Tuesday, 7 October 2014


We are so tied up with 'learning and 'technology' and 'playtime' that we oft forget the time for dancing, singing and storytelling except by rote at specified times as if it is a 'class' or allocated time to do these things...

We need to both be and allow things to be more spontaneous - freer - encouraged - use our natural talents.  Life here is too manic and fast and organised.... let freedom reign and see what happens...

 Make up stories in the middle of lunch time, dance in the outdoors anytime, all the time, make up songs, try them in different forms (I saw twinkle twinkle little star was being sung operatically in a recent posting... how about a reggae Miss Muffet???) .

When I visit nurseries (and I visit many and often) there is rarely any music going - and if they are singing, it is a group of staff members, sitting children in a circle and singing with (or normally too) the children while they sit and (at best) join in the occasional word and make a few hand gestures...

 On a trip out with my own offspring (okay grandchildren)  recently we played a lot of baroque music and made up songs and played our own instruments (hands) and even got another car in the traffic joining in with us....
Singing is a key part to confidence building - do it with confidence... Out loud - anywhere - any time.... 

Wednesday, 2 July 2014


I am more and more convinced that the approach to children risk taking at all levels, be it treasure baskets or hill climbing, is for us big people to become concerned observers not instigators or helpers.

In one of our nurseries the swings are at very low level so the children can control them themselves, however, the horse swing has to be higher so the children have placed a chair strategically by it to get themselves on and off. Then the old fence (taken down to open up the area) has become incorporated around a perfect climbing tree to create ramps and platforms and the children can now decide both if they want to climb and how far they want to climb – up to the top of the tree, or just up to the platform or to sit on a log and watch...

                                                                                         The Horse Swing.

Then last week I saw that the huge thick ropes had been knotted and hung from a tree and this now provides a different and varied challenge – and sharing and turn taking is combined with the reality of stepping aside when someone is swinging or....

Then I spotted one of the children climbing higher in a nearby tree and confidently hanging off a branch with his feet about 4 foot (1.3 metres!) off the ground (quite a long way for a two and a half year old) and he hung there and swung back up and then hung there and swung back up....  Then I saw one of the team going towards him and I was fearful that this was going to be ‘let’s get you down before you hurt yourself’ time.  I was delighted to see them talking together and a quick discussion about the fact that there were two strong branches and one thinner one – so a bit of advice, don’t hang on the thin one.

It is an imperative that we are all aware of the benefits of children deciding for themselves and this really does illustrate how we can provide a different kind of CPD – which is Child-led Play Decisions aided and abetted by us big people giving the steer and being there with and for them.

                                                                      Here, one of them has lost a welly!

                                                             Instead of having to climb back down to retrieve the welly
                                                             the child gets a helping hand from a friend.

                                                                   Now they can get back on with the task of climbing
                                                                                             the tree!

Tom Shea
All Images used are the property of Child First Nursery Moulton   www.childfirst.co.uk 

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Creating Transformable Play Spaces!

Fafunia is transforming everything we do these days. 

One of our core ethos is to meet the child and her environment as it is in that moment. We have there for launched something that is not a catalogue - but an invitation for a dialogue as we enjoy and build all of our product development on working with parents, teachers, nursery practitioners and other caregivers that respect and understand children.

This is becoming the compass for our work - making open ended resources and creating flexible play spaces for settings and homes. As well as making costumes and toys we want to make more furniture and play structures that cater to the needs of children and adults and support homes and settings that have limited amounts of space. 

We will in the next few months keep developing new products and add to our current systems. Your input would be highly appreciated! Just drop us a line.  

Our Fafunian Convertible Play Castle is one of our current products created through this process. A play structure that you can change and adapt as time and space allow, take outside or even move easily from one building to another. 

Here is a better explanation on what it does: 

And a video that proves how easy it is!! Just watch out for that clock at the bottom. It really takes just over 3 minutes to pack away!

Monday, 12 May 2014


Children are influenced and moulded by the society we live in.  When a child is greedy – they learnt it from us.  When a child swears – they learnt it from us.  When they are spiteful – they learnt it from us. Children grow into big people – and pass it on

As Fafunia begins to become revealed, and we discover and uncover the answer to more mysteries, we would like to begin to create, with you, the ideal society where we can all live honestly and respectfully.

It would be lovely to find a place where nobody looked for, or exploited, loopholes.  So perhaps Fafunia could begin to develop a sewing machine for loopholes – so that there were none.

That way, when something wonderful happened nobody would be looking for the ways to make or save money on it.  When we came up with a solution to a problem or issue, no one would put up the objection that it could be used detrimentally. Greedy and malicious people would no longer be able to spoil it for everyone else..

Maybe an honesty serum – where you would actually be encouraged to say “we provide quite nice pre-prepared food” rather than “Great Home Cooked Food Served Here”?

Shops would have to say (much as the way that tobacco now carries un-health information) “this tee shirt costs £1 because we can buy them for 30p from importers who pay the manufacturer 15p who in turn pay their workers 2p per tee shirt”

Job descriptions will become “do what is right and reasonable” – contracts will be a hand shake rather than a shaky hand...

