Thursday, February 2, 2012

Guest Blogger: Rachel Graham

Rachel Graham is a writer, researcher, and children’s media enthusiast hailing from Pittsburgh, PA. Trained in Dramatic Writing at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, Rachel has written scripts for preschool television programs, articles for parenting magazines and websites, posts for screenwriting and fashion blogs, and the occasional grocery list. She is also a researcher in preschool television, working on projects for companies like Sesame Workshop, Disney, and Shalom Sesame. She gets to teach and play with kids as a tutor and substitute teacher. She lives in Queens and her current favorite kid’s TV show is My Babysitter’s a Vampire.

Free Play


A preschool classroom, walls covered in paintings and drawings, shelves of toys blocking off different areas to play. It’s slightly lower than ground level so the windows are up high on the wall. RACHEL, mid 20s, sits at the table with ISSAC, 4. Rachel is a substitute teacher and writer. Issac loves trouble, his best friend Ben, and music, in that order. OTHER CHILDREN and MARCY, the lead teacher, are putting away backpacks as Issac and Rachel play with lacing cards (letters that have holes to lace a string through).

Rachel laces the letter “U” in a running stitch, unlaces it, laces it in a whipstitch stitch, unlaces it, laces it in a slipstitch, and unlaces it. Issac is still working on stitching the first time.

Rachel looks at the “U.” She laces the string across the “U” rather than through it.

Rachel strums on the “U” while humming.

RACHEL: Look Issac, I made a harp.

Issac grins. Marcy approaches the table.

MARCY: I never would have thought of that.


Confession: I am Rachel, and the scene above really happened. I am a television writer, so it made sense to write the story as a script. Making that harp was a moment of free play for me. Free play is loosely defined as a time of unstructured play, where kids can choose what they want to play with and how to play with it. Free play has fallen somewhat out of vogue in the preschool world, however, due to a push for more curriculum in preschool and especially kindergarten. Experts are concerned that a lack of free play decreases levels of creativity in children, creativity that helps children become problem-solving, inventive adults.

I was reading an article about creativity on and while the points it made about creativity and free play are very interesting, it also made me think about my own need for free play to tap into my creative side. The nice thing about working with kids is that it gives me an excuse to be creative and fun. While I don’t draw, make figurines with playdough, act like a robot, or play with toys in my adult “free time,” in my child “free play” time I do all of those things. I feel more inspired with my writing when I do creative things in my “free play” time.

This leads to a bigger insight that’s about more than just my writing process: I think my affinity for working with kids and writing for kids goes hand in hand, because my creative side IS still childlike. That’s not always true for people who just work with kids (see the story above: Marcy the lead teacher didn’t come up with the creative use of the “U” because she didn’t look at it with a creative child’s eye). It’s not true of all writers either (many of their creative sides I think comes from some level of adult insight).

I’m curious as to what other people who create media for kids think about this. Is the creative side of you more childlike? Or do you have to work to get into the mindset of a child? Or is it a combination of both?

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