Spring has officially sprung here in Washington, DC, and alongside the budding flowers and foliage are my growing pre-kindergarten students. In addition to their newfound passion for gardening brought about by our dramatic play "Garden Shop" and the warmer weather, they're also expressing a keen interest in the lives of grown-ups as of late.
From what I can tell, it all started about two weeks in our classroom "Garden Shop." My students had been using the dramatic play space exactly as I intended; working as cashiers, associates, and customers, and purchasing seeds and flowers to plant in our classroom "garden." But one afternoon, I noticed that Aaliyah and Jose were sitting under the table in the shop holding a bouquet of flowers. "What are you doing?" I asked genuinely curious to hear more about their play. "Me and Jose are getting married!" Aaliyah replied excitedly. "Oh, what happens when you get married?" I asked, again curious to get more information. "You sit under the table and hugggggg!" Aaliyah again exclaimed. After addressing the issue of safety related to sitting under the table, we talked about ways that they could extend their theme of "marriage" while playing in the Garden Shop. Aaliyah and Jose stayed in the flower shop for the rest of center time, working cooperatively to buy tools and plants for their house.
I was impressed with the complexity of their play, but thought it would end when center time ended that day. However, Aaliyah and Jose quickly proved me wrong; they continued to refer to one another as "husband" and "wife" throughout the rest of the week! They sat together at lunch, played together at recess, and were quick to help each other solve problems throughout the day. They even acquired several children! Within a day, Ana and Suniah were their "daughters" and Malik was their "son." The intensity of their play was remarkable!
While I thought this was a funny anecdote and I'm curious to see how long this play scenario will last, it also represents the tremendous developments that my students have made throughout the year. In the fall, most of my students, especially Jose and Malik, primarily engaged in parallel play with their peers (i.e. playing alongside them with the same materials, but not interacting with them). But, as the year has gone on, they've learned how to ask friends to play and interact with them. In May, the progress they’ve made has become even more evident. Their ability to enter and remain engaged in complex play is apparent in their imaginary, growing family and prolonged play scenario. The skills of developing a play theme and carrying it through an entire week, across different contexts and parts of the day, is tremendous. There's no more denying it; my students are officially growing up.