THE MAGIC OF CHILDREN'S PLAY!

The tradition of building fairy houses appears to have originated from a cluster of islands off Coastal Maine, USA.

“It is thought that fairies first left Tir na nog, the land of eternal youth, about 65 million years ago, to help heal the earth from the devastating effects of the asteroid impact that plunged the world into darkness and chaos.  It is believed that the origin of the four fairy clans – air, water, fire and tree fairies – can be traced to this time.  As little as 10,000 years ago, fairies are said to have been living commonly and openly in the Irish and Welsh countryside, serving as healers and holding fairy court where accused violators of natural law could be heard and reprimanded.  These “fairy circles,” as they are called, evolved into community gathering places where important events such as the turning of the four seasons and the birth of the full moon are celebrated.” (see Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens)

ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON - FAIRIES

Towards the end of 2013, our preschool commenced activity on the creation of a large outdoor fairy garden. This will be the focus of a future blog post as soon as it has been completed. Unfortunately, in a not-for-profit preschool environment, we have to live by the motto ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’, as finances are often tight.

1 Fairy Garden

In a corner of this large fairy garden, we have a miniature fairy garden housed in an old wheel barrow. The children adore the wheel barrow garden and demonstrate a deep reverence for its presence. Their imaginations often work overtime as they conjure up images of  the rambunctious small folk activity that goes on in this wee garden at night when the playground lies empty and bathed in moonlight. Several children race to this corner of the playground everyday on their arrival just to ascertain if there is any evidence or clues as to the late night antics of the fairies and pixies.

On one such morning, a group of children decided that the fairies were really in need of a fairy home, a place where they could be safe and comfortable. They talked excitedly about how they might be able to make one and determined the materials that they would need. They located sticks and paper-bark and began the process of building. There were a lot mathematical conversations involved in their endeavours as they determined the length of sticks they required, the size of the paper-bark pieces they would need and the overall shape of the structure. Their problem-solving skills were put to good use as they worked with materials that didn’t always respond to their expectations. The children eventually requested string and scissors as a means of securing the materials together. Creating knots was a new skill for the children to master.

2 Fairy House

On completion, B. determined that the fairy house needed decorating and searched the playground for suitable materials.

3 Fairy House

4 Fairy House

5 Fairy House

The following day, the children decided that the fairy house was in need of a door. The fairies clearly needed some privacy and protection from the elements.

6 Fairy House

7 Fairy House

So construction continued. They determined that the T-pee style house would need a triangular shaped door and searched for suitably sized sticks.

8 FairyHouse

A few drops of rain certainly didn’t hamper their progress.

9 Fairy House

10 Fairy House

Paper-bark was woven through the triangular shape and the door was securely tied onto the house.

11 Fairy House

12 Fairy House

Perfect!  A job well done. Now to see what the fairies think of their new home. :)

image

Fairy Houses

I recently purchased this gorgeous little book overflowing with delightful images of fairy houses created from found natural materials. I think the children are going to love it!

:)

In her book, Play Matters (2nd Edition), Kathy Walker proposes:

One of the teacher’s roles is to provide a rich range of opportunities for children to explore, investigate, involve and engage in purposeful, personalised and meaningful experiences, so that a number of different types of play, thinking, reasoning and understanding can occur”.

Providing children with rich learning opportunities directly linked to their own emerging interests, socio-cultural experiences or elements of their environment (the third teacher), should be fundamental to curriculum planning.

One of my favourite methods of intentionally providing a provocation for play, based on the criteria mentioned above, is to create small ‘table-top’ playscapes. The purpose of this post is to share some of the play-scapes I have created over the last few years with the hope that I might provide some inspiration to fellow educators in the early childhood field. In most instances, it has taken some time to collect many of the elements found in each playscape, but the effort has definitely been well worth it in terms of the enormous joy and opportunities for engagement and learning they afford the children.

