scenes from my five-year-old’s puppet show
My first priorities for my sons at the ages of 5 and 2 are: imagination, play, motion and literature.
I grouped imagination/play/motion together because they go hand and hand. At five-years-old, my son is using his tremendous imagination constantly. The two-year-old is quite adept at it too. Playing is their number one job. Right now as I type this, the five-year-old is upstairs with all his stuffed animals. He has arranged them “just so” on his bed, and he says he’s keeping them warm.
He runs up and down the hallway, and he pretends he’s a horse. He “flies” toys around the house. Outside, he’ll find a strand of wild onion, tell me it’s an “eel” and then go feed it “ants.”
I’m thrilled to see that at five- and two-years-old, my boys are beginning to play together well, creating forts and pretending to be dinosaurs or ocean animals. (This is also a big relief to me because I’m getting a little more free time to myself.)
Rough and tumble play is a frequent activity in our house. My boys are always moving, always pretending, and I don’t want to discourage that. There is clear evidence that children learn through play. In addition, authors Michael Gurian (The Wonder of Boys) and Steve Biddulph (Raising Boys) both write about how important it is for boys to have plenty of space, and they need to move their bodies.
Biddulph writes in Raising Boys, “Sitting still at a desk for a long time is usually hard and painful for boys (and some girls too). In early primary school, boys (whose motor nerves are still growing) actually get signals from their body saying, ‘Move around. Use me.’ To a stressed-out first grade teacher, this looks like misbehavior.” (This is in a section titled “Starting School: Why Boys Should Start Later.”)
I probably don’t have to convince you how important play and movement is for children (or any of this for that matter), so I’ll leave it at that. But I will tell you exactly what I’m doing besides giving them ample time to imagine, play and move. This is where my second priority, Literature, comes in. The number one “schooling” activity kids this age should be involved in is soaking up books and stories: fiction, non-fiction, oral storytelling, plays, you get the drift. (The phases of learning mentioned in this post is very intriguing to me, and I want to read more about educational philosophies that support this notion.)
- We read books often. If we’re not going anywhere, I have “book time” with both my boys in the mornings, and then we (my husband and I each take one child) usually read one book at bedtime with the five-year-old and look through several picture books with the two-year-old. We go to the library too, but I’m lucky to have quite a nice collection of children’s books through library sales, so I find we have long stretches of time when we don’t go to the library because we’re busy with other things.
We read storybooks as well as non-fiction. My five-year-old is very fond of science books about bugs, snakes, the earth or whatnot.
- I’ve also incorporated storytelling into our routine, and I’ve already written a blog series about this. Almost every night, I tell a story that I make up to my five-year-old. This is a great way to teach my values to him. I am stimulating his imagination, and sometimes he tells me stories! It’s a great way to learn speaking skills. As he gets older, I want to teach him more about the importance of oral storytelling, use the technique for specific learning in different subjects, and someday I hope I can take both my boys to the National Storytelling Festival.
For a long time, I wanted to incorporate another way to foster make-believe with both my boys that I could easily participate in. I also wanted to create some kind of morning ritual with them. I wasn’t sure how to do this. I started “book time” but I wanted more than that. Then one morning my five-year-old pulled down the finger puppets that were sitting on the top of my bookshelf in the living room. (They had been there untouched for a long time.) He wanted to do a puppet show.
- And that was the beginning of our morning puppet shows. We all take turns putting on a play, and even my two-year-old will get behind the love seat and put on his own puppet show! How cool is that?
We don’t do a puppet show every morning. If we are going somewhere, or if the boys are playing nicely together, I don’t push it, but I do encourage it and ask for a puppet show on a regular basis. My puppet shows are another outlet for me to impart some wisdom, though mostly I entertain. (Once I even let their toy alligator try to eat the puppets. It’s nice for me to have an outlet to do “boy stuff” in a way that suits my energy level. Afterall, I’m a forty-year-old girl who likes to sit in one place!)
- I have created a space and keep plenty of materials for the boys to “create.” They love to draw, cut paper, paste, and make a mess! My eldest son still likes making animals out of paper, and he knows how to find the paper and materials he needs for that.
- We listen to a lot of music. My five-year-old loves classical music, and he’s still singing Beethoven’s 9th Symphony everyday. My husband provides them with more music education than I do, but one of my goals is to work more music study into our lives.
My future goals: In the near future, I hope we can find an art class for the five-year-old. Long term goals: some kind of art study, music study, and/or creating more elaborate puppet shows. I’d like to make some puppets or make a puppet stage.
What do you do to stimulate your child’s imagination? And please come back. I’ll continue to go over my homeschool priorities in detail.