Our inquiry into how relationships develop around the shared sensory experience of water play is progressing. While experiences to engage with the water and materials proceed, this week through colour mixing, the children exhibited their concrete understandings of cooperation in both the Maple and Saplings classrooms.
After observing how the practical life experiences of washing dishes and baby dolls, alongside experiments with snow in the water table invited collaboration, the educators were curious to challenge the circumstances. What would happen if individual experiences were introduced, how would this invite cooperative play? Would the children engage with the materials independently? Would they find ways to continue to contribute towards relationships and teamwork?
Educators considered the necessary materials to support independent play by providing enough pipettes, spoons, colours, and containers for each child, releasing the children from an obligation to share, and choosing an activity that may initiate solitary experimentation.
In the Maple Room the children immediately relied on their relationships with one another to engage with the materials. W.B handing H. a pipette, W.K distributing them to others. Discussion and predictions on the experiment of mixing the colours ignited the chatter around the water table. S. showed F. how to hold the pipette and carefully explained to her the technique he discovered to operate it. Many children took time to teach others how to use the new pipette tool.
In the Saplings room the children corresponded by working collectively with the materials. There are two separate tables allowing for individual experiences, yet the children chose to use the tables together, sharing common goals, and opting to collaborate.
L. and W.P worked together to move the colours from one side of the water table to the other.
N. narrates actions to L. and tells her to scoop the water with her spoon. “Like this L.! See?” She mimics and they scoop the water into jars together.
W.B and Z. engaged in a cooperative story, and dramatic play experience. Z. “Makes the breakfast”, which includes making coffee, while W. agrees to “Mix the dinner,” which entails “Chocolate tea.” W.P joins the game and is invited to be in charge of the chocolate tea, W.B holds the jars while W.P fills them up.
Up until recently mainstream knowledge solely stated that cooperative play wasn’t a possibility until the ages of four and five. Recent studies, alongside these observations in the Saplings and Maple Rooms, challenge those ideas and show us both the drive and capabilities of infants and toddlers to form meaningful relationships among their peers. This combined together with their abilities to collaborate with one another, young children are cultivating cooperative communities and building significant connections amongst each other ultimately supporting one another's well-being, development, and belonging in the world.