Teachers at Play

There’s something really special about jumping into the imaginary world of the children in your care. But finding the balance between supporting children’s play while giving them ownership of their experiences can be tricky.

Try this strategy called “Yes, and…” as one method for jumping into the imaginary play of children. As an idea is expressed, show that you hear and value the idea with a “Yes, and…” Then go all in! Add on and embellish their ideas in the spirit of building on, without trying to guide the play yourself. Put them in charge and see where they take you. Simply respond like an improvisational actor to the scene, roles, and actions that children set up, accepting and responding to the situation set up by the children, no matter how implausible or unfamiliar.  You will learn a great deal about them as originators and storytellers. Children will learn to generate good ideas, use self-regulation, focus, follow their inspirations, and collaborate to build on the ideas of others.   They will experience the playful attention, lively modeling and collaborative spirit of their teacher. At its best, everyone at play, whether it be adults or children, is respecting the ideas and the initiative of their fellow “actors” by reacting to those ideas in a complementary way to keep the play (or the story) moving forward.

See it in Action!

In the dramatic play area Tyrone proclaims, “Quick, feed the babies!” The teacher walks to the middle of the dramatic play center and exclaims, “Yes, and let’s hurry! The babies are so hungry!” Tyrone, holding three dolls, thrusts one toward the teacher and urgently explains, “They haven’t eaten all day!” The teacher comforts the doll gently on her shoulder, whispering with a sense of urgency, “Yes, and I’m her Grandma so I should help feed her something right away!”

 Together the teacher and Tyrone use facial expressions of concern and appeal to enlist Abby and Kyle who are sitting nearby. Tyrone places his babies in a crib and then urges Abby to help him so he can make some food to feed the babies. She joins in by jumping up and looking around frantically. She leaves the dramatic play area and returns from the library with a basket of board books. She dumps the books, then quickly chooses two books and sits on the floor, saying, ‘Bring that baby over here! I’ll read to her while you make some food.” The teacher complies, carefully handing Abby the baby and saying, “Yes, and while you are reading I’ll help prepare the food.” 

 Abby starts reading aloud to the baby, occasionally telling the baby that she can stop crying and that she’ll have some food very soon. The drama attracts another child who then joins Kyle, Tyrone and the teacher in preparing food for the babies. While the others are cooking, Abby stands with the baby under her arm, and complains, “This baby is so hungry. She won’t stop crying and I have a headache!”  The teacher takes the baby from Abby and says, “Yes, she’s crying and I should try singing her that song that she loves for me to sing. Can you assist Tyrone with cooking the food?” The teacher cuddles the doll and starts to sing to it, as Tyrone proclaims from the kitchen, “Pancakes, coming up!”