Growing up, I heard a lot of fairy tales through school and TV. While I had a vague recollection of what happened in these stories, I couldn’t remember the complete plot of any of them, except for The Three Little Pigs. That being said, I started telling my daughter the story of The Three Little Pigs fairly early on. I distinctly remember telling her the story while flying solo with her to Toronto when she was 16 months old because the man next to us commented on it.
My daughter (like many children) has shown interest in The Three Little Pigs on and off for the past few years. Over the summer she participated in one of my classes when I was making flannel board characters with my group and made her own “Big Bad Wolf.”
Her interest was reignited when she saw an episode of Dora the Explorer that featured The Three Little Pigs. It’s also a running joke in our home. When a door is closed and one of us wants to enter the room, we often use our big bad wolf voice and say “Little pig, little pig, let me in!”
Over the winter holidays this year, she had a couple of friends visit (they were 4 and 6) and I had left some costumes out for the kids to play dress up if they were interested. Finding the piggy hats instantly sparked a dramatization of The Three Little Pigs. Our story took a different turn because even though there were four of us, the two youngest children both wanted to be the big bad wolf, so we acted out an alternate version called The Two Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolves. The 6 year old was the narrator and provided the storyline and my daughter became entranced by the idea of acting out a story with a predetermined plot. I watched her fondly as her eyes became big and I saw her play cooperatively with other children. Over the next few weeks she continued to act out the story at home asking my husband and I to play along as well as when she visited her grandparents, asking her dadi to play the part of one of the piggies.
Since a big part of emergent curriculum is observing the child and providing play and learning experiences in response to their interests, we borrowed our first official book about The Three Little Pigs from the library and started reading it at home. H was intrigued not only by the story, but the idea of building and construction. This is an interest I’ve seen emerging this year and something we have been exploring further (blog posts to follow).
In the coming week, I gave her the flannel board characters I had created before H was even born for a group of children I was working with. I left her with the flannel board and she proceeded to tell the story independently.
Our work since then has been dealing largely with tools and the idea of construction. In the coming weeks, we might attempt to explore building with the types of materials and tools used by the piggies in the book and perhaps writing and illustrating our own adaptation of The Three Little Pigs since H could benefit from an opportunity for more art exploration.
H also showed great interest in Jack and the Beanstalk, Goldilocks and the Three Bears and The Gingerbread Man. We borrowed all of these books from the library and as H became familiar with the plot, she started acting them out with her stuffed animals, family members and with open ended props (loose parts) around the house. We returned the books recently. I am curious to see if her interest in these stories re-emerges.
Fairy tales offer so much for children. Of course, some of the plot lines are questionable (even scary) but there’s a reason these stories have become classics. H who is generally very nice LOVES to be the big bad wolf. I know on some level it lets her process difficult emotions in a safe way and experiment with different roles and temperaments. No one wants to be the good guy all the time! I also think it’s fascinating how she rewrites aspects of classic stories and rhymes to fit her own narrative. For example, in her version the pigs are sisters (not brothers). Similarly, when she started singing Baa Baa Black Sheep a few years ago, she insisted on having a bag of wool for “the little girl who lives down the lane.” The elements of repetition, the memorable characters and the themes make fairy tales easy to remember and an excellent point of departure for the love of literature.