Friday, 31 March 2017

Play-spaces and PLAY

I have just read
"Why do architects dictate children's play so stringently?"
and it made me react....

I feel it's not so much the playspace design... but he adults surrounding the play-space that are not allowing children to explore it on their own terms...

I see children having amazing play in play-spaces... not using them as" Victorian" training gyms but real creative play that is original in how they use the equipment... Since the article states 
Playgrounds are still modelled on Victorian notions of character-building gymnastic exertion
it also states

"How often have you seen a child scolded for attempting to climb up the ramp of a playground slide, rather than descending demurely down it? Take a second glance at the objects in most playgrounds and you'll clock the extent to which they are totally prescriptive, designed to be used in a single way: a roundabout for spinning on, a swing for swinging on."

Which brings me back to my original statement, it is not about the design but about the adults that are with the children at the play-space who are unable to use their imaginations and can only see a "totally prescriptive, designed to be used in a single way" equipment. In my observations of children they have NO problem exploring the equipment in many different ways as longs as adults step back and give them space.

I have been visiting play-spaces and photographing them and observing how they are used for many years now - and seriously it is not the design that is the biggest problem, it is that there are too many adults in the play-space... it has been conquered by adults and their perception of play... Rarely do I visit a play-space where children greatly outnumber the adults... and ONLY once have I visited a play-space here in Stockholm where I have been the only adult while there are children there that are not with me... 
Weekends are the worst when parents come out en masse with their children... I have been to play spaces where there are more adults than children...!!!

Also parents are way too interested in their children being happy and seem afraid of frustration or maybe unable to distinguish frustration from sad... and therefore lift up their children and help them too much and therefore further feeding the children that they can do things before they are ready... taking away their sense of own personal achievement and the need for cheap thrills... and also taking away from the children how to learn to deal with frustration - a very important life skill.

Rules in play-spaces need to happen, but they don't have to be traditional rules e.g. up the steps and down the slide ("correct" use of equipment) - but rules that allow all to play; and the play is not exclusive where just one or two children dominate a slide as they use it for both up and down, making it impossible for others to use it... because then it is not about going up the slide is wrong, it is about not sharing the slide with others, or even being aware that others want to use it and are waiting...

 Children often need scaffolding when it comes to their social play, and discussing potential play-space rules can help with that... making sure that there is time for all the children to go up the ramp, ensuring there is no danger but still allowing for the element of risk, so the children can learn risk management...
Children sort of need to fall when they are small, to learn the consequences when the falls are small, their bodies heal fast and the risk for serious injury is small... both my daughters have fractured their arms... once while balancing on a log and fell off, the other while ice-skating, and then a week after the pot was taken off she slipped on the ice while walking home from school and fractured her other arm, one daughter has been concussed while skiing and vaulting (by accident) landing on her head... my son has a scar above his left eye from slipping on ice in the school yard...
accidents happen... my children have learnt from them... they have also learned that they heal. I have not made my children stop skiing, skating or playing because there is a risk 


Risks don't have to be about getting hurt... they can be about getting cold and wet... like this film shows of a girl playing the ice, going through the ice and the COLD water goes into her boots... you hear me laugh saying "I told you there was a risk of getting wet"... My job as educator, as a parent is to inform my children of the risks and then to let them make their own decision (if it is a danger then I intervene as an adult) but  experiencing risk allows them to understand that I am not just saying things for the sake of it... stuff REALLY can happen, and they get to feel HOW that happens and decide for the future whether that risk is worth taking again, or whether they want to learn new skills to avoid the risk all together...



I agree with the article... we really do not give children the space or freedom to play, really play in their own way. Too many are not empowering children to choose their own play... it is a kind of play dictatorship where adults have decided how and what play looks like. If we are to have democratic learning in preschools and schools then WE should be learning about play from the children... and harnessing that play-power to fuel the learning.
If we fail to understand their play, if we as adults are dictating their play how are we ever going to create a democratic classroom? How are we ever going to truly make learning meaningful... we have missed an essential link.


