Wednesday, 29 October 2014

reflecting on play...

This week we have taken a whole new approach to what we do... instead of our usual week we have chosen to do 4 new parks in four days (its week 44 and its also autumn break in schools).

The children have been reflecting on the parks on our way back to the preschool... how many points out of 10 and why...

Today as we were watching the children play I was wondering whether the children would rate the playspace in the same sort of way that we as observing adults would rate it based on their play...
As what I was seeing today was not the same engagement in their play, even though their initial enthusiasm was huge when they saw the bright orange mound, trampolines and rope nets (where they later played spider).
this was the first playspace in Stockholm to use the rubber matting... it was very exciting when it first came as a new play surface... although I am not so keen on it in winter as i find it insulates from the heat of the ground and takes the snow and ice longer to melt.


Once the initial buzz was over I saw that many of the children struggled to find something to do... not a problem in the previous two parks...
There were some bikes available but not nearly enough for the sheer number of children in this playspace... many of my children hung around waiting for a bike and found themselves unable to play as they were consumed with the wait... in the park on Monday where there were bikes too, there were a few more bikes, but there were also a selection of small houses and small animal climbing statues that busied the children, so waiting for a bike was never an issue, in fact they often forgot about a bike... there was also an enormous slide there which made them laugh with exhileration. In the park yesterday there were no bikes, lots of small areas, a climbing frame like a dragon and small slides... the children were busy the whole time with rather complex play (we think that that park was the best park for their play, but they rate the first one as better as they had bikes and the long slide there).

in one of the houses in the background is where Astrid Lindgren once lived...
To be honest I was rather relieved when all but one child said they had not enjoyed this park as much as the others... most rated it 1/10, 2/10, 4/10 commenting on the fact that they had not been able to ride a bike... one child said it was 10/10 - this child found a bike at the start and would not leave this bike at all, and played just a short while with other children when they had some time on bikes... this child would not give the bike to anyone else, no matter how the children asked, or how we reminded that maybe others would like a turn, and how would it feel if roles were reversed... this child was quite shocked at the response of peers interpretation of the park being very different. (I have deliberately written this without naming gender... as gender is actually not important here).

Tomorrow we will visit another new park, one without bikes, one of Stockholm's newest parks in fact... one that has amazed many by its look... will the children be able to play there as well as the playspace pleases their initial impression of the playspace... as Vaspark today did not deliver for THIS group of children (I have been there with many other groups where they have had great fun)

With so many new playspaces in one week it has been interesting to see how the children have reacted...  first there is an exploration phase, where they test out things... then (as we spend almost 2 hours at each park) they settle into various kinds of role play utilising the playspace as props or inspiration to their play.


On Friday we will reflect together (with images) on the playspaces... which was their favourite, and why... and if they were to design their dream playspace what would they want to be in it... (and maybe then I can create an image of this, similar to what I did for their dream square the first image (of several) can be found here)

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Atelier/art studio inspiration


This post will be filled with images and links to get you thinking about possibilities for your atelier/art studio... the idea is to pick out ideas that would be relevent to your setting... to create a mosaic of all the little bits of inspiration to create your own artspace...


Chalk board table... for free creative art that can be done over and over again... documenting images as you go and maybe creating a chalkboard table book of images..? how to instructions here...


an organisation idea... having the material available and accessible is important image found here

think about loose parts for the atelier... not everything has to be paint and drawing and crafts... sometimes it can be a temporary artistic expression... rocks, conkers, sea-glass... white cloth and frames... and so much more can be added... check here for more ideas... in action at Mid Pacific Institute

