Building Neighborhood Stories

Elisha and Kristin retell their own version of "The Three Little Pigs" contrasting themes of bullying with acts of kindness. This opens dialogue encouraging children to share ideas of how friendship occurs.

Elisha and Kristin retell their own version of "The Three Little Pigs" contrasting themes of bullying with acts of kindness. This opens dialogue encouraging children to share ideas of how friendship occurs.

We gathered in our lovely Red Hook Library home for another Friday of Story Play and Materials Lab, on a morning just sunny enough for wandering feet to play outside on the back patio between stories. Thanks to our friends at Happy Hours Day Care, and familiar faces from the weeks prior, we all gathered for a very special treat: a playful and captivating puppet show of the Three Little Pigs, performed in full character by Elisha and Kristin. Even our most squirmy little friends sat cross-legged with eyes glued to the knitted, finger puppet piggies and the fuzzy, orange big bad wolf. A few brave little explorers even scooted up close enough to pet our beastly puppet or feel the lovely straw, stick, and brick houses, all home-built with natural materials. It’s always amazing to see the curious gaze on those little faces, as their eyes peek through the mini-door of the straw house or their fingers feel the rough brick next to the soft knit piggy puppet. 

Meetings at the library always begin with song.

Meetings at the library always begin with song.

We then had everyone open our big red farm house and pick one (or two or three!) farm friends of their own, greeted by a chorus of preference and story: 

“I like soft animals!” 

“Cow and Horse are going into their little wooded house!”

“Princess Asania lives in the brick house.” 

We had a few girls very interested in the big bad wolf, as well, offering him lessons on how to make friends: “You say hello to them first and then you ask their names.” And comforting him, agreeing that he was just misunderstood: “Cow and Horse don’t say you’re a bad wolf,” “You’re a nice, good, friendly wolf.” This amicable play concluded with many hugs for the happily beaming big bad wolf puppet. 

"Who is that moving into my neighborhood?" chortles the Beastly Wolf as he plots to make waves. But Kindly Alpaca sweetly offers to help a little pig on his journey to set down roots in town. 

"Who is that moving into my neighborhood?" chortles the Beastly Wolf as he plots to make waves. But Kindly Alpaca sweetly offers to help a little pig on his journey to set down roots in town. 

After the puppet show, the neighborhood is open for business as a children's puppet show:  children are invited to choose puppets, handle the props, move around houses and engage in a new conversation with the wolf about how to make friends. 

After the puppet show, the neighborhood is open for business as a children's puppet show:  children are invited to choose puppets, handle the props, move around houses and engage in a new conversation with the wolf about how to make friends. 

Our Materials Lab was a continuation of our Big Bad Wolf story, and we were lucky enough to have a few faces stay for both classes to try out our afternoon of building. With natural materials including sticks, acorn tops, dried flowers, crisp leaves, among others, each maker was given a real brick and a pile of homemade play dough to start building their own home for the piggies.  We had great ambition: “I wanna make a big house!”

One three-year-old was a big fan of the play dough. She even buried “a little tiny tent” under a mound of “grass” (green dough). Using the play horse and pigs she made a story out of her house: 

“A little horsey walked through the grass and fell into the trash water. His mommy was super strong and the horsey when to his mommy.”

Two young girls set up a “Nature Store” - “I’m not going to buy it, I’m the waitress in the store!" exclaimed one child imaginatively.

So many choices! Our student intern, Morgan, encourages story dialogue as children sift through materials. 

So many choices! Our student intern, Morgan, encourages story dialogue as children sift through materials. 

During Materials Lab, we always open the Cupboard of Curiosities to reveal jars glistening with colorful bits in all textures. A table is set out with bowls of natural materials for building houses. We use homemade play dough as glue.

During Materials Lab, we always open the Cupboard of Curiosities to reveal jars glistening with colorful bits in all textures. A table is set out with bowls of natural materials for building houses. We use homemade play dough as glue.

Children begin to build with brick, home made play dough and natural materials of their choice. Little plastic animals enhance story play.

Children begin to build with brick, home made play dough and natural materials of their choice. Little plastic animals enhance story play.

Midway through class, a young boy arrived, enthusiastically making use of all the building materials as well as the projector to tell the story of his house. We improvised a story of the big bad wolf befriending Pig #3, and their travels to different locations all around the world: the desert, the jungle, and in their home. 

It was a lovely day with some beautiful stories told and houses made. The little piggy dwellings now live on top of the ever expanding materials closet that we sometimes refer to as "The Cupboard of Curiosities". It is full of Find & Seek found objects and materials for play in the weeks to come! Thank you to everyone for a magical day. 

Sticks and straw build a fortress of walls with a little interior space hidden within. His mother is inspired to create a doll out of a pinecone as they work together side by side. 

Sticks and straw build a fortress of walls with a little interior space hidden within. His mother is inspired to create a doll out of a pinecone as they work together side by side. 

Many children love to take time to look closely and take pride in discovering new worlds of their own creation. 

Many children love to take time to look closely and take pride in discovering new worlds of their own creation. 

The outside comes in and sometimes beckons us in as the garden space is reflected whimsically in the glass windows blocks of our room. Many thanks to photographer Barbara Murphy who helped us to document this day with her inspiring perspective.

The outside comes in and sometimes beckons us in as the garden space is reflected whimsically in the glass windows blocks of our room. Many thanks to photographer Barbara Murphy who helped us to document this day with her inspiring perspective.

by Morgan Urquia