We have had some icy mornings at last, giving us the chance to explore what happens to water when it freezes.
The children were interested in the thickness of the ice and wanted to test it out. First they jumped, crunched and scrunched. Then, seeing the chunks of ice they had created, some were keen to pick these up and try dashing them on the ground to see if they would break. (Some chunks, impressively, were too thick).
Why do children sometimes seem to have to bash and crash things? Many of the children were really delighted to jump on the ice and smash it up on this freezing morning. We tried showing them how to slide, but they were more interested in breaking! Is this just destructiveness, and what should our approach be?
There is a theory developed by Playworkers (who usually look after older children, originally in adventure playgrounds, now often in after school clubs). This says that children sometimes engage in Mastery Play: seeking to control the ingredients of the natural environment. Digging holes, changing the course of streams and building dens are all examples of this. We should allow this to happen (so long as it’s not too destructive) because it is one way children learn about their environment through play.
Being given time to have these experiences allows for a certain amount of “working through” to take place. Once the breaking up had been done the children diversified into more self-regulated cognitive play: one produced a small plastic bag and began collecting ice, to see if it would melt at camp. Another put some in his backpack to take home at the end of the morning, and another wanted to continue chipping, but with hand-held chunks on a much smaller scale, still interested in the effect he was having.
Our job as adults is to observe what is happening and recognise what processes the children may go through. Our luxury at Forest School is to have all the time needed to allow this to happen; one reason why our walks sometimes take over an hour, and we carry snack with us!