"I hope no one gets storrowed this weekend," I said as I scrolled through my facebook newsfeed on the morning of September 1st.
"Mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy," my preschooler yelled as she ran across the room to see what I was looking at. "What does storrowed mean?"
"This," I responded as I showed her a picture of a truck stuck under a bridge.
"Oh, no. The truck didn't fit," she said as she pointed to the screen.
"Yes," I replied. "Let's talk about it."
If you're from the Boston area, you're most likely familiar with the phrase "getting storrowed". If you're not, I'll explain. There are two roads that run along the banks of the Charles River. Storrow Drive (hence the name) is on the Boston side and Memorial Drive is on the Cambridge side. Both roads have several low-clearance bridges making them unsuitable for trucks. When truck gets stuck under the bridge, it's called "getting storrowed". Though getting storrowed can happen any time of the year, it peaks in September when over 150,000 students descend on Boston's 35 colleges and universities.
"Let's make a bridge and a truck," I said to my daughter as I walked to the play area.
"Do you think this truck will fit under the bridge? Or will it get storrowed?" I asked.
"Hmmmm," she responded. "It will probably get storrowed," she giggled.
"Why did it get storrowed?" I asked.
"Because," she reasoned, "the truck is taller than the bridge!"
"That's right! How could we prevent the truck from getting storrowed?"
"We could make the bridge taller!" she squealed while jumping up and raising her arms above head.
"Or, we could make the truck shorter!" she demonstrated as she shrank to the ground.
For the next 30 minutes or so we continued to play with the bridge and the truck and tested different heights for each. To some people this may seem like play, and it is, but it's also quite purposeful. My daughter was talking about the measurable characteristics of everyday objects. She was comparing these measurable characteristics to each other and drawing reasonable conclusions about what would or wouldn't happen. We can build on our child's mathematical exploration by asking them questions such as "why did that happen?" or "how can we fix this?" These questions also help preschoolers learn to critically think, a skill that is not only important in school, but also in life.
What was so great about this activity was that it happened organically. My daughter simply wanted to understand what a word meant, and we were able to turn that word into a mathematical exploration about measurement.
Give it a shot with your preschooler and let me know how it goes!