After our Legend of Dragon Fruit project started, the children began bringing in loads of dragon figurines, books, and toys. One day at the play dough table, the children stretched the play dough across the entire table. When we asked them what they were making, the children said “a dragon!”
We continued to observe them create the play dough dragon. At one point, we encouraged the children to use loose parts for the details of the dragon. The loose parts soon became the dragon’s spikes, eyes, fire, and more. The image below shows the edge of the “blue dragon” and his face, completed with rocks for eyes! (The close up of the white play dough around the blue play dough is the dragon’s wings.) At one point, one child made her own dragon with red play dough. At one point, she ran out of the play dough and began lining up small rocks to connect the “circle” (the circle represents her dragon). Her ability to problem solve, innovate, and communicate her thoughts and ideas was incredible! We kept her dragon on the table as a provocation to continue this work, and the next day the children worked together to make the multicolored dragon expand across the length of the table.
At one point during the play, a child began using play dough to make the images of trees stand upright. The children coined a unique term for this, “Fi-Fi-Fi-Fi-Fi-Fire Trees.” According to the children, these Fire Trees have fire in the trunks and grow dragon fruit. The trees have materials in the truck representing fire, and the children used different types of paint and oil pastels to create images of dragons. The children played with the dragon figurines in sand and in the block area and continued the exploration of dragons with several different materials and in different spaces throughout our school. The children’s representations of Fi-Fi-Fi-Fi-Fire Trees, dragons, and their ability to use loose parts to represent something other than it obvious purpose shows the cognitive development in the children.
During this particular activity, the children worked on their fine motor skills, creativity, and cognitive development through symbolism and loose parts play. Why is loose parts play important? Because it simply encourages creativity and problem solving skills. During loose parts play, materials that can be moved, carried, combined, redesigned, lined up, taken apart and put back together in multiple ways represent various objects. For example: instead of placing actual dragon scales on their play dough dragons, the children used small rocks to represent the dragon scales. Loose parts play encourages children to open their minds and develop their own ideas in order to explore the world. This is important in a world where there’s a high-end toy for everything. Our goal at Little Wonders is to encourage unstructured play with loose parts play… an opportunity to let the children’s creativity run wild with no restrictions. Another important aspect to this activity is that the children played together. This activity is at the core of two aspects of the Reggio Emilia approach because it encouraged children to form a relationship with other children (to learn and play together) and this activity allowed the children to develop a relationship with material items in the world. The children continually develop amazing ideas, stories, and projects when they have long uninterrupted periods of free play!
To read additional blogs posts on the Legend of Dragon Fruit: