Saturday, 21 December 2013

Spend TIME, not money on children this holiday

Our X-mas countdown continues!
The most important part of early childhood is connecting and building relationships with caregivers, siblings and friends. It enables the child to discover its own identity, skills and passions in a supportive environment. It will help her to understand the world around her as well as building her confidence and empathy. Maintaining and building a strong bond with your child is the best way to support her mental health in the future.
So please, spend time with your child this holiday. Happiness can only be realized, not bought.
Time spending idea number three is.......


3# Fix the world together
Sounds dramatic! But when you invest time in fixing small things in your environment or community you really are fixing a tiny bit of the world. It all adds up.
Fixing broken appliances or toys is a great adventure! You might not be able to fix it, but contemplating about it and understanding why it broke is a good way to bond with your child as well as teaching her that things can be fixed. 
It is that thought process that is sadly becoming rare in our disposable society. It is so important for children to develop it and learn to apply it to their life. Not just for their belongings, but also for their relationships and the obstacles that they will face in their life.

I would also recommend collecting broken things from relatives and offering “fixing” as a play resource. This might not work for toddlers but children from about 4 will enjoy it. You never know what moments will spark your child’s passion for life!

You can also apply this to less tangible concepts and fix other ideas or situations that the world has created. It might be cleaning up trash from the streets, visit a neighbor that seems lonely, bring food to a local animal shelter or anything you can think of. Small ideas like that become magical when you share them with children. Their empathy is so real and true. 

Our very on Tom Shea is a part of a group that organizes a BIG Christmas party for the elderly that live alone and don't have a family taking care of them. This year they got the Ritz to donate decorations and artists to come and entertain. It just takes a tiny effort from all of us and the world will be fixed!

Hulda

Friday, 20 December 2013

Spend TIME, not money on children this holiday

Our X-mas countdown continues!!!
The most important part of early childhood is connecting and building relationships with caregivers, siblings and friends. It enables the child to discover its own identity, skills and passions in a supportive environment. It will help her to understand the world around her as well as building her confidence and empathy. Maintaining and building a strong bond with your child is the best way to support her mental health in the future.
So please, spend time with your child this holiday. Happiness can only be realized, not bought.
To begin with, remember to SLOW DOWN. Be realistic in what you “need” to get done. Keep calm and enjoy your family.
Idea number two is up....

2# Read LONG books together

Reading is a relaxing way to bond with your child. It will also support early literacy while still staying fun and comforting. If you haven’t tried reading long books (with no pictures!) with your children you really should! Find a good one that will last you all through the holidays. It will build memories and connect your time together in one story. Your child will remember this year as “the year we read Pippi Longstocking” or “the year we read The Brothers Lionheart” and reading anything by Astrid Lindgren will make that holiday even more special!
Other good classic like Harry Potter, Oliver Twist, The little Prince, Peter Pan will also be great. You could even dust off some old ones you enjoyed when you were younger. We especially enjoy when I recite the characters and give them different voices. It really brings the story to life!
Little Virgil - packed with amazing characters
I haven't started reading this years book (still deciding!), but we are warming up with another one, an old favorite that I used to read as a child. Its only 94 pages in 7 chapters with fairly big letters and a few pictures (ideal for 7-9 year old children to read themselves) so it is easily manageable while still preparing for the holiday. Little Virgil really needs to be translated to English (I cant find it??) it is hilarious! Just what you need as a family after a long day trying to get everything ready (yes, with sibling rows and exhausting trips to the shops!).
Hulda

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Spend TIME, not money on children this holiday


The most important part of early childhood is connecting and building relationships with caregivers, siblings and friends. It enables the child to discover its own identity, skills and passions in a supportive environment. It will help her to understand the world around her as well as building her confidence and empathy. Maintaining and building a strong bond with your child is the best way to support her mental health in the future.

So please, spend time with your child this holiday. Happiness can only be realized, not bought.

