We are thrilled to announce the release of our newest publication Adventure, Play, Peace: Insights and Activities for Social Emotional Learning and Community Building With Young Children by Nancy MacPhee Bower. As one of our reviewers states:
“We have been anxiously waiting for Nancy Bower’s second book. Incorporating peace with play and adventure is a powerful and timely idea. Nancy gives practical advice and makes the big idea of peace tangible in activities for children of all ages. The lesson plans are easy to follow and offer a variety of ways to play each game, encouraging creativity from the participants. We have used the games with our teachers for team building and staff development. Nancy’s work encourages children and adults to accept and appreciate each other with peace as the goal.”
—Michelle Vogel, Owner and Director of The Winfield Children’s House, Falmouth, ME
This week we are offering an excerpt from her book:
Playing games with young children has given me the chance to witness the progression children make from being solo operators to genuine, interactive members of a group.
The first “group” for a young child is that child plus one other person. Buddy games have become a critical component of Adventure Play programs for this reason. Playing with one other child is a huge leap toward being an interactive connected member of a community. Stepping out of the comfort zone of their own world, in which they are the center, is a gradual process. Early on, parents and teachers are their safest buddies. As a sense of community, trust and safety grows, children can branch out and play with other buddies.
Build Your Compassionate Community One Relationship at a Time
The community grows stronger and more connected as relationships develop. We feel safer and more trusting in our community when we have many safe and trusting one-on-one connections. Very young children develop friendships in brief moments of fun. At a minimum, a friendly connection with someone they don’t know very well can begin with a short, playful experience. As the children feel more comfortable, these brief moments can become longer.
In Adventure Play, we add excitement and mystery by playing matching games to create random pairings. Pass out objects that each have a match. Once all the children have an object in their hands, play the matching game. Their buddy is the one child whose object matches their object.
Here’s how it usually goes:
• Demonstrate the upcoming game before passing out matching objects, include how to be safe when they play.
• Then I’ll say, Did you know that one way to make a new friend is to play a game with them? We’re going to play this game with one buddy.
• When I play with preschoolers, I often lay out the matching objects so that they visually understand the matching game.
• Then I’ll pass out the objects saying, Who will you get to play this game with?
• Next, I invite them to, Find the person who has the same object as you.
• That’s who you get to play this game with.
If the child isn’t comfortable with his or her buddy, you can use it as an opportunity to talk about it. That may be all that is needed to move the child to feel ready to play. If it seems that the child is nervous about stepping out of his or her comfort zone, I ask if I can play with them. Or, if there is a child who just wants to watch, that is perfectly fine, too.
Ideas for matching objects:
• gems, rocks, shells, or other items from nature
• nuts and bolts
• wooden or plastic fruits and vegetables
• numbers or letters
• animal puzzle pieces
• opposites cards
• color paint chips
Follow the Leader seems to be more fun if you are the leader. And it can be downright miserable if you are way in the back feeling like all the fun is happening far away from you. Here’s a game that gives everyone a quick turn-around on being the leader.
Space: large open room or playground
How to Play
• Create buddies with your random and oh-so-cool buddying items du jour.
• To decide on a leader, invite the buddies to ask each other: “Would you like to be the leader first?” If they get right on that task, then the hardest decision gets made right away. This doesn’t always work. You may have to help some buddies work through this decision.
• One of the buddies will be the leader. The other child will follow, going everywhere and doing everything like the leader. Leaders can be creative—moving arms, running sideways or backwards, hopping, leaping, babysteps, spinning, etc.
• You or an appointed child begin the game by calling, Jog. When the children hear, Switch, they trade places, and the follower becomes the leader and the leader becomes the follower.
The way to be safe in this game is to keep an eye out for your friends who are all jogging in this same space. When it gets crowded, use your reflexes and be ready to “stop on a dime.” Demonstrate quick reactions and moving out of the way of other moving people. It gives the children a visual of what I mean by using their quick reflexes AND it invites them into a new challenge.
• Play on spots, facing each other. The leader creates the moves, the follower imitates.
• Add a third person to the group.
• Shrink the playing space.
• Expand the playing space.
• Use a music maker instead of the switch command.
• Add tunnels, hoops and other obstacles.
• Add “side by side” to your commands so that they jog shoulder-to-shoulder, but not touching.