 I really feel that people have a too black and white approach when it comes to play-spaces it is so much more nuanced than that... what we NEED to look at is our own personal attitudes to the play-space... are we limited by our imaginations? Why are those one way to use equipment rules being imposed? How many of you have had a dialogue with the children about rules in the play-space, why they are there, what rules actually exist, are there written down anywhere that you go up the steps down the ramp? If not, why do so many adhere to this rule? What rules would the children have for the play-space and why?
have you ever taken a piece of equipment and challenged the children "how many different ways can you use this" - it is SO amazing to see... from hopscotches to climbing frames, to slides, to play-houses... give it a go... as it will expand your mind too...


Below are some images of risky play, challenging the children on how they see play equipment (breaking the mould of a prescribed way of using play-spaces), giving space for children to become competent users of the equipment on their own, and allowing children to freely explore on their own terms...

how many different ways can we play on a bench...

how many different ways can the children play on a fence...

how many different ways can you play on steps?

how many different ways can you get up... also we did not help the children up... they learned to help each other... we were always close to hand to make sure nothing was dangerous, or that frustration got to the point of feeling hopeless... encouragement was always freely and gladly given... and the children got good at doing that too!

making informed decisions... you will get wet if you fall on the waterlogged ice... it might give you a bruise if you fall hard. AND if you get wet you will start feeling cold... they had a great time, and they learned that getting wet in such cold weather means you really feel the cold... nice to have warm clothes to change int when getting back to preschool.

houses are not just for playing inside...


here the children are exploring how many different ways they can use the hop-scotch

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Slippers in school!

I recently read an article by the BBC about slippers in school and the benefits they have on learning...
you can read it  here

Living and working in Sweden taking shoes off in schools is the norm... in fact it is rare to have schools where shoes are kept on... especially in the younger years...

Never once has it been explained to me that it would improve learning... it was always about the cleaning bill... and noise... which yes can affect learning to some extent.

Working with preschoolers I am on the floor a great deal... so a no shoe policy is great... it keeps the floor cleaner, the work surface... in much the same way you would not want shoes on the table. It also means that if your fingers get stepped on in the construction area, or any area of the preschool, they are not getting crushed by the hard soles of shoes.

The following points were lifted in the text as benefits:-
  • Children seem to behave gentler and bullying is reduced
  • Noise is reduced
  • It's more hygienic - carpets are cleaner and reduced wear and tear on furniture.
  • Children are more willing to sit on floors and soft furnishings creating more space for collaboration, presentation, role play
  • Teachers do not end up in conflict about the "right kind" of shoes

When I look for Swedish sources about slippers to see if the same benefits can be found here in Sweden, the noise and cleanliness can be easily found.
I found one text about bullying and better behaviour, BUT the article was also very clear to explain that the slippers were not the direct cause of this but all the other actions the school and teachers had put into place of which slipper wearing was a small part...

I have observed quite a few schools during my 20 something years of living in Sweden... and I would never have put together the fact that wearing slippers help children behave better... in fact if that IS the case I have some serious concerns about children and youth in Sweden... what would their behaviour be like if they were wearing shoes instead? The noise and social interactions in classrooms and between lessons is not subdued or calmer than that of British schools... in fact I would say that classrooms are noisier here than the classrooms I have observed in UK etc.
The children in the majority of classrooms I have observed in Stockholm, and worked in/with have a large number of children that constantly talk and disregard what the teacher is saying... there is a constant noise - hardly the calmness for learning... not that it should be deathly quiet... but maybe their should be pauses in the chattering in order to listen... not only to the teachers but also the other children in the class. Not one of them is wearing shoes. Not one of them thinks that not wearing shoes makes the school more homely.

Surely if there is competition about the right kind of shoes there will be the same developing about the right kind of slippers... what are in and what are not... unless there is a school uniform on slippers... of course here in Sweden there are no uniforms whatsoever... so is that the cause of bullying? I hardly think it is the cause... I am sure that situations can arise... but it is not the freedom to wear what you want or what you can afford, or the difference between shoes and slippers that is going to reduce the bullying... it is how children learn to listen and respect each other... and also how the adults learn to listen and respect the children, and each other too... the dialogue between school and home in order to see the whole child and to support them in their learning journey... social and cognitive...