I will be posting some fun ideas for families to spend time on. It is all about the moment and the process, not about achieving any specific thing. To begin with, remember to SLOW DOWN. Be realistic in what you “need” to get done. Keep calm and enjoy your family.
Simple paper decoration I made with HeiĆ°a (7) the other day

 1# Make things together
Creating something together is precious. Creating something on your own is even more precious for a young child. It can be anything – making holiday decorations out of paper, baking cookies or crafting different things. Pinterest is a great resource for ideas if you are inexperienced!

My craft shelves! Lots of open ended resources :)

Try to use as open ended materials as possible and see what the child comes up with. I usually just offer a lot of resources and work on my own thing while the children do theirs. If you liberate yourself from the end result, enjoy the process and only offer help when they ask for it you will end up with children that understand how to work and create independently. They won’t experience the pressure of making a specific object. They will just remember the joy of the process. They might need help from time to time, but try not to offer it unless they ask (this can be very difficult for adults!).

This will support their development of problem solving skills, creative vision as well as persistence. The best lessons come from hard work and it takes patience to build great skills. Enable your child to feel complete ownership in the accomplishment.

Have fun!

Hulda

Monday, 4 November 2013

The Magic of Tracing Paper!

Last week my 9 year old son told me he really needed some blue magic paper. 

I wasn't really sure what he meant until he described what they had been doing in his art class at school. Recreating complex images with tracing paper!

So I went out and bought 5 sheets for about 1,5 GBP - very affordable. It might even be cheaper in bigger stores, I just went to my local art supply store. 

It has been really interesting watching my 7 and 9 year old children working with it. It really lights their fire. They work for hours trying to get the perfect trace done. They have done about 10 hours work in 3 days now. Completely focused, completely invested.



And there have been moments of them tearing up (the paper) and tearing up from frustration! It is SO difficult to get the papers to match again once you've separated them (I try not to interfere/help). And it is SO difficult to work so hard and get a disappointing result. 

But it is the most amazing way for developing both finer motor skills for writing as well as being a good exercise in concentration and patience. And what an amazing feeling when they finally get it right!

Such a genuine admiration for themselves and each other! Such a personal accomplishment for a young child.  

Try it out! It is perfect for cold winter nights :)

Hulda 

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Life is wobbly



Our first Nepal made prototypes of the Elves Bricks are here and have now been tested for a few weeks at Child First, Moulton



They are really tactile, natural and different. The babies seem to enjoy them a lot!


They come with the same promises as any other set of blocks would......but then when you start using them you realize that they are completely different.

They are wobbly.

They are furry.


They don't stack well. And it is confusing because they are blocks and that seems to be what blocks are for!

But are they really?

When you think about it you realize that wobbly blocks actually offer a lot more learning opportunities than the average dependable block. You have to really look at the shape, find the best side, balance it off with another one and mix it up with other "loose parts" to make sense of it all.

We might just have to put a tagline on this product, "Elves Bricks, - because life is wobbly" :)

Hulda

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

So what makes good practice?

Good practice is not always planned or obvious. Here are some examples of what happens at Child First.

A friend (musician) came to one of our nurseries... She got her accordion out (without anybody knowing) and just came into the construction area - playing as she came.


The team member working with the children had never met her - nor knew why she was there. What she then did was brilliant - she took three steps back and allowed the children to engage with this new experience. She then worked for a while with the children who were less interested (as they were busy chasing crocodiles).


Eventually all of the children had become interested, so she observed some more and finally asked the children if she could join in...

The session lasted over two hours and lots of stories and songs were created and remembered. You can see the video of the first few minutes here.



Spontaneous - no demands made of the children, only opportunities - observation not intrusive interference.

And when I introduced Fafu to the children - the instruction manual was given to the staff team... "Place the Fafu resources out and allow the children to explore without interference" and that's what happened - and the older children helped the younger ones and the 'session' lasted way past tea time - so we had tea late......


Open ended, outdoor, imaginative, non intrusive play at its best.

You can see videos of the children seeing Fafu for the first time, beginning to explore it and finally collaborating and playing!

-Tom

Friday, 23 August 2013

What is that? New products!!!

