I’ve got a confession to make: in my 10 years of working with children, I’ve often felt overwhelmed. Not by the children – not at all by them – but by the copious amounts of paperwork and planning that comes with the territory of this profession.
When it comes to the children, I’ve got boundless energy. I will happily roll around in the mud and bathe in the puddles that grace our land if it provides them with amusement and allows me to enter their stress-free, careless realm of playful bliss. Under no circumstances would I wish to compromise this unique environment we are able to provide by being outdoors and in our natural elements, but in a way, that’s what I’m expected to do.
As practitioners in the UK, we are continuously bombarded by often stringent and robust measures to ensure everything is ‘planned’. We must ‘plan’ the weekly sessions. We must ‘plan’our observations. We must ‘plan’ that child’s next steps. And then we must ‘plan’ how to plan our planning.
Call me lazy, but I sort of like not planning. The things I love the most about working with children are spontaneity and unpredictability. I love the spontaneous way a child turns a wooden stick into a magic wand and turns me into a frog with it. I love the unpredictability of going for a walk, and ending up sat in a tree for an hour because the children were highly engaged, fishing in the small grooves within the tree where water had seeped in. Last time I checked, you couldn’t plan for stuff like that.
Of course there are some things that have to be documented and routine-based. We do still do observations and have registration and circle time. I’m not saying there’s no value in these things, but there’s an increasing amount of evidence to say that we’re over-planning our children’s progress.
Recently in practice, we’ve noticed that by scaling back our resources, we can enhance creativity and the quality of play within the setting. On many days the equipment we bring in for the children can be as little as a story book to read together before going home; often it can be as simple as a few plastic bowls with small-world gardening toys. But you’ll be amazed at what games and the uses of the equipment they conjure up when placed in this minimalistic environment. Just this past week, we’ve seen the plastic bowls become dishes in a restaurant and used to scoop water from a swamp to discover several small creatures & insects.
It begs the question: are we over-providing for our children? By competing with others over toys and various resources, do we oversaturate their ability to think and be creative? And does a scarcity of resources, despite seemingly contradictory in nature, enable them with further opportunities for play and highly engaged learning?
A child’s imagination is their most valuable resource in tackling challenges in this world that we live in and also the key to unlocking happiness. If we diminish one’s ability to think by over-providing, then we risk compromising that very happiness and development we’re striving to achieve. Embracing a minimalistic approach to practice can substantially improve it and we know this because we’re seeing the effects of it every single day.
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Please call Julie on 07915976241 or email email@example.com