Not once I have I felt that schools are calmer in Sweden due to the lack of outdoor shoes...
I do appreciate the fact that there are no puddles in the classroom/preschool - as melting snow leaves the footwear that is designed for minus degrees... I mean who WANTS to spend an entire day with big chunky boots on that are designed for minus degrees when they are indoors... feet will get too hot, the body will not be able to get comfortable... and those winter boots get put on in October and usually come off in late March if you are lucky, usually sometime in April.... that is 6-7 months of the year with footwear that is not designed for warm indoor environments... so of course slippers or sock feet are much better...
The downside being during a fire drill, or real fire... having to leave the warmth of the school and line up outside in the meeting places in nothing but slippers (or sock feet) in the well below freezing conditions!! Its cold! I have seen children cry from the cold... and real fire escapes means you can't stop by to put on their boots on the way out... Luckily fire drills etc seldom happen.

I know for a fact that some children get bullied by having their outdoor shoes taken and dumped in the middle of the playground... my own son has had that happen to him (plus a series of other bullying behaviours directed towards him... he no longer attends that school, as the school, despite not wearing outdoor shoes were not capable of curbing the behaviour towards my son... for a week or so at a time, but not real genuine solving of the social situation).
My daughters have told me about the behaviours of the older children in schools... of the fights that happened on the corridors, the body shaming, the stereotypical name calling - all by children without shoes...

Wearing slippers is NOT the answer... but it can be a small part of making life softer... the REAL work comes in the interactions between the people... the children and the adults. Id making the choice to wear slippers part of the dialogue between colleagues where they are reflecting on the children and their communication with their environment, with their peers and with the teachers? or is it just a decision that is made... slippers =better behaviour=better learning?


Nope, I struggle with the whole reduced bullying and conflicts... its not what i have seen... it does reduce the noise of shoes in the classroom, but not the noise of desks, chairs, and voices... I also think that the preschool is kept cleaner... which makes play much more pleasant when it is on the floor... and also the economics of it... less time, less money, and also less wear and tear.

The cloakroom, where the is a shoe line... no outdoor shoes after this point. Children put their outdoor shoes on the rack under their peg/cubbie. Parents take off their shoes or put on shoe covers before bringing their child in... teachers take off their outdoor shoes and put on their slipper too! Here the floor gets wet and dirty so we have the tools to sweep or dry the messes during the day. The big silver/white cupboard to the left is the drying cupboards... essential to dry off wet outdoor clothes and sometimes waterlogged boots and shoes.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Uppsala - som lovade.

hej alla som kom igår för att lyssna på mig i Uppsala!
Här är en liten post för att dela lite mer information... bilder, bokförslag samt länkar (längst ner)




här på min blog finns det massor som handla om att lyssna, olika projekt för ateljén, filosofi med barn, det kompetenta barn osv osv...



om att kommunicera - här är en post om hur vi kan lyssna, kommunicera med barn som är ickeverbal, eller kommunicera bättre med någon av sina andra "99 språk"

Jackson Pollock - mer information om att utforska känslor med konst.

dansa på regnbåge - att leka metasamtalet

fotografi - jag har använt fotografi som ett språk att kommunicera - barnen dela sina idéer genom att ta bilder, samt utforska sina idéer vidare.  Det finns fler bloggposts om hur man kan arbeta med fotografi och barnens tankar om man kolla på "Through the Eyes of the Child" länk på sidan.

TEDTalks - 7 TEDtalks som handlar om lyssnande... verkligen intressant.

Hur man sitta för att lyssna

Filosofi i förskolan - mina tankar om filosofi i förskolan... med länkar till olika posts som jag har skrivit.



