Spaghetti Box Kids

Strategies, Tips and Activities for Learning

learning through play

Soup from a Stone

December 26th, 2009 · 8 Comments

When I was in college, to help make ends meet I took a job at a daycare center as an assistant teacher. I didn’t know a whole lot about kids, but it was plain to see that the general state of the children was aimlessness. There was a clear lack of resources at the center, as well as an overall absence of enthusiasm. Some of the kids were quite rough, and (sadly enough) every now and then a fight would erupt.

After a few days, at recess, I decided to apply the concept behind the kids’ story, Stone Soup. First we needed a train–something easy and familiar that would gather attention. Kids fell in line behind me and the line grew longer. We wound through the playground, around a tree, over a swinging bridge, through the sandbox. All the kids had a sense of purpose.

Kids PlayWhen we reached our campsite, a patch of grass, we sat in a circle around a rubber tire, which became our kettle. I told the kids I needed a square meal as much as they did, but we’d need stuff to make a soup. Just our luck, I said, here’s an ear of corn–and I put a stone in the center of the tire. The kids took the cue and scattered across the playground collecting stuff.

They’d come back and drop a tuft of grass in the tire and say, here’s some cabbage. Here’s an onion. I caught a fish. We took turns stirring the soup. A few minutes later I used a make-believe ladle to fill their make-believe bowls, and we ate with make-believe utensils. We traded adventure stories about the pretend hills and forest where they collected things for the soup. Some stories were only one sentence long. Others were longer, but they all wanted to contribute. Not one kid was bored. No one was misbehaving.

The experience taught me how easy it is to inspire kids to focus. It doesn’t take any special resources. You don’t have to be a genius, and you don’t need a bunch of gadgets. It’s enough to remember that a little direction goes a long way.

Tags: Learning Strategies

8 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Melissa // Jan 1, 2010 at 7:18 pm

    Very inspirational story! I find that most of your articles inspire me to be more involved with my two kids(3 & 5 yrs old). Keep up the great work.

  • 2 Spaghetti Box Kids // Jan 2, 2010 at 11:11 pm

    Glad to hear it. I think the ability to focus on the task at hand is much better in kids whose parents participate every day in their kids’ playtime activities–whether it’s for 1/2 hour or several hours. When kids know that their parents value the activity, they’re more willing to invest themselves completely in achieving the objectives–and that takes concentration. When that willingness and ability to concentrate becomes part of a daily routine, you see a child’s learning skills flourish.

    All the Best–

  • 3 rosebelle // Jan 3, 2010 at 5:25 am

    How funny, my brother used to work for Stone Soup nonprofit organization. Getting my kids to stay focus especially during homework time is challenging at times. It usually happens when they don’t understand how to do their assignments so yeah, a little direction does go a long way. Have a wonderful new year!

  • 4 Spaghetti Box Kids // Jan 5, 2010 at 3:50 am

    I agree–homework can be a tough time for kids to stay focused. Sometimes getting your child to explain the assignment to you can be helpful–it puts them in the role of instructor; that builds investment in successfully completing the assignment. Thanks for the feedback. –AV

  • 5 Torilpia // Jan 9, 2010 at 2:32 pm

    I love this post :o) Children are so adorable when they are happy and satisfied. And with childrens imagination – we can play all kinds of games – just by imagining it.


  • 6 Spaghetti Box Kids // Jan 11, 2010 at 4:49 am

    I agree–kids’ imagination is one of the best resources for recreation.

  • 7 4wrdthnkndad // Jan 12, 2010 at 3:51 pm

    On Sunday, my 5 year old and I went from reading some books he enjoyed, to playing “word slap,” to playing with playdough. While doing that, we worked on cleaning out tools with hardened clay. He proudly showed me how to make spaghetti hair. It was enough. As we approached noon, he observed, “I’m still in my pajamas.” He could do that all day and be just fine.

    This is a great site.

  • 8 Spaghetti Box Kids // Jan 13, 2010 at 9:36 pm

    That’s a great day. The best learning happens when kids are free exploring, having fun–they nearly always give their full attention and effort under those circumstances.

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