Friday, 22 November 2013

House in the Woods

             On our property we are fortunate enough to have a big section of woods available to us. The children really seem to enjoy the woods, and it is truly amazing to see how engaged the children become using just the natural world around them.

One morning some of the 4 year olds decided they wanted to build a house like the after school group did this summer. After some brainstorming and discussion the children decided where the best location would be for the house. When they found the perfect spot they told me it was the best place because there were bigger trees that could help be the walls.  Before I could even ask them what’s next they were off running looking for building materials. They grabbed sticks, branches, brush, logs, and even rocks. They worked together carrying the bigger materials because they were too heavy for one person. The communication being used was remarkable! “You pick up that side, and you hold that branch and we’ll walk really slow so we don’t drop it.” said one little girl. The children were so determined that they didn’t question her authority and followed her directions.

Once the construction began they took pieces of rocks and sticks and were “hammering” the pieces together and also pretending to cut pieces with a “saw.” I assisted the children lifting up the big branches to set up the initial foundation of the house. (Although this was the children’s project I wanted to make sure the branches were safe.) After the main foundation was nice and sturdy the children began adding the walls by layering brush and branches from pine trees. They told me, “We must make sure it’s all covered up so the wind doesn’t come in here.”

In about an hour the children were satisfied with their house and were ready to play in it. However, instead of rushing right in they made sure it was all clean. They took branches and began sweeping the floors and making their beds. Once the house passed the clean inspection they were all inside admiring what they created. I could tell they were so proud at what they built which made me feel proud too.

The next morning a little girl was at the table coloring on a piece of paper. As soon as
she saw me walk in the room she held it up and said, “Look Leslie! It’s a flag for our house! When we go back in the woods I’m going to put it on as a decoration.” When we went outside shortly after she ran straight to the house and I lifted her up to put the flag where she though it looked best. I thought for sure the children would go straight to the house to play but they didn’t. They said they needed to make a path and a fence now. They found logs and set up a fence and laid big branches by the door for a path. When they were finished adding on, they continued by once again, sweeping out their house before they began to play.

This house has been an ongoing project for about three weeks now. Every time the group goes outside they check out their house to make sure no animals knocked it down. It has survived multiple weeks allowing the children to engage in dramatic play outdoors! They added on a fireplace to cook soup and birthday cake that only I can eat!
I think I’ll try bringing out pots and pans for the children to cook with next to extend their outdoor kitchen. The opportunities are endless with our outdoor house so keep an eye out for a future blog post with what unfolds!


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