Going Smaller – or Bigger



What to do when one activity, which had been fueled by lots of imagination, cooperation and  enthusiasm becomes stagnant and uninspired, yet children still insist on “playing the game” or using the materials? I change the scale!


We have a group of horse-crazy girls who have insisted on riding the hobby horses every day they are at school. EVERY DAY! They are the best of friends and love to gallop around the lower playground. They are happy and engaged with each other. Yet, the play was the same and there wasn’t any new ideas or problem solving. I invited them up to the Garden Classroom, but nothing really grabbed their attention. I got together with their teachers and we decided to gather the girls and have a meeting. We called this gathering, the “Horse Committee.” After drawing pictures, the committee members shared some interesting facts, such as…


Horses eat hay, horses have manes, the farmer takes care of the horses, horses can be a boy or a girl and they live in a stable, and stables are made out of wood. Lesser known facts include, horses and mice are good friends.    


Using this valuable information, I gathered up some materials and let the girls help me create a “small world” of horses.

We started with the materials I had on hand and continued to meet with the original group and others to find out what else is needed.


One of the most important items had to be made. Air-dried clay was purchased and given to the committee to be made into small mice.


As time went on, other animals were added.  A “farmer girl” and her chicken were purchased and instructed to take “care of the horses.” The original “Horse Land” is now a farm and all animals are welcome.


 I am still gathering information and adding materials. Soon, a stable will be built. Meanwhile, other children have enjoyed interacting with “The Farm” and adding their own bits of knowledge and experiences.

And the original “horse girls?” They will ride up to the back fence in the Garden Classroom, hitch their horses up, and visit to see what is new and play with their favorite horse.  We check in with each other on the progress we are making and see what materials are still needed. As you can see, this little committee had a great time together while expressing their knowledge and using their imaginations. They created a “small world” that expresses their passion and deepened their understanding of their trusted steeds!


Meanwhile, I had a group of fort builders that started last year with Justin – then in the 3 Day program. He became an expert at pinning cloth together onto branches and loose parts such as tires. He taught this skill to others. The activity continued after he returned as a member of the 5 Day class. Others joined the team and took on different roles. Some built the main structure, using branches or tires, others pinned the clothes together, while others added different accessories such as pillow and books for reading.

Over the weeks, enthusiasm waned, and other activity centers such as writing and the Map Center were drawing a good portion of the “fort builders” away. (Typical for this time of year as the older boys start to show a greater interest in drawing and writing.)  The fort building became more of a solitary activity and I realized something needed to be done to extend the learning and fire up some social interactions.


After refusing to bring out the cloths one day (YES I DID!) I invited my lone fort builder over to the rug, where lots of natural materials are available for building and one other child was already engaged. He stood there for a moment, and then I offered him some cloths – smaller- but similar to what he had been using before and his eyes lit up. He knew “the language” of cloth and set to work. Same as before, just a smaller scale. The advantage of this new venue, was a greater variety of materials, and possibilities. (I believe I have shared this photo before, but I wanted to tell the “backstory.”)


One interesting result of this collaboration, was a return to the big fort building, but in a new location. This time, they are using the large branches in a new formation.


This is fun stuff.  If the activity starts out big- go small. Or, if the activity starts small –go big. I love it!

 With Joy!



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