Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Rain Water Paint Alien Play... Negotiations

Rain water collects on the table.  Two children grab paint brushes and enthusiastically swish them back and forth, watching the water as it flies off of the paint brushes and as it separates and then recollects in the middle of the table. 
Their enthusiasm is catchy.  A third child walks over to observe, and water splashes all over his face.
I kneel down next to him.  "The water from the paint brush is splashing on your face!  Do you like that?"
"Yes!" he smiles at me.

Two friends notice the spots on his face too.
"Can we call you a paint monster?" they ask.
"No," he replies.
They walk away, collecting themselves in a corner of the yard, scheming:  "What if we tried 'paint monster bonster'?" "No... how about 'paint alien'?"  "Yeah, yeah!"
While they plan, I smile at the child with a spotted face.  "You said 'No,' and they listened!"  He smiles back at me.

The two planners return, prepared.  "Can we call you paint alien?"
"Yes," paint alien replies.
"Paint alien!  Paint alien!" they taunt.
Paint alien smiles.
Then one child gets very close to his face, chanting, "You are a paint alien!"
"Oh! Wait!  I see his face is changing!" I observe.  "I notice that he's not smiling anymore.  If you don't like it, you can say, 'Stop' or put your hand up like this [I put my hand face out]."
He puts his hand up.
The two stop.
I smile.  "Hey!  You guys noticed that he put his hand up!  He didn't even have to say anything, and you guys noticed that he wanted you to stop."
 "Yep!" they reply proudly.

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My intention through this was to support:
*  Each child's ability to self-advocate (i.e. say, "No!" or "Yes!" or otherwise choose how they are being affected.)
Anti-shame redirection (i.e. I don't want to imply that the child is wrong/bad but rather, I hope to show that their intention--to play with each other, to pretend, etc.--is appropriate and requires behavior that works for everyone in order to continue.)
*  A culture of divergent thinking (i.e. instead of shaming the urge to taunt, citing a rule they need to follow, or giving them options, in this situation, I can observe along with them what works and what doesn't work with the plans that they create.)
*  A sense of community (i.e. by following each child's lead, I can advocate instead of judge, and this allows us to work as a team together for play.)

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