We Never Got to Play!

"But, we didn't get to plaaaayyyyyyyy."

There is always a lot of prep and planning on the children's part as they dive into their play arcs. The "pretend I am..." takes so much time to build houses, boats, cars, to form families, and to dress babies, to find food and pets, to form alliances and establish experts. It takes a lot of time, talking, and moving to give shape to all the children can imagine. As cooperative play unfolds this planning time is the play. It is so engrossing that time flies, flutters away as the children buzz, buzz around each other in the planning.

Then, kind of suddenly really, the children begin to write and that becomes part of the planning. It happens every year as children become more convinced that the written word holds immense power. Haven't the stories we have shared held sway on every bit of their imagination? These books create whole worlds for them! Now it is their time to shape worlds. Their play messages now include written notes.

There is a frenzy of pen to paper. More paper is called for and tape. They need tape! These signs must be posted. Immediately because without them, no one will know that BABIES ARE NOT ALLOWED. Only space buddhas can enter here.

These signs take so much time to write, but they must be written. How can the "real" play even start until the rules have been established and nailed to the door of the house that they have built? Their little heads bent to the task, asking each other what letter comes next. They compare notes about what to write. Through their collected experience with reading and writing, they are able to share the letters they need to communicate their ideas. They talk about how to make a letter /b/ for baby. They encourage and congratulate each other. What does a /w/ look like again? Such a tricky letter, but it's definitely needed to write "allowed" they all agree. One of them found the laminated letter placemat. More paper! Quick!

Their letters land on top of each other and tilt along the edges of the paper. And so there is no confusion, they add drawings of babies and space buddhas. One is allowed into the space buddha house and one most certainly is not. They pull out their most familiar graphic notation -- a giant X over the drawing of the baby. That means no babies, of course, who would think of bringing a baby into the peaceful den of the powerful space buddhas and their space buddha dog? No one, that's who. The sign says turn around.

Someone added a checkmark and the others immediately catalogued that into their repertoires. Checkmarks and then arrows were added to the drawings. The signs became fancier and fancier.

This house is ours now the signs shout. Too dangerous for babies, but perfectly safe for space buddhas.

Then. All too quickly. It was time. 

"We never got to plaaaaaayyyyy."

Paper work. It always takes so much time, but tomorrow, dear ones, will be another day. And there will be more paper waiting for you.