Talking toys, ready-made projects, iPads, and electronic games are all super fun and enticing. However, they don’t help our kids develop communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity. These are the skills that will ensure life long learning and problem solving not only through school but throughout careers and family life as well. What will happen to the next generation of kids if they don’t learn these critical life skills?
In an effort to help 4 – 6 year olds develop these skills in our Social Adventures group we read books with simple themes such as “Good-night Gorilla” and “The Little Red Hen” and act out the stories in the gym. This has been quite a challenge for our little ones as they show difficulty negotiating roles, identifying props, figuring out how to use the space available to them and staying with the theme.
To help the kids grasp early negotiation skills, we provided each child with a ball or tactile play item and when another item looked more interesting to them, they asked a friend to trade. If a friend wanted to trade, he said, “Sure”. We taught the kids to say, “In a minute” if they didn’t want to trade and then encouraged the swap shortly after.
Last week, we decided to play “Grocery Store” with the 4-5 year olds in our Social Adventures groups. It happened sort of organically when one child suggested the game and the others enthusiastically agreed. In discussing roles, the kids said we needed a “Scanner”, a “Delivery man”, a “Shopper”, and a “Grocery Worker” to stack the shelves.
The food (cardboard blocks) was delivered to the store via scooter board and the child stocking the shelves organized the shelves by color. He assigned exotic names to the food such as “spicy yogurt” getting more creative as the game proceeded. The shopper used a laundry basket as a grocery cart. The Scanner chose to stand inside the upright barrel to scan the food and then send it down the slide.
The kids began wanting to change roles. Sometimes a friend would say, “Sure” and other times they would say, “In a minute”. They then surprisingly switched roles in about a minute! Each child adapted his or her roles to suit their personalities. When one boy said the grocery bill was a whopping $9.00, the “customer” exclaimed, “WHAAAAT?” and then obligingly paid up.
You may think I am overreacting but I felt this session was no short of a miracle. The kids were engaged, negotiating, planning, problem solving, collaborating, and thoroughly enjoying themselves! So let’s put the electronics on the shelf and let the pretending begin.