Ice Castle


A child was working in the building area with Magna-tiles. As I walked by, the child asked if I would like to help them build an ice castle. I declined the offer, so I would not influence their work. Instead, I offered watch, adding we could talk and play when the castle was finished. The child agreed, continued building, and started to tell me about the work. The ice castle was created for two small characters the child brought from home. When the ice castle was complete I was given a tour of where each character slept and where they kept their vehicles. As we talked more, I discovered the vehicles were spaceships, and secret doors existed to gain entry into the castle.

As a school age educator, we are often invited to help children extend or complete their work. This happens because the children are trying to make a social connection with the adults in the school like the connection they have with other children. We play with the children frequently, participating in sports, games, and playground activities, but when children are engaged in purposeful activities the educators try to stay in an observation role so the child can take the journey of discovery alone or with peers.

Children use pre-made and created props as a backdrop to their imaginative play. These props add depth to the story they are creating and give children motivation to continue developing their characters and the adventure.

As I continued to observe, the child started to build additional spacecraft for the characters to fly in. The work began by connecting several triangular shaped Magna-tiles together. This process created two diamond shapes that were attached together to form a pod. The child demonstrated how each character fit into the pod, but one character with large hair did not fit. The child explained this was an oversight, and that one pod would need a redesign so the big hairy character would fit.

The process of creating is one of discovery and re-discovery. During this work the child imagined a certain outcome, executed their plan of action, then adapted, as the original idea did not turn out as they envisioned. Children are motivated by the creative ideas they come up with, and will try repeatedly to re-create something they envision. Children are focused on work they choose no matter how many attempts it takes to create work they are satisfied with. The work moved forward as the child started to rebuild the spaceship and make it larger.

The child continued experimenting and fitting different triangular pieces together until a pod big enough for the big hair character was created. Next, the child used the ice castle and pods to play. I stayed for a while and played too, until another child wanted to join in. I used this moment for a graceful exit to work with other children. There exists a delicate balance between being engaged with the children and influencing their work. I am always working at balancing the two worlds.

How often do you engage in play with the children?

Are there moments in your day where observation is a part of your practice?