Thursday, March 15, 2012

Carpentry Play

The carpentry corner at Playcentre is a very empowering corner for play indeed.

My daughter's creation, "The dolphin diving in the sea"

Full of real tools - saws, hammers, nails, screwdrivers, screws, drills, vice, wood and the complete trust in our little people that they will enjoy the tools in their play.

Our playcentre carpentry corner has had its tools refreshed and the kids know it.  With every tool working as it should the children are relishing each one.

Our role as parent at Playcentre is to provide, observe and extend when and if possible.  With carpentry that can be intimidating for a myriad of adult reasons - safety concerns, limited personal experience even frustration that screws, nails and tools are being tipped out and strewn every where by children!!!

After attending a carpentry play workshop I have had my lenz widened to so many pathways children play through when exploring with this type of play.

My kitchen cupboards and draws are often emptied of cutlery, pots, bowls and tea towels because even with all of the "play" or "toy" equipment provided - you just can't beat the real thing. And why not, it's good enough for Mum and Dad right?  Of course then carpentry tools are viewed by children in the same way.

If you imagine how your baby and toddler play and explore the home kitchen then we can draw comparisons to stages of development in carpentry play :

Experimentation Stage
In the kitchen we might see our children....
                        watching family members,
                                      grabbing for and playing with kitchen utensils
        handling and playing with spoons, bowls and pots
                                                             carting the pot around like a treasure
                          emptying cupboards

                       (sound familiar?)

With carpentry play this stage might look like
               tipping out accessories
                                               chewing on wood
        watching other children
                                                           handling or carrying tools around

Abstract Building Stage
In the kitchen we might notice our children.....
                                                use all the utensils in ways they have seen them used
                         begin to stir in a pot or bowl
                                             put plates or bowls or pots in ovens or fridges
          put their toys in the pots!

With carpentry play this stage might look like
                          hammering nails without help
         controlling saws                                        imitating adults
             using tools for their correct purpose
                                      no plan

Specific Creating Stage
In our kitchen I see this ...
                  child requesting a recipe
                                         understanding that certain types of baking requires certain ingredients

gathers ingredients from cupboards and fridge or garden
                            models Mum and Dad's methods
    insists on variations
During carpentry play you might see children in this stage...
      Pre planning construction
                               adding accessories
                                          modeling own things
completing and naming their creations

What I love the most about these identified stages is that it begins with experimentation and upon knowing more and understanding more returns to experimentation.  That to me is what is exciting about learning through play and in my opinion what learning is.  How often do you find yourself mastering something, then experimenting once you feel you have reached a certain point?

Ideas for making carpentry more accessible at Playcentre or at home:

Provide the basics if you can - wood (untreated pine off cuts are usually free around the place), nails or screws, hammers, drills, and saws.

Be present during this play - observe, offer language (hit, screw, up, down, together...) provide ideas to enable the child to realise their plan.

Holding a nail can be hard while little hands hammer.  Try starting the nail, put clay or playdough around to hold the nail in position.  This is a much more appealing option than your fingers around the nail while the child takes aim with the hammer.

Wood can be hard.  Bars of soap are a great medium for hammering into - if  the child's goal is to hammer.  Pumice is an accessible medium to saw, drill or hammer into.

Hammering/drilling holes into shells can end in shatters.  Use a masonary bit (has a spade like tip).  Hold the shell round side down and squish into play dough or clay to hold in position.

Tree stumps make excellent hammering tables for toddlers - they are lower, a little more forgiving and provide a large and defined work space.

Once nails are hammered into wood, thread wool around to create a pattern.

With the child's imagination and exploration nurtured by the adult's support through observation, offer of language and scaffolding to make their pathway possible there are no limits - follow their lead.

Carpentry play grows problem solvers, develops fine/gross motor skills, is both scientific and mathematical amongst many other values and most importantly is fun.

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