When I was a kid my brother, sister and I got to build with real (metal!) tools, use the same kitchen supplies our parents used to ‘bake’ and get our hands in REAL clay (for pottery, not play dough- which is also awesomely fun) and we all still have all 10 fingers and both eyes. I believe that children should be allowed to have experiences using real materials whenever possible, instead of plastic tools why not a wood and metal set? Instead of pretend plastic food why not real fruit and veggies?
Experiences with real materials will give children such strong early connections to those materials that they may grow up learning how to COOK and SEW rather than how to ‘pretend’ how to cook and sew. Pretend play is fantastically important to brain development as well, but we need to get away from this ‘hands off’ approach to early childhood experiences. The more hands-on we allow our children to be the smarter they will be. I’m not saying, “Throw some matches and a hand saw in the play room and let them have at it!” What I mean is that children can learn how to use materials adults deem ‘off limits’ in a safe, responsible way if we TEACH them how.
For this project I took my small digital camera and put it in the hands of my students. Before letting them run off with the camera and bury it in the sandbox (only happened once) I went over a few rules-
1. Wear the lanyard string around your wrist like a bracelet.
2. No running, climbing, bike riding during your camera turn.
3. MOST IMPORTANTLY- If you would like a turn ask your friend for a turn in 5 minutes.Without grabbing and pushing.
**It is really important to place the value of these rules on the child’s safety rather than on the safety of the camera itself. Rule #2 is set in place not so the camera doesn’t get broken, but so that the child does not fall down and get hurt while running and looking through the lense. No child should ever be made to feel that a 3×5 inch plastic box is more important to you than their physical well being. I would suggest getting a service plan on your camera- I used mine after camera accidents only two times in the three years we did this project. And it was free!
By putting the camera in the children’s hands it not only empowers them and lets them know that their point of view is important to us but also gives us, as adults, a chance to see the world through their eyes.
All of these amazing photos were taken by 3 to 5 year olds, none of them have been altered in any way. Take a look-
The bottom line is, children are amazing. They can do anything and everything if we only give them the opportunity let them try.