As I wandered by the sandbox in PreK today, I heard the noise of sirens! Three boys were playing, there were cars, policemen, and a chase had begun.
Me: What’s going on boys?
Boys: The police are chasing the bad guys! He stole something!
Me: Oh. a criminal, what did he do?
Boys: He stole something!
Me: Oh the criminal is a thief!
Boys: (blank stares)
Me: Do you know what ‘criminal’ and ‘thief’ mean?
Boys: (heads shaking no)
Me: A criminal is a bad guy, he’s the one the police are chasing – and he stole something so he’s a thief.
And with that they were off, their story was the same, the policeman was chasing the thief, but now the words ‘criminal’ and ‘thief’ were peppered throughout their dialogue. There was nothing bad or wrong about words they were using before I joined in their play, but I naturally stated what I observed and when I saw them reaching for the words to express themselves, explored the opportunity for a little vocabulary.
Play is so important for a plethora of reasons, but one is the exploration of language and new vocabulary.
Oh, and by the way, the criminal was eventually caught and dragged off to a mini sandcastle jail.