I’m pretty sure many of you are familiar with “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” Fred Rogers is one of my heros and mentors. His soft approach and ability to express complex issues in a simple way are at the heart of my daily work with children. Please check out “Fred Rogers before Congress” on the internet – it’s a priceless video. I’m certainly not saying it’s not a thrill for kids when grownups squeeze their grownup bodies into, let’s say, a small playhouse. It is. I guess it’s a general respect (as an adult) for their small size at that point in their lives. Special spaces that are just for them.
There are several spaces like this in the playgroup. One is a corner (2’x2′ x 11-1/2′ ceiling height) – a “lost” space between some shelves and a wall. It is where we start constructing the cardboard house that we begin building in the spring of every year. (It gets broken down and prepared for recycling after the last day of playgroup every year, in June.) I’ll describe this space in a few months as we start and develop it. During most other times, it’s a space they want to hide in, so, I put up a somewhat transparent curtain at the front. Last year a wonderfully imaginative little girl named Mira called it an elevator, so it became one (magically!). This year I put rubber stamp numbers in three different places, at their height, on the walls inside this space: 1, 2, 3, 4 – elevator-style. I’m thinking of adding more numbers, and maybe a star next to the number 1.
Some other spaces are created by them. Most of the toys sit on large shelves (2’x2’x3’h). When I built them I was thinking of how the kids could get inside of them – and lo and behold, they did and do! Every year, they discover they can take everything off one of the shelves and get inside. The emptying and climbing in delight them. After they’ve grown bored with this game, later in the morning, and we’ve put the toys back on that shelf, they have to wait until the next day to do it again. This seems reasonable, right?!
Another space is created by fixing two parallel heavy-duty cords across the room and safety-pinning a large piece of fabric over them. Last year I made a new white rip-stop nylon cover (to replace the old one) and cut out various sized square windows, covering them with transparent fabric – on one side of the “house.” This way the kids can look out (or in) and we can see what they’re doing! Win-win I call that. When I first put up this “house” during the playgroup at the beginning of the year, the kids actually squeal with delight, running in and out of the open-ended space. It is certainly a favorite of theirs and one that can be put away in a box and then reconstructed easily. Another win-win situation.
Then, there’s always the space under the kitchen table covered with blankets.
By the way, I promise to post more pictures in the future – as soon as I get my blogging sea legs.