Some of the playscapes shown below have been presented in previous posts so you may find additional information about them by clicking on the link below the photograph. :)

MULTICULTURAL AND INDIGENOUS PLAYSCAPES

Indigenous Playscape

IMG_1396

Chinese Playscape

IMG_0774

Japanese Playscape

IMG_4946 - Copy

IMG_5174 - Copy

STORY (LITERACY) PLAYSCAPES

A Nice Walk in the Jungle

IMG_0159

View here

Goldilocks and the Three Bears

IMG_1884 - Copy

View here

The Three Billy Goats Gruff

IMG_5183 - Copy

ADVENTURE PLAYSCAPES

Pirate Playscape

IMG_0327

View here

 Space Playscape

IMG_3387 - Copy

NATURE PLAYSCAPES

The Frog Life Cycle

1 - Copy

View here

SEASONAL PLAYSCAPES

Summer Playscape

IMG_0031

View here

Autumn Playscape

1

View here

Winter Playscape

1-300x117

View here

Spring Playscape

IMG_5407 - Copy

2-300x225

View here

If you are concerned about children ‘trashing’ a playscape that you have gone to great lengths to set up, then this post may be of help to you ~ View here

I hope you have enjoyed this playscape journey and have been able to find some inspiration for future planning.
:)

 

As a preschool educator, mothers day and fathers day have always caused me a degree of mental anguish each year as they inevitably draw closer on the calendar. The reason for my anguish is twofold. Firstly, I adopt an emergent curriculum approach when planning the preschool program for the children within my care.  Such an approach is far from conducive with the concept of demanding that children sit down and churn out ‘craft’ style gifts that have little or perhaps no meaning to them.  Clearly, I am in no way suggesting that the children do not love and cherish their fathers and that they wouldn’t be delighted to present them with a gift, but I do feel that the subtle meaning behind honouring there father on a designated day probably eludes a child of four or five years of age. Secondly, and from a personal perspective, I grew up in a family whereby my parents didn’t really rate these days very highly, particularly in light of their growing commercialism, and this has no doubt resulted in me adopting similar views when I became a parent myself. Nevertheless, as an educator, I must acknowledge that these events are now firmly established cultural traditions within our society that are cherished by many of the families attending our preschool service. So to help myself reflect on the original motivation and history behind the decision to commemorate fathers (and mothers) day, I did some research. I was certainly hoping that I would find a little more substance to the decision beyond rampant commercialism.

Mothers day commenced in America with its origins being in the  peace-and-reconciliation campaigns of the post-Civil War era. The motivation behind what were called  “Mother’s Work Days”, was to bring together the mothers of Confederate and Union soldiers.

The campaign to celebrate a national fathers day ( History of Fathers Day) came about as follows:

On July 5, 1908, a West Virginia church sponsored the nation’s first event explicitly in honour of fathers, a Sunday sermon in memory of the 362 men who had died in the previous December’s explosions at the Fairmont Coal Company mines in Monongah, but it was a one-time commemoration and not an annual holiday. The next year, a Spokane, Washington woman named Sonora Smart Dodd, one of six children raised by a widower (father), tried to establish an official equivalent to Mother’s Day for male parents. She went to local churches, the YMCA, shopkeepers and government officials to drum up support for her idea, and she was successful: Washington State celebrated the nation’s first state-wide Father’s Day on July 19, 1910.

From my reading, I got the distinct feeling that the message behind the establishment of these days was founded on commemorating the hardship and sacrifices parents endured for their children in what were times fraught with significantly more danger and adversity than those which face our current generation of parents. The impetus was clearly based upon building honourable and respectful relationships and promoting a reverence for the selflessness that characterised (and still does!) parenthood.

Then came the inevitable commercialisation. Opportunist retailers seized upon the chance to make a quick buck.

“In 1972, in the middle of a hard-fought presidential re-election campaign, Richard Nixon signed a proclamation making Father’s Day a federal holiday…  Today, economists estimate that Americans spend more than $1 billion each year on Father’s Day gifts.”

Can you believe that figure? $1 billion each year! Know how better could that money be spent.

