You might recognize some of the play below if you had a chance to read the article we connected with last week explaining schemas in child development. For the past week, we’ve noticed an increase in enclosure and containment play where the children are creating small worlds or rooms for themselves within non-traditional containment spots. It does look like they are having great fun, but what are they actually learning? How does this help them grow?
Before you can begin to decide where to hide your body,
you must first know what size you are.
We watched the children navigate through many possible natural enclosures. Some were too small, some too low, some were too squishy. As they tried to fit their bodies into spaces between branches, they reassessed and redefined their ideas about their own body size in relation to what they can see. Adjustments to preconceived ideas, concerning size and shape, had to be made. When adding structure to an enclosure, angles and length must be taken into account. Spacial relationships grew within their cognitive and muscle memories.
But can this information really help them?
You know that moment when you are packing up the left-over dinner and you realize you just started pouring the chili into a storage container that is never, ever going to be able to contain all of the remaining soup? That moment. Right there. Spatial understanding is a part of our daily lives. How can we organize the books on the shelf? How best to pack the moving van before we traipse across the country for our first real job?
Is that enough?
Not to worry. There’s more. Now that they have spent lots and lots and lots of time squishing themselves into fun little spaces, they know exactly where their limbs and digits are. We take it for granted that we know where our fingers and toes end. When I spin in a circle, I can adequately judge whether or not my arms will strike something. When contemplating a leap across a stream, I can correctly deduce the speed and height I need to make it across. It is not so for young children. They honestly don’t know that doing a cart-wheel next to their friend is going to end in a bloody nose. It takes practice to make the neural connections needed for body and spacial awareness.
Here we are witnessing multiple experiments of enclosure and containment. Sometimes it involves small items and other times the whole body is involved. Either way, we bask in the beauty of the human mind at work.