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!


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.