Freeplay philosophy with 3 and 4 year olds


(Children playing in the blocks)

“We are playing princess’s and kids (kings)

The king has to find treasure and the princess has to get married to the King.

We need to find treasure in the house. “

“The queen is the oldest person in London And there’s no one older and she loves dogs, her royal dogs Only dogs are her friends.”

(overheard on the climbing apparatus)

“ He’s just my step friend”

F- What is a step friend?

“ It’s a friend who’s really annoying”


“ I want to be little- I want to be cute again”

“That’s poisonous, be careful.

We saw poisonous snakes, they were big super worms, they don’t talk.”

Children’s interest in the picturebook Superworm by Julia Donaldson led to a provocation for further thinking about worms.  I put sour worm sweets in the compost tray outside. Sophia was first to find them and immediately announced they were not real despite the fact that they moved (squashing them and releasing caused them to move elastically)

Child- I’m sniffing it out, it does smell like a sweety

Pick it up. Worms should smell like dirt.

Dirt smells like yuck, sniff some.

I ate a real snail once it tasted like marshmallow , you should try them. Then I tried another one and it tasted like slime.

I’m going to make a super worm pie, a little one (worm) to poke through here, now I need a long one which is super dirty.

We are making a birthday lunch for the worms because it is their birthday. Worm said it was his birthday, it’s pretend worms birthday

For exploration-Do worms have birthdays ? Do they have family to celebrate with? How do they know how old they are? Do worms count in our language?)

Look! They are saying hello to each other

Further exploration-Investigation into worm language and communication Do humans need words to communicate? Is thinking the same as talking? Where do words come from?

Don’t squash it over, it’s all Gods’ creatures.

Are you going to put fire on them?

No, don’t go near that BBQ, only teachers are allowed, and me.

No boys are allowed to see this, only JJ cos it’s his birthday, only he can watch.

It’s actually my game and cos JJ it’s his birthday so he is the boss

And I’m the boss No, Mrs D is the boss, only she is the boss

And JJ is the boss

We can build them a playground and connect it like this so they can go exploring.

Oh no it has gone into three pieces. I – it, just broken into 3 pieces

F- is it still alive? He’s not alive. He’s just gone He’s dead now We have to do sticky tape on

F- will that make him alive again?

I don’t know (Stands looking at the pieces for several seconds ) I think so

Incident- two children S and H were observed rinsing the sweet worms under the tap, an adult intervened before it was eaten. . The other mud covered worm was put to mouth before child explained it was yucky and adults intervened.

Question to consider Should we now remove the worms? What if we had to eat worms? What if they were the only food source? Why is it ok for crows to eat worms?

 Question board idea- would you eat worms if they tasted like sweets? Yes or no?

(Enquiry in the stone tuff spot… D and T)

F- what are you doing?

We are making a rock collection

F- do you have to collect special stones then?

Yes, this one is special, cos it’s black. It’s our favourite colour.

T- this one is small, this one is white.

F- what would happen if someone stole your special stone T?

It wouldn’t be very nice.

F pretend I’m a pirate and I need to take your special collection

No !

F-But it’s my job

No, they are ours

F- but it’s not fair, you have all the special stones and I have none. Please could I have one?

(T gives me one)

D- I’m steering you away left, (uses a round sieve as a steering wheel.)

F- what if I didn’t get a special stone and my pirate boss makes me walk the plank? (D takes my stone back)

F-i wonder if you are being a robber now?

Questions to consider -What is fair? Are people allowed to take things because they have to? What’s the difference between need and want? What makes something special? Can we always know something is special? What if the ‘special’ is hidden inside? If you give something and take it back is that the same as robbing it ? What is yours to give? What do you actually own? How do you know you own it?


(Some children were designing crowns as it was the Queen’s birthday , others free drawing .

I asked a child to tell me about his drawing.)

Well, it’s a bit complicated This is treasure

F- what is treasure?


