A Little Happier: A Teacher Found a Simple Way to Entertain and Occupy Her Kindergartners

A friend told me a delightful story about her childhood.

When she was kindergarten, she went to school that didn’t have a good playground. It was made of some material like asphalt, and it was old, so it was pitted and cracked, and it was very small.

Every morning, the kindergartners went out for a twenty-minute recess. And sometimes—and, my friend said, it was always a great day when this happened—her teacher would hand each child a very small paper cup, then she’d take a handful of what she called “magic pebbles,” throw them out onto the playground so they’d scatter wide, and tell the children to find as many as they could. They had to bend and hunt among the cracks and crevices to try to spot those pebbles.

My friend said that on a good day, she might be able to find six of these magic pebbles. (When she got older, she realized that the magic pebbles were actually those tiny, brightly colored aquarium rocks you can buy by the bag.)

My friend said that this simple activity was tremendously fun. It was the thrill of the hunt, of course. It was a group activity that every child could be a part of, even a child who found it hard to join in games. It was companionable, because you could talk, or if you didn’t want to talk, you could be silent. Or you could do something else altogether; you didn’t have to hunt for the magic pebbles.

“What gave the pebbles their magic?” I asked.

“Oh, we didn’t worry about that,” my friend said. “The teacher called them magic pebbles, so they seemed exciting, but we didn’t expect them actually to do magic.”

I love hearing about this teacher’s ingenuity, and her deep insight into children, in understanding how this very simple task would be enormously satisfying to the children she taught. After all, my friend still remembers that game with such enthusiasm, decades later.




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