Poppa’s Engineer.

I am a very proud grandfather (Poppa). I received this this week from my daughter who had been given the report by one of the supervisors of my two grandsons’ Play Center who had done an activity observation on grandie #2, Riley, as a normal part of their monitoring of the wee folks’ development.  It amused me but also gave me quite a deal of pride seeing the wee man in action- both in socialising but also in processing, synthesising and applying reasoning to problems. Cracker. The text is taken direct from the supervisor’s report.

“Riley’s Dominoes”
Riley, aged two and three quarters, has shown a big interest in domino trails at home – both making them with his blocks, and watching videos of them on YouTube. In this particular session his focus– for most of the session–was dominoes, and then continued on at home after the session. The play started off innocuously enough with an older boy, Liam, wanting to design a race track for some cars. He had the vision and got some of the other children to help. Whilst playing with the track the semi-circular blocks forming the tunnel were knocked over, domino fashion, when a car too large to fit underneath was pushed along the track. I think this was the eureka moment for Riley.For a short while he continued with his track play, but shortly started to place the blocks (1/2 units) vertically.

Judith, who is Riley’s age too, came along and tried to help. Riley had to show her how to set them out, and what to do. Judith accidentally knocked down the blocks. Riley had a big grin on his face, as did Judith when she realised why the blocks were being set out in a certain way. Riley and Judith then worked together, chatting away quite happily, setting the “dominoes” up and knocking them down. Judith added in different sized blocks (1/4 units) to the line, which Riley accepted. It was obviously the final effect which was important not the blocks.
Judith then asked to be covered up with the blocks. Riley was happy to compromise to keep playing with his friend. When I later showed him the photo he said, “We covered Juju (Judith’s name for herself) up”.Covering up Judith involved using single, half and quarter units, as well as the semi-circles. Riley calls these “rainbows”. After Judith had stood up and moved away, Riley started playing with these. He stood them all (he found five of them) up next to each other and they formed the focus of his next domino trail. Riley built a complex trail, incorporating curved lines of the ½ and ¼ units leading to the rainbows. When he finally set off the domino rally it didn’t have enough energy to knock over the five rainbows. Riley was puzzled by this and gave the rainbows a helping nudge!

Riley returned to building a track for the cars which were still lying nearby, and incorporated the rainbows into that. Another girl came over and turned it into train tracks, which Riley was accepting of. However, two children crawling near the track meant the blocks became displaced which sent Riley back to using them as dominoes again. This time I suggested that we see what happen if we included just one rainbow in the dominoes. Riley was happy to explore this concept and designed a new domino trail which had new elements – ½ and ¼ sized blocks with the ¼ sized blocks placed vertically also. When this trail was activated it did knock the rainbow over. Yippee.
Riley was then distracted by morning tea, but when he had finished he came and asked me to do more “dominoes” with him. This lasted for another hour or so.

The initial play started with three vertical dominoes with an upright across them being knocked down, then trying to balance ½ blocks in T-shapes. This didn’t work so Riley returned to building domino trails. He was distracted by placing the blocks in an alternating pattern – all vertical just changing the alignment.

After this was domino-ed, he moved to a vertical and horizontal alternating pattern. During the previous building he had been trying to use the single unit blocks vertically. However they had been too unstable. With this new pattern, he was able to use single unit blocks horizontally. Riley initially grew his domino trail on the carpet, but we ran out of room so he went to the other end. My job was to keep up a constant supply of blocks. As the trail grew large he had to run around the family play area to place his blocks. He then chose to run back to collect the next lot, instead of reaching over the trail which was also offered as an option. This caused the pattern to alter, with sections of one type of block in a specific alignment followed by another. This pattern followed how I was passing the block to Riley.
This large trail has two corners which were carefully placed.Earlier Riley had been working out exactly how to make corners to keep the dominoes falling. He had tried a few different ways until together we discovered which one had the desired effect.

Finally the great moment arrived.

Riley decided it was ready.The first part didn’t work as Riley had planned. The section containing 5 unit blocks didn’t domino. Riley’s solution was to push these along the floor until he made the quarter units domino. These worked perfectly. The first corner made from unit blocks need another helping push, but the rest worked fantastically. Riley was so pleased.Looking back over this observation some points stand out:

 Riley’s interest and enthusiasm for an activity continuing from home to playcentre and back to home again (Te Whaariki Principle: family and community).
 The importance of building relationships (Te Whaariki Principle) so that the children trust you and know that you are willing to share in their interests (Te Whaariki Principle: empowerment).
 Riley’s communication [Te Whaariki Strand] with myself and with other children.
 His willingness to compromise (road track to train track, covering up Judith)
 His ability to teach and share his knowledge (showing Judith how to place the blocks in a certain way to get a specific result – Te Whaariki Strand: contribution).
 I was amazed at the concentration, persistence, reasoning and planning.
 I love the fact that during the later stages he was able to work with me, and around other children to achieve the vision he had for his domino trail. He kept saying, “Not ready, not ready yet” until that glorious moment when he said, “All done”.

Love my wee men!

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