Tuesday, July 29, 2014


Child Led Project - Building a Life Size Pirate Ship
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So Your Kid Is Not Into Pirates?

I will be honest – my daughter has never been interested in pirates and pirate books. It’s her second least favorite topic, right after mummies. I thought that we would skip this month of Poppins Book Nook altogether, but then the perfect book presented itself.
Captain No Beard
Captain No Beard is a lovely new series from Carole P. Roman. We received the first book for review some time ago, and since then Carole was very generous sending us other books in these series. Each book follows a journey of a pretend pirate crew over oceans of imagination while solving some real problems of friendship, responsibility or resolving arguments. Smarty especially loved the latest book that was sent to us - The Treasure of Snake Island. In this book there is no conflict between characters, but together they are looking for a treasure. There is a hint in the book which allowed Smarty to predict correctly what they would find, and she was delighted to see that she was right.

A Pirate Ship Engineering Challenge

When we read The Treasure of Snake Island, I proposed a challenge to Smarty to build a pirate ship. I envisioned something like this (that’s what I built), but Smarty was not interested in mini-versions.
Pirate Lego Ship
She set out to build a “life-sized” pirate ship, just like characters in the book who use a bed as a ship and stuffed animals as crewmates. My own challenge was to hold all the “helpful advice” and let it be a completely child-led project. It was fun to watch how things unfolded in her imagination. It took her all morning to build and equip her ship, and she already made several imaginary voyages in it. Hopefully she finds crewmates to join her on her trips before the ship will have to come apart.
Pirate Ship

Solving Engineering Problems

Pirate Ship Engineering Challenges
Smarty had to solve several engineering problems while constructing her ship. Again, I had to bite my tongue really hard not to offer her help. I broke down on helm, but she didn’t listen to my advice anyway.
  1. How to keep your mast up – a lot of masking tape and scotch tape was used.
  2. Securing a sail – Smarty surprised me here, her sail can even move up and down.
  3. Making a helm. It turned out not quite in scale of the rest of the ship and hanging by a thread… well, by a toothpick, but she is quite proud of it.

Letting Your Children Take a Lead

While Smarty’s pirate ship was not at all what I had in mind, I am glad that I didn’t take over this project. I feel that as she is growing up, I am also growing as a parent in my ability to let go and to accept her vision of her work, to be an observer or even a student, not a teacher. We are both happier when we approach projects this way, and she learns a lot more from her mistakes and experiments than she could have learned from a guided project.

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5 comments:

maryanne @ mama smiles said...

I am very impressed that Smarty's sail can go up and down!

Emma @ P is for Preschooler said...

I like to think I'm learning the same lesson as my daughter grows up - being able to step back and let her take a project in her own direction. That is one impressive pirate ship she came up with!

Ticia said...

Keeping my hands back is so very very hard with projects like that. I was talking with a friend that sometimes literally sits on her hands to keep from "helping."

Deceptively Educational said...

Her ship is amazing! I am always astonished when I see what my sons come up with on their own - it's wildly more imaginative than what I dream up. Way to go, Smarty!

Jill R. said...

Oh wow! What a ship! Smarty outdid herself this month!

Thank you for helping to bring a spoonful of reading fun to the Poppins Book Nook this month!