Indoor Free Play in Kindergarten
By: Gaurav Verma, a trainee in our Early Childhood Training Program
Venue: Promise Centre Kindergarten, Bangalore
Date: 4 September, 2017
In no sense was the start of the indoor free play marked by any kind of announcement. In fact, transitioning the children to indoor free play was a smooth and gradual process taking around 5 odd minutes just like ink's diffusion in water. Nor was there any kind of exuberance observed amongst the children at the beginning of indoor free play. It came as a perfect and expected breathe-out for the children after a directed circle time. Certainly not a reward for their obedience during the circle time but in every sense indoor free play played the role of a well-placed beat in the well-choreographed rhythm of the kindergarten's daily routine.
Now, making sense out of chaos is amongst the most challenging tasks an adult mind can get engaged in. This is how I felt once the indoor free play started at the kindergarten. A glimpse of entire human social fabric’s interplay was at display during this period. There were 'artisans' fully focused on their weaving. There were diligent remote working professionals tactfully handling baby's tantrums alongside 'serious office work' at home aka doll house. There were superheroes each in pursuit of their own dare-devilry without any objective of driving the evil forces out. This, as one would expect, resulted in skirmishes amongst the superheroes themselves, which were amiably settled under the non-intrusive yet mindful directions from the teacher acting as a facilitator. In one corner a bunch of kids started a circle of gossipers reminding me that to interact and chat is an innate human craving on which thrives the companies like whatsapp and Facebook.
As I forcefully tried wrapping my mind around the euphoria that was played out, I noticed that the children were not quite mindless in all their activities they were engrossed in so fully during the indoor free play. Things lying on the nature-table in the kindergarten were being observed or may be revered-by some kids at random. Useless dried up mango seeds played pearls and fishes discovered from the depth of oceans for some. Abstract wooden cubes were being served as hot cakes by acting 'mom' in the doll house. Cotton baskets were turned upside down to serve as helmets by some making use of semi-circular wooden rings as the steering wheels of their make-believe cars. Wooden planks were lined up to serve as bridges and slides. While at it some curious minds were discovering the physical laws of lever and fulcrum when they observed small things lying on one end of a plank supported by a bar in the middle jumping to their surprise when they themselves jumped on the other end of the same plank. Of course, all this was not done in any kind of scientific experimental setup but in a manner in which spirit, body and heart would conform to the material world around.
For some kids it indeed was a challenge to get engaged in self-directed free play. Wet-on-wet painting seemed to indulge them more. The teacher invited a small batch of children one at a time to the table to till everyone interested, got a chance. This surely would have a calming effect on minds full of energy but with no purpose. Weaving was an activity done by only a few who voluntarily choose to do it. But those who did choose it got engrossed so deeply that they defied the thumb rule for children's attention span of 12 minutes for this age group. Some were totally engrossed in it on their own as if master craftsmen would be, while some took deep pains to understand the movements their fickle fingers should make from a kind and inviting kindergarten teacher sitting nearby.
Around 45 odd minutes had passed since the starting of indoor free play and the place now looked really messed up. I thought that the kindergarten teachers and caretakers routine included handling this mess once the day was over. I was assuming that the mess would be too difficult or time consuming to be handled by the children themselves during the course of the day. However, as spontaneous as was their entry into indoor free play that much more heartily they responded to the musical rhymes of the teacher was singing to mark the closing of indoor free play. To my amusement and bit of surprise, almost every child was now actively engaged in putting the house to order. Soon enough we had an orderly kindergarten in front of us. Everyone then formed a circle for the lunchtime prayer. The energy levels were surely not ebbed but having breathed-out they now listened quite attentively to their teacher and approached the wholesome meal in a festive mood.