don't forget the ceilings... they can also be a source of inspiration and not just where you have the lights... here ricepaper lampshades have been used... this lowers the height of the room and makes it more child-friendly... don't forget to think about lighting if you do hang things from the ceiling... you could also place artwork on the ceiling isntead of the walls... think Michaelangelo... inspiration from In the Light Garden
think about your work surfaces... traditional tables to sit at, to stand at... how will this affect how the children interact with their creativity and each other? Should the surface be mirrors (or the chance to use mirrors on occasion) - what about light tables? Inspiration from Inch by Inch facebook page
think about size... how big do you want to the table... how much space do you have... how will the size affect projects done alone, done together... what is your priority for the atelier AT THE MOMENT (as this can change) is a big floor space more important than table space... or is the room to push the table to the side to create floor space when needed? I love to use the floor to create big artworks where the children can use their whole bodies, and lots of action.... even to the extent of painting directly on the floor - the above image come from Casa Maria

what are your feelings about mess? is it Ok to splatter all over the floors and tables... or do they need to be kept clean? Important things to talk about with colleagues as you start developing an atelier/art studio... this image comes from the art workshop at The Modern Art Museum here in Stockholm... images shared on this blog
there are many possible ways to arrange an atelier - if you check out this gallery link you will find lots of possible ideas...

atleiers can also be outside, art is not an indoor thing... Let the Children Play have shared LOTS of inspiration for Reggio Inspired ateliers... so pop over...

floor painting... the great thing about an atelier is that if you have designed for this, the art can be left to dry there without affecting the children's play - this link is to Mary Featherstone's School designs... an article

you also have to think about HOW you are going to display your materials... are you going to colour code them as in this picture, or are you going to display them according to use, or material type... are children able to take everything from all shelves (this means thinking about are children allowed to climb to get down materials) or are you going to have a cut off line where children can get things up to a certain level, and then need to ask a teacher to lift down stuff that is higher... this can mean that materials that need some sort of guidance can be put on a higher shelf... this image come from a post written in Spanish, but has photos to inspire... and there is always google translate... Reality Beats

how are you going to use your wallspace... as an area to display the children's work, as an area to project images on to inspire the children's creativity as an area like a easel... what about mirrors how can they be best used? and as you see in this photo from Ruseløkkabarnehage facebook page shelving can be used very high up to store things (useful if you do not have storage rooms) and the use of clear boxes means the children can still see the materials... Always remember though about how much visual stimulus you want to give your children... if you have children with autism in your group then areas with lots of visual stimuli can be overwhelming and have the opposite effect on creativity... it is about knowing your group...
think about jars and bowls and various containers that can be used for beads, paints, pens etc... when table are big and there is a community project then sharing the same bowl of beads can be asking for trouble... unless your aim is turn taking practice... so a small jar/bowl/container each can ease accessibility and increase creativity... the beading tree insoiration comes from Mairtown Kindy
and don't be afraid if it doesn't work... because it is all part of the process of getting to know how the children use a workspace/artspace/playspace - also remember to talk with your colleagues about how the space should/could be used... if there are any rules - as you can see a red line on the shelves in my atelier where the items above the red lines the children need to ask for a teacher to get down for them... this space did not work at first, I had to think and rethink about how I could enable the children to create collaboratively... this is the link to the process of creating this space... and this is the link to a post about my rethinking to get it working smoother
I will leave it here for now... there are some ideas to get you thinking, to get you talking with your colleagues about the expectations of having an atelier... what is it you want to offer? What do you think will happen in there? Do you know how much space you have... why have you chosen that much space? What area in your setting has the largest space? and Why? And don't forget water access... this makes being creative so much easier... to clean brushes, hands etc etc... we are lucky as we have a shower in our atelier so we can wash the children when we have whole body painting sessions...


Saturday, 25 October 2014

Bubble game..

As promised on my facebook page... here is the bubble game

It started out with the children sitting on chairs in a circle... and when I whispered a name the child would come into the middle to pop the bubbles that I blew at the same time... the other children sitting calmly and watching... not so easy when popping bubbles is so much fun...

The game is designed to support the children in their listening skills and also in the self-regulation skills...

Sometimes I will say the same child's name several times in a row... as it was obvious when we were talking that children often have a tendency to switch off just after they have answered or contributed to the conversation... this not knowing whether I will say their name more than once.. or two three or even four times in a row keep them a little more on their toes, keeps them listening actively, helps them to practice being aware of how other's participate also...