Nu lite länkar till andra som arbeta med filosofi med barn... jag pratade inte så mycket om filosofi - eftersom när jag jobbade med det jag insåg att först måste vi alla kunna lyssna, sedan kunde man börja med filosofi.. men det finns lite olika sätt att göra filosofi - P4C (Philosophy for Children), PwC (Philosophy with Children), Sokratisk samtal osv... vissa kör hård med sina metoder (jag har träffat en hel del utbildare i filosofi för/med barn osv) och såg hur vissa av mina kollegor blev rädd att börja kör filosofiska samtal med barnen eftersom dom var rädda att göra fel... vissa kursledare var mycket bestämde hur man skulle göra rätt och påpekade fel. Jag har tagit en mer Reggio Emilia inställning.. och blandad ihop olika dela av alla så att det passade barngruppen, samt jag blev bekväm med det också. Man måste bara våga att testa, gör en massa fel som man kan lära sig en massa nyttiga saker från och utveckla som barnen... det finns ett ord på engelska "evolve" som känns mer passande för lärande... barnens och vår egna. Det känns som man ta det i sin egen takt och evolvera istället för utveckla - som känns som det är en rakt linje som går uppåt dvs blir bättre och bättre (betyder det att vuxna är bättre än barn för att dom är mer utvecklad??? (Dagens random tanke).

Sara Stanley  P4C  Sara har stannat hemma hos mig också i en vecka där vi hann prata mycket... hon hade en mer lyhörd förhållningssätt till P4C än Bo Malmhester och Beate Børresen har - som har varit lärorikt att lyssna på och samtala med men hade en bestämd rätt/fel inställning till filosofi som var svårt att anpassa till förskolan (enligt mig och mina kollegor) - deras bok "Låt Barnen Filosofera" (Liber, 2004) är mycket värd att läsa - man få bra tips.

Thomas E Wartenberg Big Ideas for Little Kids... länken går direkt till den del av hans hemsida som jag tycker mest om... böcker... man kan hitta här många böcker och han har redan listat ut möjliga frågor kring det som man kan ställa till barnen för att fundera på den på ett djupare sätt.

Ann S. Pihlgren detta är en länka för att läsa om Sokratiska samtal.. eller eftertänksam dialoger. Hon har en bok som heter Sokratiska Samtal i undervisningen (Studentlitteratur, 2010). Boken fungera för förskolan och skolan

P4C - SAPERE - lite mer information
Philosophy Foundation - Peter Worley - han har skrivit många böcker inklusive "The if Machine" (Continuum, 2011). Han är rätt så aktiv i facebook P4C grupper men verka har en mer blandad approach och har till och från ifrågesatt p4c som metod (då är han et slag hjälte för mig... att ifrågesätta... yeah!) Han fick en hel del kritik för det, det är alltid svårt att ifrågesätta metoder - kolla på skolsystemet, många ser att den inte fungera för ALLA som det borde men det är motstånd för att göra om det.

en annan bok man kan kolla på är Doverborg/Pramling Samulesson "Att förstå barns tankar: Metodik för barnintervjuer" (Liber, 2011)

Nu tror jag att det finns tillräckligt mycket för att kommer igån med egna tankar funderingar och testa antingen filosofiska samtal, eller eftertänksam dialoger - och kommer igång med att stödja barnen att lyssna på varandra mer.

För alla som vill har sagokortbilder... lägg en kommentar här med detta bloggpost... och lämna din e-mail samt namn på förskola, så kan jag skicka bilderna till er... jag kommer inte publicera kommentar med e-mail adresser, så allting blir privat.
Imorgon kommer jag skriver en post om sagokort igen och flera sätt man kan använda dom... för tillfället kan ni kolla på detta... Story Cards/ Sagokort

Monday, 6 March 2017

The hundred languages of democracy...

As I put this presentation together trains of thoughts keep flooding through... ideas for blogposts... new ideas, and old ones that I never got time to write have resurfaced...

Schools here in Sweden are supposed to be a place of democracy - but sometimes I have my doubts that all voices are being heard... as elsewhere in the world there is a strong bias for the written word here. Which means there is a heavy focus on reading and writing... which is NOT every child's preferred language of communication... I am reminded of this daily due to my son's extreme dislike of reading and writing... he does LOVE to be read to, something I do for him every day...

BUT if democracy is about having your voice heard, about participation, about being valued for who you are... then why are children with other communication preferences being discriminated against?

So I will, as part of this year of exploring the democratic classroom/preschool, try to unfold some of democracy's hundred languages...

One language of democracy is giving the children the power to take care of each other - to comfort each other, rather than the children always seeking an adult...

