follow the leader game

Child-led Play: Wet Footprints on the Patio

The entire month has been brought to you by “ways for young kids to play outside.” Besides the key words ‘outside’ and ‘play’ there is another one to remember, ‘child-led’. Yesterday, I was reminded of how children can direct and extend their play themselves to meet their own needs.

When playing with water on the patio, some of it spilled and made a puddle. When Big Sister stepped in the puddle, she noticed that her feet made footprints on the bricks. She enjoyed simply making a few even if they disappeared quickly in the hot sun. For comparison, I made a wet footprint right beside hers to show how it was bigger. She put her hands out to measure them. Then, she walked across from one side to the other to see if she could still see all her footprints. They were still there but fainter. So she ran across. That worked and she could see all the prints. I tried mine.

That must have given her an idea. From exploring how long the footprints lasted, she next went to a game. She ran around the area, weaving around the chairs and plants to make a path and wanted me to follow. The path became more of a maze with footprints zigging and zagging all over, as she giggled each time she changed direction. Obviously, she challenged herself to make a complicated path and me, to try and follow it.

Child-led play boosts children’s feelings of confidence and contributes to their self-worth. In this activity, Big Sister was adding something new–following wet footprints–to something she already knew–the game of follow the leader. She tackled the role of being the leader and worked at making the game fun but not easy. The disappearance of the footprints as they dried added a humorous element;we had to keep recharging our feet with water. The whole game was more than play. It was like a mini-version of a much larger story, an approach to life: add new learning to what you already know, lead when you can, respond to change, and include humor. In the words of the Hokey-Pokey song, that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?