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  • Skribentens bildSuzanne Axelsson

The Bubble Game

It starts with the children sitting on chairs in a circle... and I whispered a name and that child would enter the middle of the circle to pop the bubbles that I blew at the same time... the other children sitting calmly and watching...

not so easy when popping bubbles is so much fun... it requires a whole load of self regulation

in the first days of doing this the children were quite noisy and cheered each other on, screaming that they had missed a bubble... but after they had got the hang of it the activity was done quietly, so that the children became aware of how the other children popped the bubbles (it could be while dancing, or with their mouths (and no it didn't taste good), or with their fingers, or with big claps, or... whatever they could think of) and they could be inspired to try a new way of popping bubbles, or they could see how others were managing to self regulate and not pop the bubbles and maybe try out that strategy too... the silence also gave them another thing to self regulate...

I noticed that the noise meant they were not actively listening as they got so wrapped up in the joy of the act of telling the person in the middle which bubble to pop next... and maybe here in this game listening is not about the ears, but about listening with eyes, heart and mind.

The game is designed to support the children in their listening skills and also in the self-regulation skills... and I created it in response the the needs of the children I was working with back in 2013 when I first started using philosophy with children. I noticed that many of the children were great at talking and letting me and the others know what they thought, but they had less patience and skill at listening to what the others shared with them. It is hard to a have a philosophy session if the children lack the skills to listen to their peers. So I devised a whole series of activities, in the atelier, outside and the bubble game to help them practice through joy to master the skills needed to listen - to be competent at listening to understand.

Sometimes I will say the same child's name several times in a row... as it was obvious when we were talking, in meetings or the philosophy sessions, that children often have a tendency to switch off after they have answered or contributed to the conversation...

in the bubble game not knowing whether I will say their name more than once.. maybe two, three or even four times in a row keeps them a little more on their toes, keeps them listening actively, helps them to practice being aware of how others participate also... I remember one child calling out saying it was unfair that another child got to pop three times in a row... so I simply asked if it was OK if they got to pop three time in a row, and eager yes was the reply... so I asked why is it OK that you can do it three times in a row and not someone else? There was a pause... and you could almost see the cogs turning... as the realisation that fair is everyone getting the chance to have three turns each, but that there is not enough time for that to happen every time... but that it will over the weeks to come. Fair is not about everyone getting the same. It is about equal opportunity... some children need more fruit in the morning because they missed breakfast than they child that is still full from a big breakfast - giving each child the same number of apple wedges will only result in one child wasting a wedge and another child feeling hungry.

The game developed over time with the children lining up against a wall... and the names come faster (why we stand up rather than sit down)... we have done it when the children can cheer each other on, and also in total silence... again challenging the children in different ways... keeping quiet requires an awful lot of self control... The children run forwards to pop the bubbles, there is more space this was to be more flamboyant with movements... and sometimes I would say a child's name they would run forwards and just start to pop a bubble when I would call out another name and they needed to swap roles...

We also play that all the children are to pop the bubbles at the same time, but not to make a noise and not to touch another child... If children did touch or bump into each other then BOTH children sat down to the side and watched, the one that did the touching and the one that was touched... the idea was that we take responsibility for others, that our actions do not happen in isolation. At the end of two minutes (so it was never long to wait) we would talk about strategies... why were those children successful and still popping bubbles, what were their own theories, what were the theories of those observing? We then tried out the theories... the most fun one was when a child said "I am not sitting down because I kept to the edge where there were no others and did not pop the bubbles" - all the children thought this was a good idea... we tried it out and the whole group stood at the edge and watched the bubbles... the reflected and decided it was not the best way to play... Over time they became better and better at being able to pop bubbles and not bump into each other... their spatial awareness skills evolved, their ability to predict the movements of others, an awareness that others wanted to pop bubbles as much as them, and an understanding that this was a game that they one together rather than competing with each other. it was about community.

it is a VERY popular game, and the children want to play again and again... we do not talk about winners... we talk about working together so that no-one bumps into another, so that everyone plays the whole time. And after 18 month they actually finally managed to play a whole 2 minutes without anyone touching (even slightly) anyone else while still fully engaged in bubble popping, so all bubbles got popped before hitting the floor!! There were also bubble sessions where we sat in a circle... the idea was for each child to choose a bubble (without telling anyone else) and secretly follow that bubble, and when it popped to stand up. It was fun to see how children would stand up at the same time... sometimes because their bubbles had popped at the same time, and sometimes because they had chosen the same bubble. I would ask why they chose that particular bubble... sometimes it was because it was the biggest, or the smallest, or the most colourful, or the first or last bubble out, or the one closest to them... the children could learn that they could choose different bubbles for the same reason of the same bubble for different reasons. And I think this is a very important thing for children to learn and is a great way to develop theory of mind. I will then repeat the process, this time sitting down when their bubble popped.

Playing this game in many different ways is good fun and also means that the children get to practice their listening and their self regulation playfully... Even though we have played this game many times it is still hard work for several children to keep still and not pop the bubbles in the middle... and keep still, in the sense of staying in their place until their name is called out.... The game also taught me which children found it the hardest to self regulate... how often I needed to say their name to be able to maintain their interest and also how their mood impacted their ability to self regulate (if they were tired, or especially happy or whatever). All of this knowledge I could use in dialogues with the children to enable a democratic approach where all felt they could participate, all listened and valued each other and that the children had the energy and ability to engage at their full potential.

I also hold a whole load of bubble sessions for the children.... to blow through straws to make and explore bubbles... great for mouth development and pronunciation. And again a BIG focus on joy... the whole table would be wet and bubbles flowing everywhere... but that was the point... Often during lunch there would be secret blowing bubbles into milk... which I have to agree is great fun... but it was really distracting for some children. They stopped eating and could only play... and I knew that an hour or so later that they would regret that (as would the whole preschool) as there was not the energy to self regulate and mood control. Eating a healthy lunch was my priority so that the children could enjoy their whole day. Providing adequate opportunities to blow bubbles meant that there was no need for cheeky lunch bubbles... as they knew there would be the chance to blow bubbles later on a much grander scale!

oh, and sometimes bubble blowing is a great way to calm down. And bubble shadows are very cool on a white background!!!!

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