November 6, 2020
We are all friends together. Connection to the people we spend time with is really important for our emotional and mental wellbeing. This is true even for wee folk. As the wee folk spend most of their time together playing, let’s consider their ability to socially interact and share meaningful connections.
Play develops the dispositions to engage and learn… it encourages so many skills in our children such as self-esteem, independence, creativity, exploration, imaginative thinking, the list goes on! In order to encourage our children through play we must create an environment with empathy, respect, and acceptance in abundance.
Today I want to look at how play can foster social skills and connection with and amongst our children.
Our ‘play offer’, if rich, fabulous, exciting and intriguing means the children will be eager to become involved and of course share the joy with their friends.
Using a child centered pedagogy can help us to with this. Putting our children at the start, in the middle and at the end of every play experience we offer should be our biggest consideration.
Child centered pedagogy
If this is what we aspire to have, a child centered pedagogy, our focus is then on interactions, sensitive Interactions. Encouraging every child’s needs, interests, opinions and contributions to be valued and accepted and nurtured.
We should set up flexible and organic experiences that capture our children’s attention, that provoke their thinking and invite them to develop and learn where they are at. Our experiences should have familiarity but also be enriched. Add some aromas to your sand, place bars of soap in the water so they go all sludgy and slimy and the children can make the dinosaurs create footprints or use cars to have tyre tracks appear. Don’t bore them with the same old same old!
Our wonderful array of experiences should be provided to give breadth and depth of thinking, offer choice and decisions to be made, problems to be solved or risks to be taken in a variety of spaces and places.
Play that enriches our children’s connections to each other allows us to observe, capture, interpret, and document their development and thoughts. Listen and watch for their responses, how they use their actions, control their emotions and express themselves in sharing words.
We all know that the best play, the play where children just wallow in it, is mostly about their responses, them shaping and leading each other and manipulating the resources without any interference from us. However, balance and blending with responsive and intentional plans to facilitate, scaffold, enable and inspire is our responsibility too.
Sit back a while and watch, listen and hear your children. Are they connected to each other? Are they listening to their friends, allowing all the voices to be heard? Do they encourage one another, share, take turns? Do they extend and negotiate? Are they having fun? Do you hear laughter? Are they up to nonsense and mischief? Never forget that’s the job of every child, to be mischief makers, to push boundaries and become themselves.
October 31, 2020
Shades, tones, brightness, saturation, there are so many aspects to every colour we see! Think about how many colours we see in a day and the amazing names we can give them all… turquoise, chartreuse, ochre, olive, fuchsia, what wonderful language. The same goes for all of the textures we encounter… bushy, downy, fine, coarse, fluffy, silky, so much variety.
What does our curiosity teach us?
Let’s take the colour purple as an example, but you could use any colour you like. When asked, what do you think when you see purple or hear the world purple, people often say royalty, nobility, luxury, power, and ambition. It also represents meanings of wealth, extravagance, dignity, wisdom, and magic. I asked two friends and they said “opulence” and “restaurants”, it’s a joy we all think differently!
I’ve picked the simplest of ideas to consider how much learning and thinking can be stimulated by exploring a tiny part of our planet. Just one colour, which happens to be a favourite of mine.
As children explore items, they will be challenged to identify them, describe them, consider where they came from, can be found or in fact what they are. Some of the items will be familiar, others a puzzle to be solved. As they begin to experiment with the materials, colours and textures, their personal ideas will be shaped by the breadth and depth of their thinking and engagement.
How to encourage curiosity in our environments…
Stand back and watch, observe with your eyes and ears and see what learning appears. Some things to consider are:
What are the challenges the children come up against and how they deal with them?
Sharing, helping, supporting, extending each other’s ideas, is this demonstrated?
What enjoyment are the children having with the various items?
Are some items more popular, interesting?
Are the children using the items in an interesting way?
Remember you can step into the play. Make sure your stepping in makes the experience better in some way. To extend a thought, answer a question, support the play. Avoid asking questions unless you know it will allow the children to progress their experimentation. Consider the relevance of the items, are the children familiar with them? Are you introducing the possibility of new knowledge and understanding being gained? Encourage their curiosity and the learning is endless!