No matter how much I learn about child development or play, I am still always learning from the kids. Sometimes they teach me purposefully, and sometimes I am just floored that I could have been so wrong.
First, let me set the scene. My Adventure Play Days are a day camp that is pretty much completely child-led. The children get to choose how to spend their day. This year, we were at the beautiful Walking Stick Adventures - a pond with a trail around it, lots of natural elements to explore, and even a tipi!
The children and I met at the front of the property, and I thought that perhaps the preschoolers would be a bit slower to warm up to the "do whatever you want" idea, so I had our special craft laid out and ready to go when we arrived at the main site. This special craft is meant to still be fairly open-ended, but it gives the group a new way to create or a new material to explore. This year, for both days of camp, I chose a suncatcher. It would allow them to use natural elements and had lots of opportunity for personalization. But it turns out, I was very wrong about these preschoolers needing any direction from me to get started. I described the craft, held up my example, showed them a "special trick" to cut out the center of their paper plate, and told them to go ahead and start creating.
Well, they might as well have laughed in my face and said "Molly, why are you trying to control our creative play?!"
These kids started creating things that had nothing to do with my suncatcher craft, but they were all creating with such purpose! They finished one creation after the other with the materials I had provided. Luckily, I knew I had been schooled and let them take the lead. They were so proud of their creations and moved on to other play when they were ready. As they should. Next time, I will remember who the experts are.