Downtown Derby: Day 3

October 15, 2018
13 June 2018 
Day 3: Making Magic together! 

Got your seatbelts on? – because it’s yet another exciting ride with the kids on Day 3 of Downtown Derby! Having watched clips of Cars, our children are now ready to build their own version of the race track they’ve watched Lightning McQueen race on!

Creativity in play is perpetuated by the interplay between children in social group interactions (Sawyer, 1997). The process where children come together to share their imagination and consequently develop their creativity relates to their past experiences and existing interpretations of the world.

When tasked to build their own race track, children started off slow, helping themselves to various materials and slowly piecing them together. As they continued stacking and building, the children began to have amazing ideas about their structure and were visibly more and more excited.

During self-initiated play, children came up with their own obstacles course and rules of the game. Kevin dived into the materials and placed a plank across two stacks of boxes. "I'm making a bridge," Kevin says. He built a ramp and placed a big cardboard roll at the back of the box, referring to it as a "toilet", and instructed the others that "the aim is to get the cars to go into the toilet." Building on Kevin's idea, Anthony placed a big box behind the toilet roll and called it the "big toilet". He said, "The cars must bounce and go back," to which Kyler replied, "That's too difficult!" Anthony did not insist and decided to move the box away and continued with the previous 'rules' of the game.

As the play and racetrack-making session progressed, children built on each other’s ideas to extend and sustain their play. Their actions and engagement enabled a creative environment where children established a purpose for their play (Duffy, 2006). Samuelsson and Johansson (2006) identified that in order to be creative, children ought to communicate so that their play is able to evolve and take new directions to satisfy all involved in play. Qualities such as flexibility, compromise and negotiation are all elements of creative thinking and social group play.

The sharing of creative ideas and strategies forges a network of relationship and communication that is crucial for a child's social development. By learning together, these connections contribute to creating an awareness of the value of bonds and a pleasant aesthetic sense.

Children found ways to use the race set to fulfil their own curiosity, motivation and creative thinking to develop their creation, adding new dimensions each time they played with the set together. The set-making material and structures themselves became a way for children to express an imaginary world and develop their creative thinking and responses linked to the environment, as well as the new friends they have made.

One of the most important takeaways kids can get from working together in a group setting is learning how to effectively communicate with others. They slowly grasp how to listen and how to speak, and how to empathize with others. While their theory of mind may not have fully developed, which makes it difficult for them to see things from other people’s point of view, frequent exposure to such social settings is still beneficial for them, as they get more in touch with other people and their emotions.

One of the conversations we picked up during the session was also when one of Alena's finger was wrapped with sticky tape and she wanted to get it off. As she approached our facilitator for help, Kevin quietly followed behind with the intention to resolve the problem for her. Our facilitator prompted Alena to turn to her peers for help and Kevin immediately took that as a cue to pick her hand up and helped her undo the tape.

This was certainly a precious moment of a child displaying immense empathy and initiative, one that would not have happened if not for such social settings that we had provided for them. While we can teach our children the theories and tell them stories of moral values, they need opportunities and platforms for them to trial and error, and to translate their knowledge into actions.

Importantly, all of these collaborations occurred against a backdrop of a mixed-age classroom. Mixed-age classrooms are considered to be a catalyst in acknowledging children’s individual learning development. Such classrooms are thought to have the potential of being ‘caring communities’ (Huf & Raggl, 2016). Striving to model the natural world, these mixed-age settings can therefore allow children to learn from those with whom he or she interacts. The intended end result of mixed-age learning is increased compassion, more willingness to help, and greater acceptance and adaptability for learning diversity.

With the newly forged friendships, we look forward to extending this as dialogue with the world of objects in Day 4!

Written by: 

Daphne Ang

Rockstar Communicator - The Dimple Loft

Daphne is currently an undergraduate in Psychology at the National University of Singapore. She enjoys working with children and strongly believes in learning from experience, especially for children as they manoeuvre through the world around them. She is inspired by the energy and positivity children have towards novel objects and situations.