birthday cakes.
Baking and Decorating a Cake
Now, imagine you’re an educator and you really want to prepare a super engaging, hands-on experience for the children to incorporate all their recent play you’ve observed. This includes providing a real-life experience of baking and decorating a cake, even though you have no experience in cooking or baking yourself. These were our thoughts exactly. Nonetheless, as our “everybody’s birthday” play continued in and out of many weeks, we decided that even if our cake doesn’t turn out, the benefits of the process of baking and decorating the cake outweighed that chance.
When baking the cake with the children, many different learning opportunities were presented in different curriculum areas. For example, when first starting we had to take a look at the recipe to find out how much of each ingredient we needed. Naomi assisted with this process, as she held the box with both hands reading out the amount of each item we needed.
“Three eggs.” – Naomi
“We have four eggs.” – Irene
“We only need three!” – Naomi
This provided the children with the opportunity of understanding, and showing their knowledge of numbers while applying it measuring.
When it came to decorating the cake, we thought the pictures below were self-explanatory when it came to describing the children’s excitement.
The beauty of Emergent Curriculum is that we will not know when an idea changes, or forms into another. Recently, we have been spending some time with the other classes outside. Much of this time, birthdays were still their main focus of their play, but this time, with more children involved. As we’ve observed, getting a party ready can be a whole morning process and requires a huge team effort, especially if our house needed “some rainbow paint on the walls.” It wasn’t long before we noticed that all of the walls on the outdoor houses were filled with “rainbow paint” as they used coloured chalk to “paints” the walls. When it was party time, this time the children had a choice to make – attend a birthday party or attend a Christmas party that some of the children in the other class put on. Many of the guests traveled from one party to the other, seemingly enjoying both.
Over the next few days all that once was birthday presents and birthday cards, slowly turned into Christmas.
We are wondering what the new year will bring. Will the children continue on with the interests of birthdays? Or will we see a whole new interest emerge?
Until next time,
Sam and Nastasia