Thursday, November 11, 2010

Scaffolding for Child Self-Direction?

My previous blog post was about a pedagogical issue for which I've had both training and years of experience.  This time I'm in uncharted waters and asking for help!

Winter is coming, with cold and gray days.  There are plenty of things to do in our house.  But Smiley is so young that he has trouble brainstorming what to do next: if something to do is not a habitual favorite, recent memory, or visibly in front of him he probably will not consider that option.

Sometimes he does ask to do something he has not done in weeks.  But much more often I see him bored but becoming excited by a suggestion taken from a list of options I provided.  (Play with clay?  Yay!  I had forgotten about that activity and it sounds fun!)

So I am looking for a way to add "scaffolding" to his self-direction.  (I admit this sounds oxymoronic.)

My current idea is to photograph Smiley doing all sorts of things, then put the photographs together to make a literal menu of options.  Then he can "brainstorm" by turning the pages and looking at dozens of photographs.  However, this solution has a danger also: it would be possible but difficult to make an effective page for "invent a new kind of play".  In order to avoid the implication that the photographed options are the only valid choices, I would need to ensure the menu is something to consult when bored and out of ideas.  If the menu became a new habit whenever Smiley returned home from errands or finished a meal, I would have created one problem while solving another.

When I taught Head Start I used a traditional classroom-based solution, which is not a fit for at home but is worth mentioning.  I made a huge board, covered with library card pockets.  Each pocket had a picture showing one thing to do.  The students each had a 3x5 card with their name and photograph.  They would "sign up" for an activity by putting their card in a pocket.  (Most things to do had multiple pockets, purposefully limiting each activity to the appropriate number of students while also encouraging students play together cooperatively.)  In the classroom the danger of implying that only pocket activities are valid choices was not much of a drawback: with so many students in the room there was plenty of creativity at any moment!

So... any other ideas for how to help a toddler brainstorm things to do?


cayswann said...

Not sure how toddle-appropriate this is, but as a child my go-to for invention was a stacking set of buckets with art supplies inside. Glue, glitter, sticks, paper, yarn, scissors, etc.

Maybe your "invention" trigger is just a set of combo items --> mismatched blocks, paper, a cardboard tube, a few balls, an empty box, whatever. And if you go with the "idea photos" menu, one of the photos could be a box with mixed contents. And over time, you could each learn to stock the "mystery/invention" corner with different surprises. This week there's one plastic dinosaur. Next week, there's a bristle block. The following week, there's a shaker/noise-maker.

David V.S. said...

I do like the idea of the "menu" being a collection of objects, rather than a photo album. Much more flexible!