In the Orange Room, our new group of two-year-olds are particularly drawn to the Magnatiles in their classroom.
The teachers wondered: Why Magnatiles? What is it about the big blocks that the children are less interested in? Is it less about them being disinterested and more about them being engaged with the quicker gratification that comes with Magnatiles?
To explore this further, we began setting up more big block provocations that incorporated small blocks, Magnatiles, and cars. Provocations are open-ended activities that promote creativity and stimulate ideas. Since we’ve noticed that the Oranges build mostly with Magnatiles, but don’t interact with our big blocks (hollow blocks). We wondered: If we combine the children’s interests in Magnatiles and building with the hollow blocks, what will happen?
Some students brought cars into their play and made race tracks and car garages. Others were more interested in the building aspect of the Magnatiles, watching and helping to build a car garage.
As we observed the children playing, we noticed that they still didn’t interact much with the hollow blocks and mainly focused on the Magnatiles. The beauty of setting provocations is there are no expectations, only revelations. This gives us insight on how we can plan other provocations and how we can further nurture this focus on building with Magnatiles.
We wonder: If it’s the Magnatiles and not just building the children are interested in, what’s drawing them? Is it the magnets? What other skills can we explore through Magnatiles?
It is developmentally appropriate for two-year-olds to still be engaging in parallel play (playing next to each other, but with their own materials). As they continue to grow their social skills, confidence, and language skills, cooperative play starts to emerge.
When one child was building a structure and another came over to engage as well. We noticed the first child gently moved the new contribution, though did not outright reject it. This moment of play was short, but it is something worth noting as we build these cooperative play skills.
To nurture this, we facilitated a group activity about working together and respecting each other’s choices. During a meeting time, each child was able to add one Magnatile to the community house being built with one guideline: you may not move another person’s Magnatile. At first, the class made a single long line, which is different than the tall towers we typically see them build during their play. However, when a teacher added hers vertically, more Oranges began to add their Magnatiles in an upwards position too. At the end of our activity we discussed that this is something they can do without a teacher. When playing with peers, sometimes friends have the same ideas as you or they have different ideas, but it is important to respect the pieces they are playing with.
Next, we set up a provocation by creating magnetic photos of the Oranges and adding them to the Magnatiles. At first, the children were surprised to find a mini version of themselves and examined their magnet closely. Some giggled and smiled as they found their own pictures, and as they noticed each of their peers’. This provocations was revealing as well – the class was less interested in building houses and towers for their people and were more interested in carrying their person around or matching their peers to the magnets.
To continue this Magnatile provocation, we moved the magnetic photos of the children to a large magnet board. Despite our attempts to encourage a new place to play, the children went back to building towers on the shelf. As researchers, we continue to wonder: What is their interest in building on this specific surface? If we put another material here, how would the Orangesicles respond? More provocations to come!
Reflection by Amelia Beck and Elizabeth Klak, Orange Room Co-Teachers