DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET Helping Children Resolve Play Conflicts play isn ’ t fun Sandra Heidemann and Deborah Hewitt COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET e When Play Isn’t Fun Helping Children Resolve Play Conflicts S a n d ra H e i de ma n n a n d D e b o r a h H e wi t t Name: Date: COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET Also from Redleaf Press by Sandra Heidemann and Deborah Hewitt: When Play Isn’t Easy: Helping Children Enter and Sustain Play Play: The Pathway from Theory to Practice, revised edition of Pathways to Play From Deborah Hewitt: So This Is Normal Too?, second edition Published by Redleaf Press 10 Yorkton Court St. Paul, MN 55117 © 2014 by Sandra Heidemann and Deborah Hewitt All rights reserved. Unless otherwise noted on a specific page, no portion of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or capturing on any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer, who may quote brief passages in a critical article or review to be printed in a magazine or newspaper, or electronically transmitted on radio, television, or the Internet. First edition 2014 Cover design by Erin New Cover photographs by © iStock/Ljupco Smokovski  Interior design by Erin New Typeset in Adobe Garamond Pro and Futura Printed in the United States of America 21 20 19 18 17 16 15 14  1 2 3 4 5 6  7 8 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Heidemann, Sandra, 1946-   When play isn’t fun : helping children resolve play conflicts / Sandra Heidemann, Deborah Hewitt.        pages cm    Summary: “This book will broaden your knowledge about the important topic of play, and it will help you explore common challenges children might experience in play. Hands-on techniques, assessments, reflection questions, and exercises are included to help you more effectively support and strengthen children’s play” — Provided by publisher.    ISBN 978-1-60554-305-5 (paperback) 1. Play—Psychological aspects. 2. Education, Preschool. 3. Child psychology. 4. Child development.   I. Hewitt, Debbie, 1958- II. Title.   LB1139.35.P55H45 2014   303.3'2—dc23                                                             2013044405 Printed on acid-free paper COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET e Contents Introduction 5 Chapter 1 Remembering Your Play Experiences 9 Chapter 2 Understanding the Pathways to Play 15 Chapter 3 Facilitating Dramatic Play 27 Chapter 4 Solving Problems 39 Chapter 5 Negotiating Play Conflicts 47 Chapter 6 Helping Children Engage in Dramatic Play 56 Chapter 7 Responding to Physical or Violent Play Themes 69 Chapter 8 Opening Up Play Opportunities 83 COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET Dear Reader, This book and its companion reflect a renewed interest in play and how very important it is in the healthy development of children. In this new world of technology, play continues to be the most powerful force for learning in a young child’s life. And our job as people who teach young children is to provide the best environment for play to happen. This book, When Play Isn’t Fun: Helping Children Resolve Play Conflicts, focuses on setting up your envi- ronment, schedule, and curriculum for play and highlights several group-play challenges and how to address them. The companion book, When Play Isn’t Easy: Helping Children Enter and Sustain Play, offers a detailed look at the Play Checklist introduced in our book Play: The Pathway from Theory to Practice, plus an exploration of how play connects to early learning standards. The books build on information from Play and can be an additional resource to it. The books move from designing your learning environment to maximize play, to helping groups of children resolve barriers to more productive play, to helping individual children learn better play skills. The books could be used on your own, with your teaching team, or by your organization. They could be the basis of workshops. As we began these books, we decided to ask friends and family about their experiences with play. Their memories are touching, funny, and poignant. Many of their quotes are included in the books. Those of us who care for children have many possible roles: teacher, assistant teacher, aide, family child care provider, specialist, and others. We all interact with children as they play. We have chosen to use the term teacher when refer- ring to all adults working in our field. We are all teachers in each of our roles. The suggestions are valuable whatever your title. We have used the term learning environment to refer to the variety of settings we see in early childhood. We hope these books help you to remember your own play experiences and use those memories to strengthen the play experiences for the children in your care. As you increase your intentionality with regard to play in your learning environment, children will show you their delight in new and fasci- nating ways. Sandy & Debbie COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL Introduction e DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET Whether you are a teacher, teacher assistant, or a family child care provider, you have seen children playing with enthusiasm. Children find ways to play together in classrooms, dramatic play areas, outdoor playgrounds, and on living room floors. You have also seen children’s play end in tears or fights over toys. Despite these conflicts and angry moments, children want to play together and you have an important role in making it happen. Perhaps you are not always clear about your role. You may have many questions about what play is, what children are learning, and how you can help children reach a more mature level of play. This book answers these questions, outlines strategies to create an engaging play envi- ronment, helps you understand play skill development, and suggests ways you can encourage children’s growth through play. It also covers challenges children have during play, such as conflicts over toys and violent