For two weeks now on forest school we have been exploring the mud kitchen in the lower paddock. When we arrived the children got stuck in straight away with no holding back. In the kitchen we have the usual pots, pans and utensils for the children to play with. On week one we only had our imaginations to use whereas week two we had real root vegetables.
One of our main objectives during the sessions were to 'step back'. In childcare it's very hard to step back and let the children use their own imagination through child-led play. We follow the RIE approach very closely in nursery which goes by the idea of allowing children to play with child led activities. It's our job to 'play' with children I hear a lot of people say that don't necessarily know what it's like to work within the childcare sector. When I talk about 'child led' and 'adult led' I mean who is leading the play. An adult led activity may involve using scissors and child led play is when the children choose to play. Free Rangers is highly based on child led play with its free flow access and activities/resources for the children to get out when they would like to explore them.
Back in 2014 I attended a well being and involvement course that really opened my eyes to standing back and watching children play. This didn't mean to sit down and wait for lunchtime but to learn when the best time is to stand back (during free flow). We had a little boy that was very shy and timid inside who also struggled to join in with adult led and child led activities. We had a lady visiting from BANES that was helping me with the course. She showed me how to stand back and what time is best to stand back. I watched this little boy not engaging and no speech (although he could speak). We opened the door to free flow into the garden and before my eyes this little boy changed. He was running around the garden shouting at the top of his voice and engaging in a game of hide and seek. This was an amazing time to stand back and watch because sometimes in childcare you are so involved with the children that are in front of you that you've missed an amazing observation from another child of yours. This boy now attends Holiday Club with myself and Ed in the school holidays.
Whilst the children were exploring the mud kitchen we stood back and observed them. The imagination from the children was incredible to watch. With just mud, pots and utensils we heard; “I'm cooking chicken”, “don't touch it's very hot”, “can you smell it? It smells nice”, “I'm putting it in the oven” and my favourite sentence “it's ready”. A handful of children struggled to join in with no adult input which of course as professionals we knew when to step in with them. Soraya made a comment of “it's so hard to not interact” which is very true. We've had to teach ourselves to step back and the outcome gave us amazing observations.
Next time you see your child playing in their bedroom or walking around the garden watch and listen to what's really happening. They may be going on a bear hunt or finding aliens in their room.
Thanks for reading,