The game has been developed with the children lining up against the wall... and the names come faster (why we stand up rather than sit down)... we have done it when the childrne can cheer each other on, and also in total silence... again challenging the children in different ways... keeping quiet requires an awful lot of self control...

We also play that all the children are to pop the bubbles at the same time, but not to make a noise and not to touch another child... each touch means those children sit out and watch, the idea to look at the technique the other children are using... those who are left (or the one child that is left.. depending on how long the bubble session goes, as we don't have the children sitting and watching for too long) will also share their technique for not bumping into someone else whilst popping bubbles... all the children then try again, trying to apply the techniques observed and listened to...

it is a VERY popular game, and the children want to play again and again... we do not talk about winners... we talk about working together so that no-one bumps into another, so that everyone plays the whole time.

Playing this game in many different ways is good fun and also means that the children get to practice their listening and their self regulation playfully... Even though we have played this game many times it is still hard work for several children to keep still and not pop the bubbles in the middle... and keep still in the sense of staying in their place until their name is called out.... and since we are a small group of children it is seldom that they have to wait for a long time...

I am not sure if I have been clear enough in this description... so if you have any questions, please ask...

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

collaborative painting

During the last 6 weeks we have been reading the Rainbow Fairy books during snack time... the idea is that the children sit and eat their snack while I read the story aloud... with NO PICTURES... this was a real challenge for the children at first... they asked constantly for pictures... and I encouraged them to use their imagination instead... they tried hard to look at the book cover, which interfered with their ability to listen - so I ended up wrapping the first three books in some other paper.. so that the children could relax and listen... the last four books they have got the hang of being able to listen without the need for visual input... I would love to be able to see the images the children create for themselves in their heads...

Two weeks ago some of the children made black and white mushrooms to represent Fairyland from the books... devoid of colour, since the rainbow fairies were in need of being rescued...

Now as we read the last story, and the colours will return to Fairyland, as the last rainbow fairy has finallt been rescued... we have started to paint rainbows over the mushrooms...

One child painting with one colour, and collaborating to create many rainbows... not exactly free creativity... but an exercise of working out which rainbow needs my colour next, an exercise of realising that together we can create something - a collaboration.

I like to use art in many ways... not just a free expression of their creativity, but also to challenge their thinking, to bring them together as a group, and to introduce new techniques which they then can apply in their own creativity...


Monday, 20 October 2014

Parklek... Swedish manned play-spaces

Today the children and I went to Björnstraädgård... a parklek (park-play) on the south island... if you check out my pages you will see there is an option to look at parks and play in Stockholm, I have shared images of Björnsträdgård there, if you are interested...

 While I was there I saw the following sign
where the history of the park was explained... when I first saw this and read that "there parks should be so much fun that no child or youth would want to keep to the streets and squares" I wondered if it was because the adutls did not like them there... and wanted to control them... it could well be... veven though when you read the brief history below you will see there were concerns about adults abusing the children, some 20 years earlier...

A history of parkleks (from Wikipedia... so no great research done here)

A Parklek - playground in Stockholm.
The  playspace is staffed by trained personnel. If it is unmanned, they are called a lekpark =playground.

The first parklek in Sweden started as charities. The very first was probably in Norrköping, where a playground was opened in 1914 on the initiative of Maria Moberg (who along with her ​​sister Ellen also launched the country's first kindergarten - in 1899). 

The first major investment in playground activities came two years later, in 1916, in Stockholm. The journalist Gerda Marcus saw how many children were running around on the city's yards and streets while their parents worked, and how they became easy prey for adults who abuse children. One of her social projects for the Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet started playground with park employees in Vasa Park (I will be taking my children here next week... it is the park next to where Astrid Lindgren lived). The first day was on 14 May 1916 where 100 young children came to the park.

The modern parklek, with municipal employees, was introduced by Stockholm urban gardener Osvald Almqvist. The first parklek was tested in 1936 in Observatorielunden and Björnsträdgarden with great success, and two years later was 14 more parkleks were added. In 1940 this was extended to a year round availability and not just during the summers.  


