I receive a newsletter from Dan Hodgins via email and this month he was talking about the heart and soul of a preschool. Take a look: (http://dkj.tumblr.com/post/15216896008/hello-friends-with-the-movement-to-increase?ref=nf).
It got me thinking about an incident at a preschool I was at where I was told that it was ok for the children to take things from one 'centre' to another as long as it wasn't being dumped. Well, one day I was letting some boys 'dump' a bunch of toys on the carpet because they were creating a "garbage dump" which evolved into a recycling depot. They had the trucks full of blocks, cars and whatnot and unloaded them beside me. I was enjoying it...they were actively engaged with each other and the work. But then clean-up time came and the teachers were very grumpy about the "mess" they made. I made it a game by having them sort (like at a recycling plant) and store the goods in the appropriate bin (I may've even used "appropriate").
Isn't that sad? I think all 4 of the boys were involved along with a couple of girls who joined in for the sorting. Ok, so maybe 80% of the toys they have were in the pile, but gosh, they were having fun!
I appreciate that it took time to clean it up but considering the all times the kids are just stand around waiting doing nothing....(I'll let you finish that sentence).
He has a list and I'm sure I've only seen "children choosing to play by themselves" without being told/encouraged to include someone else, consistently at the preschools I've been too. I've seen (and heard!) children crying there, but usually it is a meltdown from being told to do something or not to do something.
I don't expect a free-for-all...but more flexibility in letting children be children! It would do many children some good to be expected to think for themselves as I've met too many that are stumped when they're asked to use their imagination.