Capturing a child’s response by Louise Smith

25th July 2017

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Every Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, Christmas etc. there used to be a huge push for the children to churn out a production line led gift and card to take home. I’ve always dreaded it. Yes the end result looks like a Pinterest-worthy delight but I always wondered how child-led or engaging it really was and what actual value it was to the child.

Recently, we have moved to In The Moment Planning as championed by Anna Ephgrave and influenced by my Forest School ethos. This has led to me becoming an Early Years Key Advisor for Suffolk County Council on both topics. Best practice and self-reflection has always underpinned my ethos and I very much believe you should adapt ideas and concepts for what works best with your current cohort. The current method we had for making Father’s Day gifts did not reflect my best practice nor our new ITMP.

This year we trialled asking the children to express themselves in any way they wanted to say something about their father or closest male influence. The results were quite astonishing, some children made a model from blocks to show to their dad, some told a funny story to the camera, some sang, some painted, one climbed a tree like dad had shown them and one found a spider and said it had the same hair as daddy. Not one decided to make a card or needed to ask an adult for ideas. Every child expressed what their dad meant to them in their own unique way. We recorded their responses using Tapestry and released them on Father’s Day.

Whilst the children didn’t always have something physical to take home with them, they did develop a critical thought process which enabled them to think about their father, analyse their response and think about how to manifest that. Something that I felt was more personal and meaningful than 60 identical cards or gifts.

As practitioners, we were able to watch the children develop their ideas without having to narrow them to fit what we had decided they needed to produce as gifts. We were able to see their real feelings towards their fathers and talk to each other in a shared learning experience. ITMP and my Forest School ethos gave me the framework to hang my new ideas for this change on, slowly, they are shaping all areas of my practice for the better.

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