play, and how you address them. You could complete this book as an individual to improve your strategies around play, as a teaching team seeking better ways to work together on play environments, as an entire center organizing around a goal of strengthening play in your classrooms, or as a learning community or class studying children’s play. However you approach the book, you will find ideas to make play come alive and give children a powerful way to learn and grow. r Nadia, a teacher in the four-year-old room, sat at a table and smiled at the busy activity around her. It was free-choice time and children were playing in several interest centers. A group of four children was in the house area setting the table and fixing dinner, another group was in the block area constructing an airport, and several children were signing cards in the writing center. The cards were going in the class mailbox when the children were finished. Setting the Stage for Play Maybe if you were Nadia you would feel grateful that the children were involved and busy. However, experiences like this do not just happen. Nadia took an active role in making this successful play happen in her room because she believes young children grow and thrive through play. COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL 5  DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET Time to Reflect You too have an important role in setting the stage for play in your learning environment. What do you think Nadia did to set the stage for play? ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________ You might have noted the activities she set up or the interest areas she designed, but there are other ways Nadia helped children engage in play. She paid attention to how much time she allotted to free-choice time, she carefully chose props and materials that encouraged a range of involvement, and she helped children collect new props or solve conflicts with each other. Before she even began planning space and choosing toys, she had learned how play skills develop and how to observe children as they play. Children Need Adult Support If you set the stage for play with goals in mind, you will ensure children gain the kind of play experiences they need to develop and thrive. Children learn more if adults support their play in the following ways: • Understand how play skills develop. • Observe children as they play. • Set up the play space. • Include engaging and varying props. • Provide enough time for play. • Facilitate friendships. • Help solve conflicts. 6 | Introduction COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET Self-Assessment Are you doing everything you can to help set the stage for play? Self-assessments help us look at ourselves and how our own attitudes and beliefs can affect our practices. Take the following self-assessment to learn more about how you put your beliefs and knowledge about play into action: 1 I am aware of how memories of my own childhood play experiences influence my work with children (chapter 1). a) Always   b) Usually   c) Sometimes   d) Never 2 I observe children while they play and write down my observations so I can identify what stage they are in (chapter 2). a) Always   b) Usually   c) Sometimes   d) Never 3 I arrange my learning environment into interest areas, including one for dra- matic play (chapter 3). a) Always   b) Usually   c) Sometimes   d) Never 4 I provide enough time for play (chapter 3). a) Always   b) Usually   c) Sometimes   d) Never 5 I may get discouraged when encountering a problem, but I stick with it until I find a solution (chapter 4). a) Always   b) Usually   c) Sometimes   d) Never 6 When I try one strategy to help children play together and it doesn’t work, I plan to use another one (chapter 4). a) Always   b) Usually   c) Sometimes   d) Never 7 I use problem-solving steps with children when they are fighting with each other (chapter 5). a) Always   b) Usually   c) Sometimes   d) Never 8 When children aren’t using the dramatic play area, I join in the play to get them started (chapter 6). a) Always   b) Usually   c) Sometimes   d) Never 9 When children make up violent stories, I make sure it is safe for all, and talk with the children about their feelings (chapter 7). a) Always   b) Usually   c) Sometimes   d) Never 10 I help children pretend to be superheroes if the play is safe and creative (chap- ter 7). a) Always   b) Usually   c) Sometimes   d) Never Your self-assessment is a snapshot of what you know about play and how you help children experiencing challenges during play. Your responses can point to areas you want to strengthen. COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL Introduction | 7  DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET Time to Reflect When you look over your self-assessment, do you have questions or thoughts? What would you like to learn more about? ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________ Using This Book The book is divided into eight chapters. Chapter 1 asks you to consider your own childhood play experiences and how they influence your reactions to chil- dren’s play. Chapters 2 and 3 review how children’s play skills develop and, given that, how you can design and facilitate exciting and engaging dramatic play areas. Chapter 4 delves into how you approach problems and outlines a problem-solving approach that you can apply to your work. Chapters 5 through chapter 8 examine various group play challenges, such as violent or repetitive play, that keep children from experiencing the richness of group play. Each chapter contains suggestions as well as reflection questions to help you find workable strategies. This book is designed to be interactive and is meant to encourage thought, reflection, and discussion. As you reflect on and then plan and implement new play strategies, you become a more intentional teacher providing children with rich play experiences. 