Where's My Castle?

We have a little one in our infant and toddler room who likes building right now.  As you can imagine building any structure in a room where there are eleven other inquisitive and active infants and toddlers moving around can be challenging.  So we notice that when the other eleven have all gone for their nap this little one is granted some uninterrupted time and space and this is often what he likes to do.  He does go for a nap too, just a little bit later than his friends.  His building is quite intricate and focussed, made up of blocks, loose parts and puzzle pieces.  This is what he built one day.

Then another day this is what he built. He and a helper.  The building started around where the red
pom -pom is.  He called it a castle.  And she helped him build it.  As you can see it started out organized and meticulous and it grew to epic proportions. 

His enthusiastic helper continued to pass him items.  Faster than he could build, the castle spread out and took an interesting form. It grew and it grew.

Soon they were foraging for materials and toys from around the room.  Every shelf was cleared. Baskets were emptied. Even heavy items were carried over to become part of the castle building.  Every item from every corner of the room became part of their castle.

My co-worker and I were a captive audience.  We saw someone who had a plan and then he shared the plan with a friend.  They cooperated.  They worked together.  They communicated.  They shared happiness and laughter as they built their castle. They experienced team work at its best.

However, all good times come to an end and soon it was time for these two little ones to have a nap along with their other friends.  We eventually got them to leave their wonderful castle and off to rest they went.

We had four staff working on this day.  Two were not present while this amazing building took place.  A building of this scale is not a natural occurrence in our room mostly due to the fact that normally we would dissuade it.  After all clean up is usually the problem.  Who is going to do it? 
 Infants and toddlers are definitely better at dumping and carrying then cleaning up right?  So to be honest most staff would probably not allow this kind of play to happen.

However as my co-worker and I watched these two little ones at work, we knew something kind of magical was happening.  They were so many great things going on that we couldn't make them stop.  The good things we saw as they worked together trumped, dare I say it, the mess.

When all four of us staff were back on the floor we had a decision to make.  Should we clean it up or not?  Should we wait until the children woke up and see what they would do with the castle? Would they remember?  Would they have moved on from the building of it?

What would you do?  

As the children were sleeping we talked as a staff team.  Some were less comfortable with the enormity of the castle...pile...mess.  

Our discussion was good.  We have a staff team that have a lot of respect for one another.  We value each other's thoughts, feelings and opinions.  We work hard to nurture that.  
We talked about allowing this kind of play and not allowing it and why we would or wouldn't.  The great part was that we could re-visit the discussion and build on it.

On this day, at this point in time, our decision as a team was to clean up the castle before the children woke up.  And so we did.

As it turned out the castle builders slept the longest and the others were outside playing when they finally woke up.  As they were sitting having their snack one of the builders looked across the room and he said, "Where's my castle?"

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