In 1980, there were at most 200 staffed parkleks in Stockholm. Two of  three parkleks have been closed since then and in 2008 there were only 54 left. Until the 1980s, each child in Stockholm have a maximum of 50 meters from the door to a toddler playground and 500m to a staffed playground. Distance Rule 500 meters is now changed to 1000 meters. 



There is also a film that you can watch about parks in Stockholm from the 1970's - I have translated the Swedish text, so you know what it is about... but even in the seventies there is a concern that children mught harm themselves when playing...in fact there are many arguments that sound very similar to today's "fight" for children's right to free play...

film from 1970 on Stockholms Parklek -
The film's announcer text is structured as a conversation between three people. A gently critical and questioning mum is not sure that the idea of ​​playground activities and its pedagogy fits her son Klas Gustav. Her questions are answered by a woman and a man who argue for the development parkleks offer -   the meeting of children of different backgrounds. At one point the man says: "It's a shame about Klas Gustav - kids need this stuff to tighten all external and internal organs.".

It's Street office park department who ordered the film - and who organized the educational playgrounds in Stockholm. The film is told proudly that "Stockholm is ahead, not just of other cities in Sweden, but throughout Europe. People come from all countries to collect inspiration." It is emphasized that the parks department has trained people working with "people doing research in the child's behavior." The philosophy is that children should learn from each other and "doing stuff themselves without adults."

1970, Stockholm 160 playgrounds and according to the narrator was the goal was to basically every child would have a playground within four hundred meters.


So all of this has got me thinking... 
are playgrounds for children - really for children - or is this just another way to control childhood? I haven't really thought this through at all... it just a wild question that I want to mull over...

Sunday, 19 October 2014

more light exploration...

On Friday we explored light again... after playing in puddles outside we came in and looked at images of our light play from Wednesday...

It was interesting to see what caught the children's imaginations... it was very much the photos of themselves... and the short films.. so we have plans for next week to show five short films that I take of the children to reflect upon... of course less films if the children have a greater need of time to reflect on each one... we talked about having films of everyday things, not just of activities, in order to help the children become aware of their actions, their routines, and the small things in life...

In the afternoon my daughters came over together with two of their friends (13-14 yr olds) - and they played with the children. I set up  the light installation again, to see how the children would interact this time... I used the photographs from the reflection session in the morning, including the films.

The teenagers seemed mostly interested in creating with the magnetic tiles and the lights... apparently a kind of Hogwarts... the preschoolers observed their collaboration, their discussions and joined in and helped too.

When it was time to pack up my daughters asked to explore the emergency sheet/tent - as they knew it had a tunnel like property (since we have played with one at home). They put a string of lights inside... which we could see from the outside... and then the children (regardless of age) all took it in turns to walk and crawl through the glowing silvery tunnel.

There were slightly less children than the morning of Wednesday, so this could have also influenced how the light was explored, as well as having older children there... but there did seem to be a different level of exploration. There was less role-play that leads to the chase play... and more play of the exploratory kind... if I dance and wave the chiffon what happens? if I run back and forth through the netting what happens? can I make the balls of light become the same colour by timing how I switch them on and off? The children watched each other and then tested themselves what their friends had been doing...

It could be a good idea to do this one more time (at least) and possibly add some more materials to see how it affects the play and exploration...

 exploring shadows
Exploring shadows with chiffon scarves

 exploring the sensory experience of the material and light pouring over the body

 construction with magnetic tiles and light


 lights on the inside of the tunnel taken from the outside... the material has such an interesting property of being not fully transparent... only when the light source is stronger on the other side...



 going through the tunnel

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Puddle Play

Puddles really are brilliant... they offer so much play potential... from running through and feeling he difference that makes... to jumping and splashing, to sitting in them, collecting water as an ingrediant... to making rivers in the gravel and sand... when there is water... there is nearly always play...

Not much has changed... this was the case when I was a child... when my much younger colleagues were children... and also I see it now... hopefully this puddle play will always be with us and no-one will be making signs banning it..



making pretend tea...