That Will Be $6.01
This winter break I had the opportunity to spend time with my family. One afternoon, sitting at the kitchen table my nephew said to me "Auntie, would you like a coffee??" He has this new love of using the Keurig coffee machine and he also really likes to entertain and throw any type of party he can think of.
"Sure!" I said, "That would be nice. What kind of coffees do you have?"
"Well come look, there are lots of different kinds," he replied.
"What kind of restaurant is this!?" I yelled and slammed my fist on the table. "Don't you have a menu or something?!"
A huge smile spread across my nephews face. "Right! A menu! Yes, I will make one!" And he rushed off to his bedroom and came back with a marker and a piece of construction paper. I helped him get one of each of the K-cups out of the drawer. He sat at the table and printed each of the names of the coffees on the piece of construction paper. When he was done he handed me the piece of construction paper and said "Here, now which one would you like?"
I studied the piece of paper. "Which one has lightest flavour? Something like a breakfast blend?" I smiled at him, trying to re-create a scene from a restaurant.
He sighed and said in his "annoyed voice" that 6-year-olds are so good at already, "Auntie just pick one."
"Ok I'll have a chai tea latte please." He rushed over to the kitchen and made me my chai tea latte. He rushed back and put the cup in front of me. "Well," I said, "how much do I owe you?"
Another huge smile, "Ummmmmm," he looked up at the ceiling really putting extra thought into his response, "$6.01!"
"$6.01!" I yelled. "That's one expensive coffee. Well ok," I said digging into my pocket for my imaginary money, "here you go." I offered out my hand to him, empty with my imaginary money.
"Oh no, I need real money," he said.
Now I was appalled, "Well first of all I don't have any money on me, and second I thought we were playing a game here." He laughed and ran to the living room with his menu to scam other family members out of $6.01.
This play session wasn't complicated, it didn't take planning or expensive toys. I just took a regular opportunity in my day with my nephew to create a fun opportunity to learn. During that one play session we role played the social norms of what happens when someone goes to a restaurant, what the roles of the server and customer are. He had the opportunity to use fine motor skills and pre-literacy in writing out the menu. We talked about pre-math skills through pricing and money. It was a great example of learning through play, the model we practice at ABC Head Start.
Play is critical to children's learning! Play scholar, John Byer, says that during play the brain is making sense of itself through simulation and testing. We are able to try out things without threatening our physical or emotional well-being. We can create possibilities that have never existed but may in the future and make new cognitive connections that find their way into our everyday lives. We can learn lessons and skills without being directly at risk. In playing we create imaginative new cognitive combinations. And in creating those novel combinations we find what works. In short play shapes the brain, opens the imagination and invigorates the soul.
So do me a favour, set the work aside and PLAY this weekend!