Allie is an educator, play advocate, and writer living in the Pacific Northwest of the US. She is the Founder of Bakers and Astronauts. Her piece, “Playful Materials” in the upcoming Play Issue of the Ottiya Magazine, explores the importance of objects surrounding early childhood, and how to purposefully present them for an enriching play experience.
Gabrielle: As you know, the theme for the second Ottiya Magazine is play! What does play mean to you?
Allie: To me, play is all about meaningful, personal connections with the world: with people, with objects, and with places. Children (and adults!) deepen their understanding through playful, exploratory interactions with people, space, and materials.
Gabrielle: What was your favorite way to play as a child?
Allie: I loved to play outdoors – climbing trees and being in the woods behind my childhood home, especially. I also did a lot of quiet play – I read a lot, wrote, spent time in my room. Play is so personal – it is whatever sparks your interest, whatever gives you pleasure.
Gabrielle: Your article mentions exploring the multiplicity of objects–markers, for example, don’t need to just be instruments to write. Are there phrases you’ve used with children (or even adults) to help guide them toward this perspective?
Allie: The actions and language that we use as adults when children are at play can help move children forward and deepen their thinking, or put brakes on the creative experience. I like to stay open-ended, making a comment like, “Tell me about that!” Or “I notice that you used the marker to support your paper structure…” and leave it open for the child to share and communicate more about their playful explorations. Adults should try to open up opportunities for children to articulate their ideas and work on their own terms as often as possible.
Gabrielle: Your line of “play is never finished”, is so vital to children but also us, as adults, as we interact with play materials ourselves. As children grow into teens, how do you recommend continuing the mindset of “play is never finished”?
Allie: There are a lot of creative, passionate teachers working with students of all ages, finding the time to be more flexible with their plans, giving kids the time to just explore process rather than work towards a specific product. My advice: make sure there are materials available to explore, and long chunks of time for those explorations in elementary and middle school – and beyond. Plus, all children can talk about their play, so open up dialogue about what you all notice in your work and play. Most importantly: model playful inquiry yourself, too.
Gabrielle: Froebel, Montessori, and Nicholson are some of the founders of exploring play objects you mention. Are there others who you recommend reading more on, or have influenced you as an early childhood educator?
Allie: My biggest influences have probably been Lev Vygotsky, whose focus was constructivism, and Piaget, Malaguzzi, and Frances and David Hawkins. The history of Early Childhood Education is so rich, and we are also in such an exciting time right now as well – there are people thinking and doing wonderful things as we speak! Read as much as you can!Recommend0 recommendationsPublished in