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!!

Friday, 21 February 2014


Sunday is a chance to reflect, and for me, early morning without interruption, is a great time to review things and ruminate.

I just caught up with our own Face Book page and was scrolling through what has appeared during our busy weeks and came across Ethan, a young boy of six, who is autistic, but can play piano instantly and remember everything and play it beautifully.
 I am sure many of you have seen or heard of people who have this innate skill of seeing or hearing and then being able to replicate (or even improve) on it, while being labelled “disabled” across the rest of their lives.

There is some current thinking around that the ‘autistic brain’ is, in fact, the brain of the future. Parts of it are hyper developed which then create genius in aspect of being – but the rest of the brain can’t cope and are sapped...  I am not sure I fully understand this but recognise that it makes simple sense.

What it brings home more to me is the desperate need to ensure that we nurture all brains to the best of our ability to ensure that they are as well connected as possible and not affected or rejected by poor development.  I am not talking about children with Autism (although they are included of course) I am talking about every new born, who can understand every language, who can relate to positive and negative attention, who can learn respect and trust, whose needs in the first four formative years are the most important and valuable.
For those of us who are parents and child developers (and big people who get to see small people) how we relate to our children to ensure that they have the best opportunities to take and make use of the world is an imperative.  To see children sitting in chairs or cots being told what to do, or ignored in front of TV’s and Computers, or made to queue, or being shouted at to be quiet or to be “good” or  all of the other negative things I do see in places – some of which are child development centres – is a travesty.

It is essential that our next generation of developmenters are sparkly and cognoscente of the real responsibilities they have...
Time for breakfast.... Tom xx...

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Building Brains

I found this video last week and feel that it is urgent that as many caregivers see it as possible!

It explains so perfectly how the brain is built and why it is important to nurture children in a respectful way. 

It also explains why it is important to challenge children and expect them to struggle to learn but at the same time keep them away from toxic relationships and people that harm their emotional health. 

Finding balance is the key here!  

Thursday, 30 January 2014

How Do Our Children Grow?

The key to learning in baby and childhood is exploring and discovering and challenging and copying and segueing without fear or concern.  I am sure most, if not all, would agree that this makes sense and is there or thereabouts correct.

If I said children should be allowed to play all day – many would start to disagree- even if you agree with an open ended philosophy – with freedom of choice- disagreement might come through actions rather than words.  “Sit quietly while you eat” “Form a line before we go..” “All sit on your bottoms please” are all forms of regular control.

I recently visited a nursery where the manager wanted fences in the garden to stop children mixing together as the big ones might hurt the babies... It is easier to control our children than allow them to explore and grow appropriate actions with appropriate resources and activities. 

Play is, I believe, the foundation of brain development, with nutrition, exercise and mental stimulation being the building blocks.  And play is an action not an activity – there is no such thing as ‘playtime’ that can be cut out of a day – play is freely chosen and has only an intrinsic value. If you take away choice – play is halted – if play is halted, open ended learning stops – if you are learning deprived the ultimate brain reaction is to close down....

So children grow positively with the right environment – and this includes being surrounded by people who are willing to forego some of their fears and controls to allow children to choose for themselves – then for us all to reinforce these with lots of positive opportunities – the right food, plenty of challenges to encourage exercise and movement and non directive mental opportunities.

I would prefer children to eat the right food with their fingers than the wrong food with their knives and forks.  I would prefer children falling over in the park than exploring parks on their computers.  I would prefer seeing a grown up reading a newspaper to a baby rather than sitting with them in front of a television.
So next time you think or say – “sit down and we will all play this” – remember that’s not play and learning...

Tom x

Friday, 24 January 2014

Warriors in need of some extra cuddles!

I have a 10 year old that has a different kind of brain than my 2 other children. The kind that would have been more useful some 1000 years ago. He is a warrior. He is fast and loud and larger than life sometimes. His emotional development is unusual and the only people he can learn from, trust and respect are people he is emotionally connected to. So he struggles with adults that judge him and he gives them reasons to judge him even more!

Warriors are rarely photographed in focus!
It´s been an amazing journey to try to understand him, find ways to connect better with him and help him understand that he is not the center of the universe (he is still not convinced!). His emotions are ALL really BIG and he used to pass out from anger when he was a toddler. He has never been violent but he is very defensive and I can see why children like him might grow up to be violent adults. He is always alerted and in defense in public. He sees most adults as enemies that are out to get him. 
Children like him suffer more than other children. Because they look like warriors and get treated like ones but they are more sensitive than you can even imagine. And they brake easily. They just hide it really well. 
I have found that the only things that work for him are love, trust and a lot of RESPONSIBILITY. He is after all a warrior. He is blessed with the fact that we live in Iceland so he gets to travel the city on the bus with friends or alone, he walks his little sister to school and he pretty much runs his own life during the summer. And it works because he is different for a reason. He lives on adventures and he can handle them because he is fearless and hopeful and ready. Yes he has always been ready!   

Spot the warrior!

He has abilities beyond his years - and some are out of reach for most people but he thrives and grows when he gets a chance to lose himself in them. I think that is how you light "ADHD" children up with happiness. You trust them and believe in them and show them their superpower! No one else will and our current social structure won't embrace them nor encourage their amazingness.

I just wanted to write this in case you have a warrior or know one that might be suffering. They are the people that either change the world or populate prisons. All depending on how they are nurtured 


Thursday, 16 January 2014

We Need All Kinds Of Skills

We all need skills... and the more creative the better.

With the growing emphasis on reading and writing I just wanted to bring us back to where creativity and imagination comes from.  We have been looking and working and thinking about creativity.

We have introduced at Childs First Nursery www.childfirst.co.uk a place where children can come and ‘make’, ‘create’, ‘watch’ and do... We call it the Studio and we have a Netty – who is an artist and childcare person – well on her way to pedagogy. The Studio offers endless possibilities for children to build real skills as well as developing their imagination for life.

Then we also have our New Factory, where fafu now lives with some elegant machines that saw and plane and sand and drill and edge and polish and stuff. Combine that with a whole bunch of wood – all from sustainable sources or recycled and a spray booth and buckets of wood dye (excuse the blue fingers) and invite people in and their creative hopes and dreams can rapidly become creative realities.

I am rapidly growing an even stronger belief that we need to offer creativity as part of our curriculum and give children the skills and knowledge that can turn dream into reality as well as providing learning opportunities that create skills and interests way beyond reading and writing..

If you become really motivated – you will want to read more about wood or write notes about creating or understand geometry and physics... and all from being allowed to create...

Watch out for Fafu  www.fafuplay.com in the New Factory www.facebook.com/thenewfactoryuk?ref=hl and lots of ideas and hopes and aspirations.

Tom Shea

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Happy new year!

2013 was a really good year for Fafu.
Thank you all for being a part of it!
We are excited to connect with more amazing people and keep growing so that we can make a greater difference to children and childhood culture!
Here are some highlights!
* We became an Icelandic AND English company
* We developed our new range Imynda with Naturally Learning

* We attended The Nursery Show in Bournemouth
* We organized our first PLAY! Iceland ♥ Those of you interested in PLAY! Iceland 2014 can email hulda@fafuplay.com for dates and to reserve your place.  
* We moved into The New Factory. Look out for new exciting products in 2014!
* We started working with Hartbeeps!
Most importantly though - we made a lot of new precious friends and started building a network of like-minded teachers and early years professionals that work hard and passionately to support children in their early learning. Thank you all for reaching out!
Lets make 2014 the year that early education becomes even more child centered!!!    

Hulda & Tom