Tom Shea..Fafunian

Tuesday, 22 April 2014


People are drawn towards and are comfortable with stereotypes....it’s safer, we can understand things that we have seen before and we are accepting of them. So pushing out the boundaries and daring to be different can be scary and sometimes too difficult.

Let’s think about it a bit, dragging the meat we killed was difficult, but not impossible... when we finally dared to try round things to roll stuff, it was far easier, and they became known as wheels...and now I need to move stuff, including myself, from place to place I am so glad that we not only discovered wheels – but we accepted them and embraced them.. The unusual became the acceptable.
So when we look at what we have achieved and what we can achieve, it is the scary bits that we often slide away from.

 It’s easier to feed babies in high chairs than at table... http://www.janetlansbury.com/2010/01/baby-table-manners/ but so much more rewarding for them when they can decide for themselves.

 It’s easier to serve children than for them to serve themselves, but they soon learn to take what they need and portion control is self determined (if you are old enough you will remember ‘pig bins’ where schools recycled TONS of food that the children didn’t eat). 
It’s easier for a factory to be a bastion of doing repetitive jobs rather than thinking about them and making them different and better and creating things that really carry through the idea of self managed..
It’s easier to have a run around and wear yourself out soft play centre where there is only one choice – get physical or not...  It is harder to accept that children spend more time socialising and discovering and less time being physical..  It’s the difference between an hour in a stream and a two minute ride in a theme park...
It’s easier for children to queue to wait than to enable children’s choice to lead the way.

And it’s easier for ‘inspectors’,  both formal and informal, to have a set of prescriptive rules which then make inspecting easy and often either incompetent or inappropriate.  Take a school I was at recently where there was an external gate that required parents to come in and out, but led to outside – which the “Safeguarding” team wanted locked off, but the Fire Officer wanted left open....

So a small band of “we” are now creating Fafunia, where we are aiming to make all of these (and many more) descriptive and not prescriptive and geared to self managed learning – for children and bigger people. 
Factories where Alice would love to have a Mad Hatter Meet, child development places that fit to the time and place for and with children and their big people. People with sparkle that create and encourage – us to eat and play and imagine and create and recycle and...... take risks.

A recent example was when a childcare person who was opening a new place for children described what she wanted, then left us alone to create it, in its entirety and with a tiny amount of rules.  The factory in Fafunia went into overdrive and started to imagine and create – taking a lot of the norms and challenging them.  Dangerous and challenging but, as you will see in a while, the outcome was an economic and considered resource for children...
 And while the owner cried – it was tears of joy...

Fafunia is a place and space where we will create and challenge, doubtless there will be some rainy times and some sunny times... but that creates rainbows.

More on the challenges of Fafunia from us soon....

Tom Shea..Fafunian

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Ghettos Are Not The Answer...

Have you ever been told that a child with Cerebral Palsy will never walk, let alone talk, and then spent two years proving them wrong – I HAVE and the little girl walked to school and talked the hind legs off a donkey (and old English saying).  Have you ever been told that a child is being ‘treated’ for ADHD and has no concentration span greater than 10 minutes – I HAVE and then seen him spend three hours building an obstacle course and being proud of it, then saw him become a thriving child off of medication.  And this is only two examples of thousands (and since I have been doing this since 1969 ‘thousands’ is a fact not an exaggeration).

So what magic do we have that makes this happen.... it’s easy really, it’s about treating all children equally and giving them exposure to everybody and everything. We mix all children together equally, irrespective of their ‘labels’. 

As soon as you label people together you create a ghetto in my book.  That could be a ‘rich’ ghetto or a ‘special needs’ ghetto or a ‘lowest 25%’ ghetto and the outcomes are normally the same – the labels stick and the children develop into their mould...

So put a baby with Cerebral Palsy into a room full of children with CP and guess what.... Medicate a child with anti ADHD pills and they will always need them..
The extreme proof, if you need it, is to look at what happened when you put perfectly healthy Rumanian babies into ‘orphanages’ where they are left in cots 23 (if not 24) hours a day and see how they develop....

The great big melting pot we heard about in the 1970’s song was right... If you expose everybody to everything – give them an opportunity to shine and share – what you can focus on is giving everyone a real equal opportunity..... and watch them grow... 

                                                                             Tom x

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Child Lead Learning

What does that mean?

There are a lot of parenting philosophies, educational theories and pedagogy concepts around. They share similarities and they also differ a lot in their early learning approach. 

To simplify and explain why Fafu is all about open ended play and child lead learning opportunities it is best to divide those ideas into two main groups of ideas:

Most of our current education system is based on controlling ideas because all curriculum's are based on them. It would be amazing if I could write with confidence that the controlling ideas are slowly fading away to make paths for more empowering ideas but sadly I can´t (lets hope that I can someday!).

The main reason why Tom and I are so committed to child lead learning and empowering ideas in early learning and parenting is the fact that its a "brain friendly" approach. Leading your own education, taking on challenges freely, spending a LOT of time playing, exploring and connecting is learning at its best.

It is a scientifically proven fact. We can all change the future of education if we take this idea seriously and use it when communicating and working with children. Lets do it!!