The first step was to create a space for Little Bear to work in. Pickert recommends somewhere in the main living space, somewhere near to where everyone else is. For us, the best place seemed to be the playroom. Although it is perhaps not where I spend most of my time, it is near enough and Little Bear recognises it as his own space. I set up his table and easel for him near to a shelf unit where he could store his bits and pieces.
I added a few posters and a basket of books that I thought might be inspirational to him. He really enjoys coming to sit in his project space. He loves the independence of getting out his own equipment to create with, and is very good at returning them to their homes when he has done. I think having a younger, very interested brother who likes to eat charcoal and drink painting water has been a help with encouraging this tidy streak.
Gradually he has added his own pictures and I have written out the questions he has asked. Of course he can’t read them himself yet, but this is modelling for a time when he can do these things for himself. He has a small torso which he likes taking apart and putting back together like a jigsaw, and has collated a surprising amount of knowledge in a short period of time. I have been very surprised at just how far he can go with an idea that has caught his interest. He can now describe the basics of his digestive system with some scientific names for organs, he can explain what a white blood cell is for, and knows why people need their kidneys. Rather good for a three year old, I think…
So far our project sessions have usually begun with me suggesting Little Bear comes to work on his project with me. He has been eager to almost every time, and has recently started to ask himself if we can have ‘project time’ now. We try to get some time in whilst Teddy has a sleep so I don’t have to field a second set of interested fingers from whatever Little Bear is doing. Project time also means a bit of one-on-one time with mama bear, which is important to Little Bear these days.
We usually read a little of one of his books to start with. Sometimes he knows what he wants to read about, and some days we read the same couple of pages over and over. Sometimes we need to check what questions he has asked recently, and then we can look for the answers. I have encouraged him to use the information he has discovered to create, and he is beginning to get the idea of this now. The break through came when I suggested he try using playdough to make a body. He began layering playdough on his little torso, and discovered he could make prints of the shapes.
Little Bear continued with his body project for nearly 10 weeks. During this time he developed quite a fascination with germs, drawing them over and over again, especially being ‘eaten’ by white blood cells.
We set up a little doctor’s surgery, with doctoring equipment such as a stethoscope, otoscope, bandages, a syringe for injections and prescriptions. He continued to play with this for a long time after the rest of his interest in the body waned. He even wrote a little book for doctors to use to look up what is wrong with their patients.
The Body project did not formally ‘end’ but fizzled out gradually.