Mar 29, 2017

AnjiPlayDate #11: Space makes a [huge] difference!

After the last two weeks of trying to play in our not-so-huge meeting room, this week I decided to roll the carts of blocks out into the children's area to divide the play into two spaces.  WOW!  Check out the things that got built:


Roller Thingy


Kids also played with the toys that we normally keep in our children's library section and that was fine too:

check out the nice vocabulary use in this video:


Some even read books:


Back in the meeting room,  play had changed too, with more room to spread out:

longest. tunnel. ever.

 hiding under the table!

 "picking wildflowers"

the clay and the turntables moved out of the corner and onto the floor:



This was some fun "roly-poly" action!

The kids this week did a great job with clean-up, but I realized that I might need two boomboxes!
 This play story was done by a 1st grader on spring break.  I love how she color coordinated her marker with the part of the story she was telling!
 And this one has a color-coded KEY to tell you which drawing has which caption!  Love it.
Here are some other play stories -- can you tell what they're about?

and check out the practice writing on this one!

Mar 27, 2017

Anji Play Date: Let's talk about conflict, part 2 (from the adult point of view)

This is a continuation of part 1, posted last week:

1.    What about the other kid’s parent?
When your child is playing at a park or playground and experiences conflict with another child, one of the most uncomfortable elements for many parents is not knowing the other child’s parent’s tolerance for conflict. Is that parent going to get mad if you don’t step in and smooth the situation? Is the other parent going to step in and try to handle the situation in a way that you don’t like?  Are they going to judge you a “bad parent” for not managing your child’s behavior?  One of the great things about being in an Anji Play experience is that all parents are given the same guidelines about allowing kids to work it out themselves.  Pay close attention to disagreements, step in if they escalate to a physically harmful stage, but otherwise, relax and realize that ALL kids struggle with figuring out how to solve interpersonal problems sometimes (heck, we ALL do, not just kids!) and they need a chance to figure out how other people react to different  behaviors and find their own solutions.


note: after this video ended, the taller boy found a different tunnel to play with almost immediately and found a different spot to play in.
2.    My kid is used to me stepping in to help solve conflict, this sudden change in my behavior will feel disorienting to them!
If you’re worried that your child will feel betrayed or abandoned if you don’t step in on their behalf, feel free to have a brief, frank conversation with them at the beginning of the event and let them know that in this space, kids are in charge of solving their own problems and that you trust them to come up with great solutions to any problems they might encounter during the program.  (Psst…librarians or other program leaders, YOU can talk directly to the kids at the beginning of the program to set up this expectation for them.  You don’t have to leave this conversation just up to the parents and caregivers!)

3.     If conflict is happening frequently, there’s probably a problem in the environment or materials set-up.
Librarians or program leaders, pay attention!  If you notice that kids are behaving in ways you don’t want them to, think about ways that you can change the environment.  Are the kids climbing on stuff they’re not supposed to climb on?  Remove that option.  Are they breaking toys? Change the toys to ones that are less breakable and more engaging. When kids are deeply engaged in the play, they are much less likely to behave in ways that are challenging for adults.  Boredom and frustration have a huge factor in behavior.  Is there enough space to play in? Crowding can amplify personality tendencies and can be overstimulating, so consider moving into a larger area or limiting attendance (I learned this the hard way!).  Are the play materials too simplistic? Boooooring!  Too challenging?  Aaaaaaargh! It’s a tricky balance to find and one that takes close observation of the kids to properly curate the right mix of play materials for your particular group.  But that’s a topic for another post.

Mar 22, 2017

Anji Play Date #10: The room is beginning to feel a bit .... cramped

We had another great turn-out today, but does the crowded space affect how the kids play?

This baby had an innovative use for a block:
 I'd love to know more about what was going on in the big box today.
 Tall, skinny tower!
 This was clearly a guitar and they were even singing along.


 Blocks and spools can also be stepping stools to ... more blocks and spools.
Or if you get really stumped, you can always bring in extra help:

Some lovely examples of balancing:


 Love these facial expressions!

This young one had some new uses for the tunnels:
 (she crammed it full of tulle.  Made a cozy crash pad for her knees! She told me later that she was a "roly-poly" in this video.)

At the clay table, there was some filling and emptying.  Loved watching the interaction between these kiddos of different ages:


But for some, the full room of people and playthings was just a wee bit too stimulating.  We'll try something just a little different next week and see how that goes!

Mar 20, 2017

App Fairy, episode 2: Ahoiii!

My second episode of the podcast is up! It's an interview with the makers of the apps about the little sailor named Fiete.  You can read more about the episode here or just listen to the recording right away at  The website now also has links to the App Fairy on iTunes, Stitcher and TuneIn in case you prefer to listen to podcasts on your phone.  Don't miss the exciting episode extras!

Mar 18, 2017

Anji Play: Let's talk about conflict, part 1 (kids' eye view)

 When we give kids the freedom of self-directed play, there's a good chance some conflict will crop up at some point. One of the major questions that frequently comes up around Anji Play programs is, “What if the kids are fighting?”  Let’s break that down a little.

AnjiPlayDate 3-22-17

1.     Are the kids really fighting or are they just having hard time solving a problem?
At this age, most likely kids aren’t going to get into an out-an-out brawl with punching, kicking or tackling each other.  If that happens, the kids are in danger of physical harm and YES, an adult should stop that behavior to keep the kids both safe.  If, on the other hand, their fight consists of crying, whining, shouting, tugging on a toy neither wants to give up, or other behavior that’s not physically harmful, adults are encouraged to allow the kids to work it out between themselves.  Here’s a real-life example from Anji County in China: two girls were arguing over a plank on the playground.  Neither was willing to give it up and they held onto that plank stubbornly for 20 minutes until finally, another girl ran up and said, “Hey, playtime is over in five minutes!” and both girls dropped the plank and ran off to play something else for the last five minutes.  It might have been uncomfortable for adults to watch the girls struggle that long, it was probably uncomfortable for the girls themselves too (no one really likes to get stuck in a power struggle!), but no one was physically hurt and the only people negatively affected by the incident were the two girls who lost out on the chance to have more time to play that day because they were fighting (not because an adult gave them “time-out” or anything—just because they chose to dig in their heels instead of figuring out a way to share the plank on their own.How many more times do you think they got into a fight like that?  How likely is it that they realized that day what a waste of time it is to get stuck in a power struggle?

note: I spoke with this little girl's mom after I posted this video initially and she said two things I wanted to post here:  
a. when this struggle was happening, it felt like an eternity to the mom watching, but when she looked at the video timestamp it was only about 5 minutes, which is not that long in the scheme of things.
b. that after the video stopped, the girl in red played in the top by herself for a little while and then hopped up and went to seek out the girl in pink and they played together for the rest of the class and the next week, she came in asking if the girl in pink was there today to play with!  Which leads nicely to....

2.    Most kids really just want to get back to playing asap
When kids have disagreements with each other during play, they don’t really want to stop to have to talk to a grown-up about proper conflict resolution techniques or considering the other child’s emotions—they want to get back to play!  This means that if you leave the kids to work out their own disagreements, they might be actually able to do it faster if adults don’t step in.  They might not work it out the same way you would, but they’ll work it out in the name of getting back to the game.

I'll do a follow-up post to this soon, approaching this question from the adult point of view, but I'd love to hear your responses to this issue.  What questions or concerns do you have?  If you've participated in an Anji Play program at my library, have you seen examples of this there and what were your thoughts about it? This conversation is an important part of Anji Play -- adults processing what it is that we observe during play time, so... let's talk!

Template developed by Confluent Forms LLC; more resources at BlogXpertise