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A Picnic Without The Ants: How to Include All Children in Play

by Kathleen Corrigan

The other day I had the pleasure of participating in a picnic. This may not seem like such a special event except that we were sitting on the cold asphalt beside a school and everyone still had on their winter jackets. Yes, it was supposed to be spring, but the temperature did not reflect that!

We graciously partook of strawberries and salad and lashings of sugar and we never ran out. This was because while literal minded people might have seen stones, and grass and lots of sand, we saw plenty of food that we could share. Another advantage of  our “food” was it didn’t attract ants the bane of many a picnic. What made this picnic so delightful and wonderful was that we always had room for one more friend.

The picnic began with just a few four and five year olds who started this charming make believe menu. When I joined them the group increased. As long as we were willing to squish a bit or back up a bit we could always welcome a “hungry” newcomer.  The children practiced so much in their game: sharing, using words to request items, saying please and thank you as well as problem solving when we ran out of salad or someone new had an idea.

There was a lot of learning demonstrated in the game but the event also reminded me of the power of the teacher. Where teacher goes, children follow. So if you notice a  little one playing in a lonely fashion, go over. Get right down to his or her level and quietly enter the play. Or, perhaps, set up parallel play first. Soon a few others will come to see what is happening and your lonely one will have the chance to try out some social skills with you there to mediate or model if needed. The risks are low and the child will have more success. Each child will be included and there won’t be any ants unless you decide to role play!


Image(s): FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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  • Jaquelina Montgomery

    What childhood is all about! Ben Franklin nailed it…“We do not stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing!” It may be time for a good old-fashioned tea party with my friends! (and no, I’m not in the same demographic, but it would be fun!)

    • Janet Lee

      Thanks for the comment, Jaquelina! I love this idea from Kathleen. I think a special part of being a teacher (of any age) involves finding ways to engage all students in creative play. When we grow up, play should remain. :)