Ed seems to have a particular interest in construction vehicles at the moment. He is obsessed with the "Digger" book we got from the library a couple of weeks ago and loves to play with the 2 dump trucks from his Thomas the Tank Engine collection - Max & Monty.
We've been enjoying some much needed time at home this morning so I decided that instead of just leaving him to his own devices, I would take 5 or so minutes to collect up some materials that would help his imaginative play along a little. Here's what I came up with.
I've noticed he likes to be quite active in his play, everything needs to have something to do, so I thought I would collect up all of his dump trucks and construction vehicles form his various suitcases. I put all of these together in the wooden box. I then got some buttons, rocks and stones to act as "loads" for the trucks to carry and move around. I added the meat trays and container lids to act as places for the trucks to unload and the blocks and road signs to be included as buildings, bridges and well, signs. I didn't add the small squares of material for any particular reason, but I like to just throw things like this into their play and see what they do with it.
Ed had an absolute ball with this set up. I started him off by showing him what I had put out and talking him through what I thought he could maybe use the materials for. I then showed him how the dump truck could unload into one of the trays and left him to it while he got himself going. I find with Ed that if I get too involved, it stifles his creativity a bit, so I went into another room to leave him to it.
The activity provided lots of learning opportunities. He talked the whole time he was playing - to himself about what he was doing, creating voices for the trucks and bossing the vehicles around. He used lots of the technical, descriptive language to talk about the play - loaders, trays, ditches, flat beds, road trains. It gave him the chance to put into play the language he has learned from the books we have read and the shows he has watched about vehicles. This is a really important tool for strengthening what he is learning. He also talked about and explored lots of concepts like big/small, full/empty, loading/unloading, fits/doesn't fit. He also needed to work his fine motor skills when trying to get the small items in and out of the trucks. His brain got a bit of a workout too as he tried to determine which loads would fit in which truck and what cars were small enough and thin enough to fit under his bridge.
The wonderful thing about this sort of play is he could do it on his own. I only needed to set it up for him and then it's totally up to him what happens next and what direction his learning and exploring takes. In the meantime, I had a chance to tidy up, get the washing on and some dishes done. Of course I got lots of updates about what was going on as well as the occasional "this is so exciting". I also had to look at the ditch being built and the cars fitting under the bridge as I walked through the lounge room to put some things away but my involvement and feedback, however brief, sends a really powerful message of "I'm interested in and value what you are doing" which is also valuable for his learning and self-esteem. Can you believe we achieved so much in an hour of free-play with buttons, rocks and a couple of trucks?!