August and September are devoted to research and development here at Fafu Reykjavik. It is the best time to be creative! For me most of August is chaotic and really easy going. The children are on holiday so the mornings are quiet and easy but come noon the house is filled up with friends and play and lots of energy!

If you bring your children up to run their own life this will not be a problem. They will go on their own journeys and play outside and at friends houses leaving you with lots of time to daydream, read books and research the concept of this new product - that you honestly have no idea what will be!

This fall I am thinking about sensory play, babies, natural resources, mathematical concepts and quality craftsmanship.   

This morning was the first day of school so I can move on to more serious prototyping and focused work. I will be able to take all the drawings and poorly made prototypes and make some better ones that can be tested and produced. That bit is a lot more thrilling than the conceptual work, but completely dependent on that happening first!

So get ready for lots of blogs with pictures of things happening......the first one being...



Wooly! He is a frisky set of felted blocks. Originally Wooly was suppose to be a part of a bigger baby sensory pack. With silk pompoms and hand carved rounded shapes (wood). He might still be - but I think he also does well on his own. The texture is great and babies can chew on him because he is all natural. They will smell the sheep (for the first few weeks). They can build with him and throw him around and fill up a box of Woolies and empty it and fill it up again....



He also makes an excellent lose part for outdoor play when the child grows. Pretending to be fairies or other small woodland friends! 

What do you think? Should Wooly move on to testing?

- Hulda  

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

The Brain Needs to Play

Early education is probably the most important level of education. It is the time in children‘s lives where they start building peer relationships and the foundation for the people they will become. It is also a vital time for brain development.

The development of our brain structure is based on two main factors; experience shapes the properties of our neurons (experience dependent plasticity) and there are distinct time windows during early development that shape brain function. 



This means that while children play they are also organising their way of thought and how they acquire information and store it. They organise information based on the sensory stimulation that is associated with it and not the content of the information. The brain will then build systems of knowledge (neural networks) connecting together related information and enabling children to recall facts, evaluate circumstances, and solve problems.

The brain is designed to form memories as a survival strategy so that it can understand and predict an outcome of a possibly fatal situation. When threatened, the brain shifts into reactive mode and treats information as a short term resource for survival. But when children are relaxed and enjoy learning, the brain will reflect on the information and a real learning opportunity occurs.



This is why we all struggle with learning things that bore us. The brain reacts to boredom in the same way it reacts to stress and anxiety and fails to reflect on the information and store it long term. We need to engage children in a variety of sensory stimulation and offer them opportunities to explore, imagine, and create.

Is Modern Play Too Restrictive?

The advantages of play based learning are far greater than we may have anticipated when our society started to develop a fear of children playing in a manner that often results in a scrambled knee or a broken bone.



The phrase “risky play” has become more and more popular and describes limitless play where children can explore opportunities that have become less and less available to children as our society modernises. That includes climbing trees, fences, and dens, playing outside in bad weather, or children exploring their neighbourhoods on their own. All of these activities and many others categorised as “risky play” offer vital support for emotional development.

A study by Play England found that half of all children have been stopped from climbing trees, 21 per cent have been banned from playing conkers and 17 per cent have been told they cannot take part in games of tag or chase. Some parents are going to such extreme lengths to protect their children from danger that they even said no to hide-and-seek.



So what are the consequences of adults managing the risk of children‘s play?

According to a study conducted by Norwegian scientists, children develop fears of certain stimuli, e.g. heights and strangers that protect them from situations they are not mature enough to cope with. Risky play is a set of motivated behaviors that both provide the child with an exhilarating positive emotion and expose the child to the stimuli they previously have feared. As the child‘s coping skills improve, these situations and stimuli may be mastered and no longer feared.

Thus, fear caused by maturational and age relevant natural inhibition is reduced as the child experiences a motivating and thrilling activation while learning to master age adequate challenges. It is concluded that risky play may have evolved due to this anti-phobic effect in normal child development, and it is suggested that we may observe an increased neuroticism or psychopathology in society if children are hindered from partaking in age adequate risky play.

Offering opportunities for “risky play” will enable children to develop their own ability to manage and understand risk, making them stronger and more confident people.