Materials and Connections

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Today, out of all the possibilities the children could choose from, the focus followed two simple tools. Whiteboards and Expo Markers. 

As the children started their work, the whiteboards were utilized to illustrate ideas, practice drawing, and transfer the images onto paper. 

Other children were using the whiteboards to practice writing, scribbling, and a small group of children were challenging each other with creative math problems. 

The final group I observed employed a different approach. This group of children gathered around and started drawing. Instead of focusing on drawing, the children were talking about different subjects and doodling on the boards at the same time. 

Observing their work for a while, I realized the children were utilizing the whiteboard as a tool to make social connections. The children were talking and quickly drawing images related to the subject of the conversation and erasing the images quickly. Drawing while talking represented their water cooler.

Looking back on my observation, I wondered how many materials children play with are actually props for creating social connections? Are utilizing toys as a social connector different from playing together? 

Playing together travels through stages, as young children grow and learn to share and collaborate. Toys represent a material children desire to play with. Young children are practicing negotiation and methods of securing materials for a play experience.

The children I observed were utilizing the materials as props and a social lubricant. The children were not trying to make friends. In appearance, the children were nurturing deeper connections and using illustrations on a whiteboard as a medium to touch the heart of other children.

Pondering my observation, I wondered where the same behavior was occurring in different areas of the program? Considering the question for a while a few examples came to mind.

Often, groups of children gather in the block area and are talking and sharing ideas about their building, but all of a sudden stop creating, to talk and share problems, feelings, and worries. 

Another example is children on the playground. On a regular basis, I observe children in full motion, running, laughing, and sliding. Then a few minutes later the same children are sitting calmly under a tree, quietly talking and forging a deeper social connection.

The connections the children are trying to establish represent the same connections we cultivate and establish with our friends and loved ones. They constitute connections that live deep and are challenging at times. All people are searching for an event or place to create conversations that make connections easier, and young children follow the same pattern.

What spaces and materials in your program invite young children to forge deeper connections with their peers?