Ladders....

August 7, 2019

While I was in Anji, China it was very obvious that the ladder was a symbol of play and freedom... a bamboo ladder is also the actual logo for AnjiPlay... 

When you see them in action you can also see why this is the case.

 

The children are free to use and play with them in a myriad of ways.

The fact that there are different lengths of ladders and were offered in different materials (pine or bamboo) is also testament to this... Ms Cheng (who is the founder of AnjiPlay) wanted not just ladders to be available for play, but that in play the children could explore the difference in the weight of things the same size but made in different materials... that they feel different in the hand, that they make different sounds when dropped, or banged or rolled on.

The different lengths will mean that working alone or together with others are made easier or harder - which can encourage collaboration and determination.

Some ladders are hinged together as well...

 

Below are some images to illustrate just how many ways ladders can be used...

 

 

 as you can see ladders are being used in many ways... and there are many ladders to construct and play with.

When the children are playing with the ladders (and other equipment) there is an active hands-OFF behaviour by the educators... this is a deliberate way to give the children the time and space to really play, to really engage, really explore on their own terms - Ms Cheng calls this True Play. During this time the teachers and filing, photographing/documenting the play... to learn more themselves about the play... but also to use later with the children... rather than interrupt children's play to ask them about it, they share the films later and ask then... actually the process is more intricate than that... but in this ladder post it is enough information for now...

 as you can see there are many ladders to choose from... some of the schools ARE very big with 400 - 600 children. So there needs to be a lot of ladders... but every early years setting... urban and rural had a rich supply of materials including  many ladders in order to give the chance to the children to truly experiment...

 

 the children are responsible for putting away things afterwards - the longer ladders need help... and as you see there are also cushions with handles, that the children can put at the base of ladders etc to keep them safe when climbing and jumping... risk is one thing, danger is another. What I saw in Anji, was that there was an active anti-hazard approach... but space to take chances that could possibly end with a minor hurt...

 

 

 here the children lined up the ladders so that they could sled down the "tracks"

 

 you can see the hinged ladder clearly here, with a strap so that it did not go flat to the ground...

 

 some constructions seemed to defy gravity....

 although not for long... and you could clearly hear the difference in sound as they fell...
the pine wood in China seemed lighter than that I am familiar with in Sweden.
I so so loved the bamboo... but I have long had an enormous love for bamboo, so that was probably not so surprising...

the small hinged ladders were a perfect base for making a see-saw 

but as you see it needed constant work to stop it from falling over... (next few images) 

 

 

ladders are used as part of complex structures... for climbing on, but also to do other experiments on such as rolling things across etc etc 

 

 

 I saw many situations where children were challenging themselves to jump from heights...
not all would start from such a great height... there were smaller jumps made, and also some children would not climb all the way up... each child challenged themselves in the way that was appropriate for them...

 

 and finally, for this post...

ladders gave a tool for fantastic collaborations and interactions...

 



Over the years I have used step ladders, but have not had the opportunity to have had other sorts of ladders available for play as in AnjiPlay...

 

The above image shows us exploring the children's fear of heights (we had been talking about what was scary... heights was one of them... so we decided to do scary art, by dropping paint from a  great height - each child climbing to the height that they felt comfortable with... some just the first or second step, but most to the top...

Afterwards they played with the paint and created patterns... because that was one of their favourite things to do...

Below they are jumping... their first "art" encounter of the step ladder made them aware of its existence... so they often asked to get it out of the cupboard and used it... knowing to put the cushions around it to keep them safe from real harm...
and of course once they were up there, they discovered to their great delight, that they were taller than me.... I was the tallest in the whole preschool!!

 

The lack of moveable ladders has meant we have not had that play flexibility that comes from loose parts... but nature provides plenty of climbing, jumping, swinging, and branches are excellent loose parts that require collaboration... especially those massive ones...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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© 2017 Suzanne Axelsson. Interaction Imagination. Stockholm, Sweden.
suzanne@interactionimagination.com