So, I returned to the idea of relationship building. Surely that is what mothers day and fathers day should be all about in this day and age?

The idea that began to grow in my mind focused on giving a gift that was far removed from the repugnant commercialisation of our time and that in fact could not be deemed as having any monetary value at all. I settled on the idea of a gift from nature, which ended up being the humble stick, the very thing that a father would have greatly valued as a child.  The motivation was all about helping each father to make a connection with their child by recalling their own childhood experiences and to strengthen their relationship by spending time together. Hence the idea of a Magic Stick with an accompanying poem came into fruition.

The children at our preschool are constantly collecting and playing with sticks, as most children do, so to introduce the idea of making a magic stick for Dad was meet with great joy and enthusiasm. We all felt that every Dad really should have a magic stick and would be truly bereft without one!

IMG_5307

And so here they are…

IMG_5308

The photographs don’t do the sticks justice as they truly are very sparkly!

IMG_5304

And not one is the same as another!

IMG_5310

Accompanying each magic stick was the following poem:

For My Superhero

Today I have something for you,
A magical treasure to behold,
It is a stick, 
I grant you it,
Wielding stories to be told.

When you were just a small wee lad,
You loved a stick or two,
But now it is a state so sad,
That you’ve cast all sticks from view.

So take this stick into your palm,
And feel its familiar fit,
Close your eyes and sense the calm,
As you quietly sit a bit.

With this stick, please journey a while,
Wandering through your child-like mind,
Wrench open that fragrant memory file,
Abandoned sticks a strewn you’ll find.

Take hold of your stick, brandish it,
Then to the door we’ll flee,
For the magic of its impish wit,
In nature is set free.

Come with me to a place on high,
Up to the garden wall,
Here we’ll see the dragon’s fly,
And we’ll smite them one and all.

Your stick will sail the puddled seas, 
To save a bug a scurry,
That tumbled from the wind-blown leaves,
Swirling ‘round in a fearsome flurry.

Stick hastily points into the sky,
To silence that monster squall,
And as the time ticks slowly by,
The delicate leaves do fall.

Stick taps out a tune upon a rock,
A rhythmic sensory delight,
As a fairy in a rose petal frock,
Dances towards the night.

The day is done we must confess,
Time to relinquish our day in the wild,
But grasping tight to your stick no less,
You have memories anew to be filed.                    
(Karen Green)

Presented as appears below:

My Superhero

When I was in the process of formulating this idea, I mentioned it to two of my close blogging friends and challenged them to write a poem too.  So here are theirs as well, just brilliant!

Firstly, there is this clever one by Candy Lawrence from Aunt Annie’s Childcare.

Remember back when dads were boys
and went outdoors for all their joys?
No iPods, iPads, laptop games
and friends shared more than Facebook memes.
Kids climbed up trees and built with rocks,
made houses from a cardboard box,
played chasings out of adults’ sight
and no-one asked if it was right.
Outdoors was great. You’d run and run.
You’d play with sticks- just like this one.
“Don’t poke your eye out!” called your mum,
but never stopped you having fun.

Now plastic fills a young child’s life;
outdoors it’s feared we’ll get in strife.
We’re watched like hawks and sticks are banned,
outdoors you’re saying “Hold my hand!”
Our freedom has been locked away;
childhood was different in your day.
We need to run, get wet, get cold
and laugh and yell before we’re old.
We’re asking, “Dads! Please let us play
the simple, fun, old-fashioned way.
Outdoors is best for girls and boys
and simple sticks can still be toys.”

And then this lovely one from Alec Duncan from Child’s Play Music.

Hold this for me, Dad – it’s not a stick.

Really it’s a wizard’s staff,
And we will fight dragons together,
Heroes, side by side.

But wait, Dad – it’s not a wizard’s staff.
Really it’s a fishing rod,
And we will catch fish together,
And dangle our toes in the water.

No, no, you see, Dad – it’s not a fishing rod.
Really it’s a shining horse,
And we will ride races together,
As the earth shakes beneath our hooves.

