When visiting the Grasshopper room a few weeks ago I was observing two pairs of children building in the block area. While the two boys were very carefully setting 4 pillars on the corners of a platform, the two girls asked if they could use a large flat board. When the boys didn’t answer, the girls took it and added it to their structure. Predictably, this was discovered by the boys,and the ensuing argument headed quickly to a stalemate where no one was budging.
So we took out a clipboard and a pencil and the children began negotiating a compromise with a little adult modeling. First we stated the problem: “Both groups want the ‘big cardboard.'” Then we began listing the possible solutions beginning with my own:
- Cut the ‘big cardboard’ in half. (This was met with loud disapproval, but I said we are not deciding yet, just putting solutions out on the table.)
Together we came up with the following possibilities:.
- Put the buildings close together so both groups can share the board
- Put a “quad” block on instead.
- The girls should give one of their three boards to the boys so it will be even, two and two. Three large boards to one large board is not fair.
- Don’t fight.
- The girls keep the ‘big cardboard’ until clean up time. The boys can play with it tomorrow (which happened to be Saturday!).
- Pray and God will help us.
- Be smart.
- Give each team a geo board (brought over from the tables by a 5th student).
Then we read through the list of possibilities and voted. Alas mine received not a one. But the top three winners were “Pray and God will help us,” “Don’t fight,” and “The girls should give one of their boards to the boys so it will be two and two.” After praying together, the girls gave one ‘big cardboard’ to the boys and they continued to build, side-by-side, without fighting.
Although this process took some time and was somewhat labor intensive, the outcome was a solution suggested by a preschooler and voted on by the group. And everyone was content with the solution. A valuable lesson in the democratic process!