The House. Who Actually Lives There?

Marc Armitage has been sharing the Playwork Principles on facebook and number 7 is my favorite for reflection...“Playworkers recognise their own impact on the play space and also the impact of children and young people’s play on the playworker.” Just this past week, I watched and waited to see the play unfold during a dramatic play session. In this case, the play immediately fell across gender lines and exclusion. Depending on how the play unfolds, the watching and waiting is sometimes hard for me, because I am always thinking about how to "make things better." This characteristic is very important when imagining and shaping the space and materials before the children come in, but once the children are there and engaged in the environment we have carefully crafted, I have to actively remind myself that I do not hold all of the answers. I only hold my answers.

Tracks built a house on Tuesday. It had a roof of fabric and walls made of wooden hollow blocks. The thing about the walls, though, is that they could come down with barely a huff and puff. They were made with a single layer of hollow blocks, set end on end, in order to achieve greater wall height -- think about when you built a fabric-roofed house. When you stood up inside and pushed the roof up with your head, the roof sank in further when you sat back down. And then remember how you wanted some things to be on top of the roof? Like stuffed animals or fake flowers, because a 2nd floor makes a house even better? You knew you couldn't be on the roof, but you could certainly find things that could! Then the roof would sink even further, eventually becoming a carpet.

Well, all these experiences were in the Leaves' near future and they totally moved into the house and disregarded the buyer-beware clauses in the contract. BUT . . .  they all didn't move in. Only the girls moved in. They took over the house IMMEDIATELY. "Boys are not allowed." I didn't move in immediately to redirect, I just pointed out that we need all kinds of people to live on the Earth. It wasn't long before the house was caving in, and the boys, who had been left to build their fabric-less house made of the few hollow blocks left and assorted unit blocks offered to help rebuild it.

That didn't sit completely well with me, from my position of teacher-observer (aka Mrs. Bossy Pants) because the girls sat inside like little empresses while the repairs were underway and the boys worked without acknowledgement or thanks and with great difficulty because it is hard to renovate a house when the homeowners are hanging around inside all day yelling at you about your work. Still I just observed -- a little bit observed, because I just had to offer, "Wow, that is nice of the boys to repair a house they are not allowed into."

Then, after the repairs were done and the work crew back at their own home construction site, one of the girls walked over to the neighbors and said, "Thank you for repairing our house. You can come over any time."



"No, you can't," came a voice from inside the pink house. And with the simplest of prompts, I said, "Maybe they could check to see if you need something repaired." And with that, they all moved on, and played together, visiting back and forth, between the houses, adding details to each structure. When the next group came in to see the two structures created, they had a completely different take on what to do with them. They immediately named the one a house, but the unit block structure became a garden with sculptures.



All is well, that ends well.