8 | Introduction COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL Remembering Your Play Experiences e DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET C h a p t er 1 Remembering your childhood play experiences will help you empathize with chil- dren as they seek out new friends, latch on to special play themes and toys, and experience hurt feelings over being excluded. Your play history is part of what you bring to your interactions with children. When you recall your play experiences, you may remember playing in your neighborhood or home with little or no adult supervision. Perhaps your outdoor play included natural materials such as mud to represent cooking, leaves to rep- resent fish, and porch railings to represent horses. With your friends, you could have acted out elaborate themes of war or adventure and not wanted to stop when called in for supper. You and your friends might have taken risks by climbing, running, hiding, and crawling on the ground, resulting in physical injuries. You may remember hurtful words, fights, and being left out as you worked out your conflicts with other children. The unstructured play just described has great benefits for children and often occupies a special place as adults recall play memories. However, you cannot dupli- cate this type of play in your learning environment. Safety regulations and your active presence in the learning environment mean the play experiences of the chil- dren in your setting will be different. The children may still have play experiences in their homes and neighborhoods similar to the ones you remember from your childhood, but because you provide structure and supervision, they will have more support to work out conflicts, more planned play experiences, and more adult input in your setting. You can still provide some of the benefits of less structured play while keeping children safe both emotionally and physically. The following chart highlights how you can bring the benefits of less structured play into your learning environment. COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL 9  DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET B r i ng i ng i n Le ss Str uc t u red P l ay What Adults Remember What You Can Provide Having Choices Adults remember being able to choose play activities. Give children choices of activities and toys. Save enough time in your schedule to play and explore those activities. Listen to their interests and provide a dramatic play theme based on those interests. Playing Outdoors Adults remember playing outdoors with natural materials. Bring your dramatic play outside. You could even set several interest areas outside. Take walks and explore the natural environment. Set up a children’s garden plot in the summer months. Confronting Challenges Adults remember overcoming physical and emotional challenges. Encourage children to try activities that are out of their comfort zone. Provide support to continue trying until they succeed. Solving Their Own Conflicts Adults remember solving conflicts with their playmates, often without any adult support. Although you want children to feel emotionally safe and to seek your assistance when they have conflict, encourage them to find solutions and try them out. Learning through Mistakes Adults remember making many mistakes while playing, but learning through them. Don’t be too quick to jump in and rescue a child who is making mistakes. Offer assistance when the child is too frustrated, but applaud all attempts to overcome challenges. Fond Play Memories You probably have many fond memories of the toys you played with, the places you chose to play, and the special friend or groups of friends who joined you. However, adults often remember little from their preschool years and tend to think of how they played as older children. Try to think of your earliest experi- ences with play. You may recall a toy you loved or a play space that you revisited over and over again. 10 | Chapter 1 COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET Time to Reflect Think of a fun play experience you had when you were a young child, then answer the following questions: Where were you playing? ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________ What were you playing? ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________ What toys were you playing with? ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________ Were you alone or with other children? ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________ What made it especially fun for you? ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________ I remember playing with a group of stuffed animals. I often played alone because I was the oldest child and didn’t have siblings until I was five years old. These stuffed animals became my friends, and I made up story after story about their adventures. They talked to each other and probably fought. I often gath- ered them around me and showed them my Golden Books. I smile even now as I think of a particular bear, my favorite. —Sandy I particularly liked playing pretend. I liked to play store and school and college. (Yeah, that one was kind of weird. I wonder where we even got the idea for that one.) I think my favorite part was setting up the staging area. I liked to have my own space, such as a store or classroom or dorm room. And I liked to very care- fully arrange all my pretend possessions in the space. In the winter, my friends and I would even play house in the snow. We would build walls with little nooks to hold certain items like pinecones. —Marcia Remembering Your Play Experiences | 11  COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET In the wide gully next to our house on the edge of town sat a big tree that had been split by lightning, with one long, thick section of the trunk lying hori- zontally and suspended by branches a couple of feet off the ground. The tree became a fort from which we repelled outlaws or other enemies depending on the historical period we imagined. —Steve M. Difficult Play Memories Play can be fun, but it also can be painful or discouraging. Children fight over toys, friends, and rules. Children can feel left out and may not fit into the group. Children may get hurt, either emotionally or physically. Time to Reflect Think about a time you were sad or upset as a young child while playing. Answer the questions below: Where were you playing? ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________ What were you playing? ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________ What toys were you playing with? ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________ Were you alone or with other children? ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________ 12 | Chapter 1 COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET What made it especially painful for you? ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________ What would you have liked to have happen differently? ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________ I was not very athletic growing up, or maybe I just wasn’t aggressive enough to play team sports. I used to love kickball and tetherball, but team sports always made me a bit nervous. I never wanted to fail or be embarrassed if I wasn’t good enough. —Sarah We moved every year, sometimes twice a year, until I was thirteen. It wasn’t fun to be the new kid. —Steve S. I remember getting pulled around by my hair while fighting over toys, and I hated feeling left out when playing with a group of kids. —Carrie During recess in elementary school, my classmates were playing a game of kick- ball and choosing teams. I was the last one to be picked, and neither one wanted me on their team. I remember running from the playground in tears to talk to the playground monitor/teacher. —Lisa Why Do Your Childhood Experiences Matter? Although you may not always be aware of it, your past play experiences influence how you interpret children’s play. r Marion, a teacher in a four-year-old room, observed three girls having an argument in the house area. Two of the girls were telling the third one she couldn’t play there and they didn’t want to play with her. Marion found herself becoming angry and resentful of the two girls excluding the other girl. She went to a coworker to complain. As they talked, Marion remembered a time she had been Remembering Your Play Experiences | 13  COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET excluded from a special friendship with two other girls. She felt hurt and angry as she remembered that experience. When she realized the connection between her past experiences and the girls’ situation, she was able to put her own feelings aside and focus on how to help the girls find a solution.    Clearly some of Marion’s anger from her past experience was coloring how she saw the girls’ conflict. Without understanding her own reaction, she may have handled this conflict in a harsher or more punishing manner, instead of helping the girls resolve their dilemma. Painful play experiences can influence your inter- actions years later. Understanding your own strong reactions can help you focus your interactions on what children need to learn to play successfully. Memories of your play experiences can range from the very pleasant to the very sad or something in between. As you set up the play environment or interact with children in play, you bring your memories into your teach- ing, whether you remember them consciously or not. Time to Reflect How do you think your childhood play experiences influence how you plan and implement play opportunities for the children you teach? ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________ If Marion had come to you with her observations about the three girls, how would you have responded to her feelings? ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________ 14 | Chapter 1 COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET e Early Childhood Education / Professional Development Uncover strategies to address and overcome common challenges in group play skills. But some children face challenges when playing with others, and conflicts can erupt over sharing toys, taking turns, and feeling left out. Despite those moments, children want to play together. With your support and guidance, children can learn how to engage in productive play, resolve struggles, and enjoy group play.    This workbook outlines strategies to create an engaging play environment, provides information to help you understand skill development, and suggests ways you can encourage children’s growth through rich play. It also explains common challenges children might have during group play—like being unengaged in dramatic play, having conflicts with each other, or playing aggressively—and offers approaches you can use to address them. Use this interactive workbook to thoughtfully respond to play challenges in a way that can open up opportunities for children. Sandra Heidemann has worked for more than 30 years to improve the quality of early care and education for children, serving as a trainer, director, teacher, and consultant. As classroom coordinator for Numbers Work!, she provides preschool teachers with educational strategies and encouragement. Deborah Hewitt has been serving the early childhood field for over 30 years. Her accomplishments range from working with children and families to designing systems to improve early childhood. Currently, she works for the Minnesota Department of Education as an early childhood education specialist and provides staffing to Minnesota Early Learning Council. COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL “Teachers often wonder what to do when conflicts erupt during play, violent play themes emerge, or a child is left out. This book has the answers. The authors intersperse information with guided opportunities to reflect and self-evaluate.” —Sally Moomaw, EdD, Assistant Professor of Early Childhood Education at the University of Cincinnati and author of Teaching STEM in the Early Years e Play is essential for children’s development and as they learn life ISBN 978-1-60554-305-5 $12.95