Thursday, March 27, 2014

Watching Movies with a Preschool Engineer

Mikey finally decided that he could be brave enough to try watching Monsters, Inc. The things that capture his interest shouldn't surprise me by now but they do. He wants to watch and re-watch the two and half minute segment of the "garbage factory" when Sully thinks Boo is being smashed and smooshed into a garbage cube. The reason? Mikey isn't interested in the idea that Boo might be getting hurt and the amount of concern Sully has; Mikey wants to build a garbage factory.

After watching the garbage factory scene two times (first as part of the movie and immediately again to make a plan for our own factory) we immediately started looking around the house for materials. We needed a conveyor belt, a crusher, a smasher, more conveyor belts, a roller and a chopper. It is no surprise that most of these items were play dough toys and it was a fun exercise in negotiating with Mikey about the reality of engineering savvy...namely, doing the most with what you've got. (And who doesn't remember the square peg in a round hole problem solved by Apollo 13's NASA team?) And I'm very curious about the difference between Mikey being inspired by things he sees on TV or in books versus his own novel inventions.

I certainly don't want to be parent to a child with no imagination. So I think it is important that Mikey gets plenty of opportunities to learn by copying AND to learn by inventing. We talk about the entire engineering process of things he is interested in making...we discuss plans that include the purpose of the contraption, we make lists of materials, we construct and re-construct. It is fun! I also think that when we build together I have a unique chance to lead by example. I show him how to manage the frustrating moments and rejoice in small successes. I also get to step away and watch him take over the project - he directs me, he does the "important" things himself.

I guess I will be OK with Mikey watching and re-watching the most interesting segments of movies. He can read and reread books until the pages are worn. In all that repetition, he is working on a problem, drawing inspiration from the world in which he lives, and making a place for himself in the preschool engineering world.

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