Play the TimberNook Way… with Water!
Today was a very wet day! We started by reading a book called “The Rainbabies”. Then, we discovered that, just like in the book, things from the book were scattered all throughout the woods. There were boats, baskets, flower pots, baby bottles, and even babies! Campers found plush toy babies and even tiny plastic babies. We also had water balloon “raindrops” and water squirters.
Mother Nature even joined in at the end with her own rain shower! Some of the campers splashed around, and others stayed dry in our fort.
Now, let’s get to my favorite part: Talking about everything we learned during Day 4 of TimberNook Orlando! If you’ve missed our previous recaps and need to catch up, here they are:
Why you need the right “loose parts”
Today’s camp really demonstrated the importance of having the right “loose parts” when creating a playful experience. Loose parts are simply things (natural or synthetic) within the environment that can be moved around, combined, taken apart, put back together, and anything else you can think of. They inspire and aid in creative expression, and we use them often in TimberNook.
On Day 4, I really think we chose some awesome lose parts that led to very meaningful play experiences. Plastic babies were “potted” in soil. Fishing nets were hung on trees. We had kitty-litter tap pans for “boats”. Clay. And a whole lot more!
Visual and Auditory Processing
Before reading our book, we had a pre-teaching exercise. The group was broken up into three teams and were told to keep a close eye and ear on the reader. Whenever the person reading the book said certain words with their hand on their head, the team was supposed to write the word down.
They had to use their eyes and ears at the same time, and this was a good way to get everyone’s attention. However, each team’s writer ended up doing most of the work! It reminded me about the importance of teamwork, but we’ll talk more about that later.
At the end of the book, each team had a list with clues: These words were all loose parts that were hidden.
Flowing into play
Once we were done reading the teams weren’t instructed to stay together, though I was curious to see if they would. Teams remained intact at first but soon enough they would break apart. That was awesome to see! Everyone had their own experiences.
The point of TimberNook is to prompt loose and open-ended playfulness, and we definitely achieved that today.
In our group there was no competition and everyone played together. I began to notice so many changes in our campers, especially with how mindful and caring they were toward each other.
After reading the book each child made their own baby out of hard, terracotta clay. It was so fascinating watching everyone play with this type of clay. The tactile sensations are so different from a material like Play-Dough, which is what many kids are used to.
So, playing with this real, natural clay was a bit of a challenge at first. We tried to think of ways to make it softer, like adding water. Then everyone had to figure out how much water to add. Some of our campers were a bit surprised and upset that their hands got so dirty… but it was definitely a memorable learning experience.
We’ve talked about the tactile and proprioceptive senses in earlier recaps, and today’s camp gave everyone even more opportunities to practice integrating their sense of touch and sense of their body’s relation in space at the same time.
A great example of this is how comfortable all of the campers become with the mud by Day 4. They’re actually wading out into the muck now, testing their balance, movement, and coordination at the same time. They’re accustomed to the feeling and sensations of the mud, too.
Moving the Body on a Grand Scale
This was another objective on today’s schedule, and let me tell you — we moved!
During our water balloon fight, everyone had small, easily poppable balloons filled with water and a small, plastic baby. The idea was to pop the balloons on each other to simulate rain, and to get to the babies in the balloons.
One thing that struck me was how incredibly careful everyone was — no one wanted to break the balloons on each other. The adults encouraged them to feel safe in their play, and we still had a ton of fun.
A Big Educational Benefit: Making Learning Nurturing Through Play
I loved that this was one of our big educational benefits of the day. It was really interesting to watch this one play out, because we presented something that could so easily have a gender bias (babies). However, the manner in which everything was presented seemed to have an impact on how everyone played. The book was a bit complicated (especially with the placement of babies, like in the pond) and everyone had to come together to take care of the babies.
And the campers weren’t just nurturing of their babies. They ended up being so nurturing of each other’s abilities through teamwork.
One of the best examples of this was when they were trying to use certain things as boats to get the babies out of the bond. They tried so hard and spent ages trying to make a boat. Some kids even fell over into the pond! It was a beautiful display of teamwork, cooperation, and problem solving.
There were tons of, “Ah ha!” moments while they were trying to figure out the boat situation, too. Some campers quickly realized that things with holes wouldn’t float. And that’s the kind of real-world knowledge playing provides!
What’s the difference between doing and being?
As adults, we often assume the intent behind activities like the ones I’ve described today. But, are they really “taking care of” a baby, or are they just “doing” the actions?
I might think they’re taking care of the baby, or maybe it’s just another prop in their play environment without any additional significance.
It’s the same with dogs, too. In the dog world it’s so easy to say, “that dog is being so gentle.” “That dog is being aggressive.” We do the same thing with our kids.
All of this leads to an interesting question: What’s the difference between being and doing?
Think of it this way: Just because you failed at something (doing) doesn’t mean you’re a failure (being). Just because a child appears to be nurturing a plastic baby (doing), doesn’t necessarily mean they’re (being) nurturing. If a dog snarls (doing) that doesn’t mean the dog is aggressive (being).
Why the heck is this important?
Well, us adults have all confused the meanings of these terms before (see the failure example above). Identity formation is a complex thing and it all starts when we’re young and learning about the world. If we use words and concepts in certain ways, those thoughts begin to inform the belief systems we have about ourselves and the world around us.
Simply put, being mindful of the labels and words we use can have big impacts on our children later in life.
Have you ever confused “doing” for “being“? Can you share some examples? It’s something we’ve all done, so let’s talk it in the comments!