A four-year-old tells me to close my eyes, grabs me by the hand and tells me to follow him. He has a gift for me. I do as I'm told and when he tells me I can open my eyes, I see he has created something out of magnet building shapes.
I want to respond with the first thing that pops up in my mind but decide not to call it beautiful and amazing straight away. Instead, I ask the boy what my eyes are seeing.
He thinks for a couple of seconds and then starts explaining whilst pointing at the different buildings: This tower (left back) is taller than this tower (right back), and this tower (right back) is bigger than that tower (left front). And teacher, you have two cars!
I am pleasantly surprised by this narrative, and the boy’s ability to see and tell me which tower is bigger than the other one. I thank him for the nice buildings and my two cars, a compliment that has meaning now.
When his mum picks him up a while later, she is happy to hear her son has been busy constructing and is actively developing his mathematical insight.
Playing is learning, as long as you know what to look out for!