construction play with preschoolers

A Lovely Day of Construction Play

When we engage in sensory play, we build the small muscles in our hands as we grip and grasp toys, we experiment with cause and effect as we figure out what happens if we throw a handful of sand at our friend or dump it on the floor, and we practice communication skills as we tell about what we’re doing.

And sometimes, the sensory toys we explore are an opportunity to work on conflict resolution as we navigate peer interactions and work on sharing a limited space with friends. When this type of thing comes up, we get to develop problem solving techniques and build social skills too.

sensory play with preschoolers

Foreman builds a house for his trucks.

When a new item is added to a sensory table, a few things can happen. We could completely lose interest, having played as much as we wanted to play in that particular material. We could be totally engaged, losing all interest in doing other activities provided. We could be slightly intrigued and spend a few minutes checking it out and then move on. Ideally, there’s a middle ground where the new addition brings just enough but not too much excitement.

sensory play for preschoolers

Rocket Constructs a Garage for the Cars

Today, as we play in our sensory sand table full of construction trucks, we notice that there are new magnet blocks added to the sand and we ask questions like: “Where did you get these blocks from?” and “How do they stick together?” As we talk with our teacher in this way, we show what we know about the world and build conversation and vocabulary skills.

creative ways to tell stories with preschoolers
light play, storytelling with preschoolers

A Day of Storytelling and Light Play

This afternoon’s threat of rain sent us to the basement to do some light play and exploring with the Picasso Tiles on the overhead projector. We’ve been playing this game about taking a vacation inside a snake (a crawling tube toy) for the last few weeks together and so a string of bone-like beads was added to our choices of what to put on the projector.

The ever-compelling circus rings were still hooked up in front of the wall that the light shines on so a circus show was going on while we took turns telling stories about the snake.

When we tell stories together, we practice showing what we know about the world, work on memory and recall skills, and build vocabulary. When our friends perform during our stories, they work on listening skills, practice taking turns, and build their gross motor skills.

creative ways to tell stories with preschoolers

Professor Worm performs his circus act while his friends tell stories about snakes and mountains and hunters on the overhead projector.

creative ways to tell stories with preschoolers

The green and yellow hunters search for the snake.

creative ways to tell stories with preschoolers

A storm visits Snake Mountain.


The Value of a Story (Or, When the World Has a Question)

Kaptain and Lightning work with the story dice.

Kaptain and Lightning work with the story dice.

When we work together on collaborative storytelling activities, we not only show what we already know about the world but we also develop vocabulary and practice the rhythm and cadence of our language. Telling a story together allows us to dive deeply into cooperation, negotiation and problem skills. 

Earlier this week, I sit with several students and a few sets of storytelling dice to see if we can work together to tell a story. We spend a while taking turns using the dice and designing ways to use them to inspire our stories. As we play in this way together, we learn from each other (it takes practice to observe peers and apply parts of their ideas that we find interesting to our own work), develop sustained attention to a task (in a classroom of six children between the ages of two and six, there is great potential for interruption and focus can be a challenge), and have the opportunity to work on both speaking our ideas and listening to the ideas of our friends. (In our group, we describe listening as a way to be kind to our friends. 

Lightening tells this story: One time a man had a terrible question. And when he thought of that question, he was lost in the woods. He got out his thing and tried to go how many steps at a time. And then a big lightning bolt came and struck a pyramid and that pyramid turned into a foot print. Light bulb made a dice. The End.

Kaptain tells this story: Once upon a time there was a pirate ship and it won a badge for being the greatest badge for being the greatest pirate ship ever. It could even go through rain. And then this tall building had a flashlight and saw an airplane in the night and the world turned as fast as it could round and round and round. And the pirate ship was the best ever so it got a golden medal and then the castle saw a rainbow and mail told the pyramid and they said, “What?” And then the pyramid saw a shooting star and they said, “Why is there a shooting star in the daytime?” So they mailed the castle. The End.

Using two sets of story dice, we tell the following (genius) story: 

Kaptain, Lightning, and Teacher

Teacher: Once upon a time, there was a giant and he was walking to town and he met the tiniest person he’d ever seen.

Kaptain: The giant got mad at that person for setting a fire on his foot.

Lightning: He made a telescope and then put the end of the telescope on fire to light that man on fire.

Teacher: So, the tiny man was magic so he called a rainstorm and it rained and rained but the sun was still shining and we all know that when it’s raining and sunshining at the same time there will be a rainbow. So a rainbow appeared and the giant looked up at the rainbow

Lightning: For hours and hours.

Kaptain: And then a lightning bolt struck the rainbow and whoever touches could be electrified.

Lightning: Then there was a scary tunnel and it let the giant to a great big monster and the monster ate the great big giant so that he could never be bad again.

Teacher: And then the giant was inside the monster and he said, “help, help!”

Kaptain: And then the monster ate an x-bomb and then the giant was dead and the monster was dead from the explosion.

Lightning: After the explosion, there was a flower.

Teacher: And the sunshine helped the flower to grow taller and taller.

Kaptain: And the world spun round and round and everybody was so dizzy from it.

Lightning: And the world turned into a bug.

Kaptain: And then a snake turned back, it was a magic snake, the snake turned it back into a regular world.

Lightning: Then the world had a question.

Kaptain: The world shared the question with everybody.

Linnea: And the whole world was like, “Hmmm, I wonder what the question was? Hmmm, I don’t know. Hey, I know what it is, it’s the world spinning and no people don’t know what.”

Kaptain: And then the only one thing knows the answer. Only one. A bee. And then it spread the answer to the whole world and even to the animals and to the people.

Lightning: And there’s a treasure box and there’s lots of treasure and gems in it. The End.

The children know that I am recording our stories and they ask to listen to what they’ve just created. We all sit together at the table, the children who were not participating join us and we listen intently to the recording with all of its glorious interruptions and side tangents and negotiations and when we are finished listening to it, everyone is smiling.

I am smiling now. Are you?