Grits and Purls

Spinning yarns about the grit of life

The other night I was playing with my four-year-old daughter in her bedroom. She was the “Little Mommy,” and I was the “big sister”. She sat at her desk with her colored pencils and Kai Lan notebook “working”.

“First,” she said as she donned her special, purple hat, “you have to put on a hat.”

(Wow, I missed the hat part. Maybe I’m doing that wrong; I rarely put on a hat at work.)

“Are you finished yet?” I whined. “Can we play?”

“No, don’t bother me.”

“Are you finished yet?”

“I told you not to talk to me.” She got up with a huff. “I’m hot.” She turned on the ceiling fan. Then she noticed her bulletin board, which had a fourth-of-July art project hanging on it, a paper windsock with crepe paper streamers.

“The paper is moving.”

“Yes it is. Do you know why?”

“The fan?”

She turned off the ceiling fan, and after it stopped and the streamers were still, she turned it on again, this time at low speed. The streamers didn’t move. She turned the fan off again, and after the blades quit moving, turned it back on, this time at high speed. The streamers moved.

“It’s the fan, but it has to go fast.” She announced.

“Wow.” I thought. “She just made an observation about her world (the streamers started moving); came up with a testable hypothesis to explain it (the fan made them move); designed an experiment to test her hypothesis (turning the fan on and off); and then modified her hypothesis based on the what the data were (the fan does it, but only when it’s going full speed). That’s science.”

That’s the scientific method. And, if you consider that she was always careful to turn the fan completely off and make sure that the streamers were still before trying each time, she was even working in some controls for her experiment. All without coaching from me. All during the course of PLAY.

She beamed, and then frowned as she adjusted her hat. “Be quiet, don’t talk to me. I’m working.” And she returned to her coloring.

During the course of PLAY, my daughter has taught me much about learning. While cutting out Play-Dough shapes one day she announced “I’m going to cut this circle in half and make two semi-circles.” (Geometry at age 3). After she received a pink piggy bank from an uncle, she put money in it, turned it over, and immediately figured out how to get the money back out. (Probably not a good sign for teaching her fiscal responsibility later, but certainly a good sign that she wants to know how things work.)

PLAY. Children learn through play. They are natural learners, and they aren’t scared of science or math or difficult vocabulary. They want to know how the world works.

Do you want to secure the future? Do you want the United States to be at the top of the next science and technology revolutions? Do you want the best teachers and doctors and nurses? Do you want to be surrounded by beautiful art and great music? It all starts with PLAY. Let children play, and take time to encourage their innate curiosity. You never know, you might learn something yourself. I have.

© 2010 Michele Arduengo. All rights reserved.

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