Oh, I know, Dad – it’s not a shining horse.
Really it’s a hammer,
And we will build a house together
To keep us warm when the cold wind blows.

And the best thing, Dad – do you know the best thing?
Outside there are more sticks,
So many stories waiting to be told:
Let’s find out what they are.

We’ll write them together.

Taking the time to reflect on practice and determine the true meaning behind the things that we do just because they have always been done, often brings about greater understanding and improved practice.

:)

Recently at preschool, we made up a beautiful sensory batch of Goop (Obleck). We used a lavender fragranced body wash mixed with water, corn-flour and purple colouring (giving a pretty mauve appearance when mixed with the flour). It smelt gorgeous and was very appealing.

7 22 & 25 GOOP

We have been fortunate enough to have some glorious sunny weather over the last few days despite it being the middle of Winter here. The air is cool, but the sunshine on our bodies is delightful. So why restrict this activity to inside? Anything that is typically done in the inside environment can equally be achieved in the outside environment, and sometimes, with some exciting and unpredictable outcomes.

1 Everything that we can do can be done better, outside.

We are loving our new sensory table that manages to hold most of our messy play substances in the one place and allows multiple children to participate in the same activity together. Goop has an amazing capacity to elicit ‘language play’ and that really does require a social setting.

2 Everything that we can do can be done better, outside.

When children first come together to experience goop, it is wonderful to observe the stages of their engagement. For most children, the first touch is tentative. A step into the unknown. Cursory glances often pass between the children as they begin to touch its squishy squelch-iness. They are looking for queues from their peers, ‘Is this okay?’ ‘Should we be doing this?’ ‘Is it safe?’ ‘Will we make a mess?’ ‘Will we get in trouble?’ All possible questions that may spring to mind with their first encounters. Unfortunately, Messy play can often be seen as a taboo by some children based on their previous experiences!

3 Everything that we can do can be done better, outside.

Initial delicate finger pokes, to the dipping of fingers eventually give way to the immersion of hands. Faces change from tentative glances to twinkling eyes and broad smiles as they acknowledge their brave step into the unknown. Something new with some amazingly wicked potential!

4 Everything that we can do can be done better, outside.

Words are immediately forthcoming, some real and some nonsensical in nature, but all tending to rhyme in a flow of musical lyricism. This is the part that I personally love!

5 Everything that we can do can be done better, outside.

On this particular day, with the decision to set the goop activity up outdoors on our new hexagonal sensory table, we saw some wonderful social play emerge. The children began by experimenting with a variety of different ways to move, pummel, pound, squish, squelch and drip the goop. Once the children seemed to gauge its range of potential, they gradually started to work in unison. Then one child took on the leadership role, directing the flow of play.

6 Everything that we can do can be done better, outside.

7 Everything that we can do can be done better, outside.

C. and S. set the game in motion, C. taking the lead. Beat the goop in unison with open hands, then run around the table dragging one hand across the goop as you go, stop and push hands into the middle to meet, and then repeat.

8 Everything that we can do can be done better, outside.

This pattern of play was followed up by brief periods of individual, exploratory play whereby each child would become absorbed in their own experience. However, the slightest queue from one of their peers would set the play in motion again.

Lifting and dripping to create rain…

10 Everything that we can do can be done better, outside.

Rolling in hands to make balls…

11a Everything that we can do can be done better, outside.

12 Everything that we can do can be done better, outside.

12a Everything that we can do can be done better, outside.

Flattening the balls to make pancakes…

13 Everything that we can do can be done better, outside.

14 Everything that we can do can be done better, outside.

Adding music to this experience would be a great way to help the children extend this pattern of play through discovering different ways to move to the music with the goop. Musical statues would prove to be an exciting way to observe the properties of the goop. What happens to the goop when our bodies stop moving?  Ah messy play is soooo much fun!!!

You Can Find More Goopy Play Right Here:

OOEY GOOEY GUMBA!

EEEW… THAT’S DISGUSTING!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Tag Cloud