F-why is gold treasure?

Gold is very shiny

F- what’s special about ‘shiny’? Shiny and glittery is nice Everything glittery is nice

F- even shiny snakes?

No, we can’t have slimy animals

F- So if I find your treasure will I like it if I don’t like shiny things?

Yes cos shiny is valuable

Further thoughts … What shiny things are not valuable ?…..or nice? Is buried treasure valuable if nobody knows it is there? What is more important gold or water? Would people want gold if it was purple and smelly?

RECOMMENDED reading HOW TO FIND GOLD by Viviane Schwarz

(Children designing paper crowns)

F- if I make one can I be the queen?

No, you need a real crown

Pretend crowns are made out of paper and sticky tape or glue

F- what makes something a real crown though?

A real crown has to have jewels

F-Paper jewels?

No, real jewels

F-if you made a real crown, with real jewels would you be queen?

Yes! I’m going to another country that’s better than this, where kids can do what they want. Like ride airplanes, drive cars and they can go on picnics their own and eat their own . All other countries are better than this.

Child shows me a picture of a queen and her two corgis wearing crowns

F-Why do the dogs have crowns?

If the queen wears a crown then the dogs have to

Maybe they like them?

Because they live in the palace Dogs can be queen if they live in the palace

F- do the people who wash the dishes in the palace wear crowns too?

No, they would get food on them

F- why can’t my dog wear a crown?

‘Cos you not the queen

Further thoughts -What is the difference between real and pretend? Would the queen still be queen if she only had a paper crown? Is she still a queen when she takes her crown off at bedtime? If I took her crown would I be queen? What is it that makes someone a king or queen? Why can’t we all be the king or queen ? Can you do whatever you want when you are queen? What would you let people do if you were queen? How would you make sure everyone in your country was happy all the time? Could an animal be a queen? Do dogs have leaders?

(Two boys drawing in their drawing books. I asked them to tell me the story of their drawing)

We didn’t have any ideas at the beginning of our story

We are just drawing a tree right now, a power tree.

It shoots apples into bad guys eyes

And they can’t find our base, it’s got an invisible shield.

And this is the house, you have to climb up to this door with ladders. It’s just a trick door

And it’s pink, pink is for the bad people

I’ve drawn a picker-upper-er it picks all the people

F- the good people or the bad people?

All the middle people, but the picker upper-er is a baddie

Here’s a bad snake, it shoots out torpedoes from its mouth, and bombs- It’s as big as a blue whale There are 10,000 good guys in this base.

This is a tenalien robot.

F-What does that do?

Well, it’s planning for today, so I don’t really know about it yet

We were trying to make it but I made a smasher slip really big.

Let’s make the power tree smash it

Let’s make an invisible shield so it doesn’t hit anything

-Can you tell me which of your drawings are good guys and which are bad?

These good guys are purple Halloween colours and the bad guys are any colours

F- how would I tell the difference if I didn’t know about colours? I’ll spell it out for you like r..e…d

Outside Elijah was sitting alone on playground wearing his paper crown looking very sad. I asked why he looked sad he said “I am sad” C joined us and overheard this, he said… “The King never gets sad, or lonely

F- why not?

Because they are adults and adults never get sad

E- they do…my mum got sad once

C- that’s because she wasn’t the queen

F-I wonder what makes a King sad?

Kings get bullied

F- what can the King do about someone who was not nice to him?

The King would send that person away to Africa.

C- no ,to Ghana because Ghana is nice and has nice people

F- so what happens when they go to Ghana?

He gets a little bit…, well comes back to London being kinder.

F- do the people in Ghana feel happy about all the bad guys coming to their country?

C- No, they say ‘not you again!’ But they are happy when they go back kinder.

Further thoughts- Can you still be sad if you have everything you want? What should we do with bad people? Can you make bad people nicer by being kind to them? Should good people have to be responsible for bad people?


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