In the series of images below (a screen shot of my up and coming presentation that is under construction) a child had fallen over... at the beginning of the year the children would always come to us... or they would cry and all the children would just look at us expecting us to put it right... by far the majority of the time there was no scrape or blood or need for medical intervention, but as soon as the children saw I was with the child they resumed their play. It did not feel like a democratic community where we listened to each other, took care of each other... all powers of comfort resided with me, so I enabled the children to take this power and use it themselves by scaffolding and supporting how to take care of each other.

It was not easy - instinct is to go over and help the child and comfort them... but I needed to back off and allow the children to comfort each other. I was always watching... and if I felt the falls was to hard, to high, or there was a risk for real injury I was there like a shot, otherwise I let the children assess the situation... sometimes they rubbed of knees and hands, gave the required comfort and all was well... sometimes they brought the child to us so that cleaning and a plaster/bandaid could be applied.
In this series of photos I could see the child being me... my usual routine of checking the injury, then asking the child what they needed to feel better (not all children like hugs to feel better) - the child below in the photo REALLY needed a hug. Then I would always take the child to a bench where we would sit until they were ready to play again... so they knew they could have comfort as long (or as short) as they wanted

For me this is a democratic language. The people (here it is the children) taking care of each other. Listening to their needs and responding to them, knowing that each person is different and that that is OK.


I always make sure that all children are included... that every child in the group needs to be comforted and that every child should try comforting... for some children this was hard. To comfort others did not come naturally at first, but with time, and without force, there was an understanding of why comforting another was important and that it was OK to do it on your own terms... (we talked alot... this was a big part of the scaffolding)
not all children liked to be hugged... but when they realised the process meant that you could choose how you were comforted, this meant accepting help from others became easier. It also meant that the child learned that hugs were not necessary to comfort others... stroking a shoulder or arm would suffice... the process always went in many directions.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

A Democratic Preschool...

On Wednesday (8 March 2017) I will be heading to Uppsala to share a presentation about listening and values... with a heavy focus on democracy...

The very first sentence in the Swedish preschool curriculum is "Förskolan vilar på demokratins grund" (The preschool rests on the foundations of democracy).
Yet over the years I have seen a kind of confusion over what is democracy... and how does the preschool rest upon it? Often I have seen "democracy" been used a project, and often that means voting... but over the years as I have been on this "listening journey" of mine I have come to understand democracy as something quite different... and that voting is a tool of democracy rather than being democracy.

A democratic preschool for me is about listening to each other, about being heard and valued, about having respect, about having power over your learning, about being an active participant, about negotiating and compromise...

Children do not choose to come to preschool... well at least not at first (and for some, never) - it is their parents that make this choice for them... it is also the parents that choose which preschool they attend, and the preschool that chooses which educator/s will be with the children. The educator in a sense is the power, the leader - but we also have to acknowledge that we have not been democratically chosen by the children for this role.

Working philosophically with children (age groups between 2 and 6) has allowed me to see the importance of listening as a democratic tool. When I first started working philosophically the children seldom listened to each other... they heard that others were talking, but did not listen to their words or try to understand their intentions, their focus was on telling their own story - and paying attention to the teacher was important (if not always appreciated) - as children are used to having to listen to an adult.
So in the beginning of this 3.5 year journey with the same group of children I focussed on enhancing their listening skills... not so much about them listening to me, but about them listening to each other... real listening (I have written a lot about listening over the years... so please take the time to explore this blog to learn more if you have the time).

And yes, I felt that with time and with practice we created a democratic preschool... where the children listened with respect to each others ideas, even ideas they did not agree with were listened to. We learned that by listening we might expand on our own ideas - so it was always worth while to listen - we might change our opinion even... or be more sure that our own ideas were good ones.
The children had the opportunity to make decisions about their learning and play - decisions we made together... the children ensured that everyone was included, they were aware of the feelings of others - when choosing the playspace we should go to (Monday-Wednesdays) they developed their own strategy for making that choice, they also decided that those that got their choice should not cheer, because that made the few who had made another choice sad, and likewise those who did not get their choice should not boo, because that made others feel bad too - but expressing joy and disappointment was OK, but in a respectful way. They also made the decisions when they saw that someone or a few were very disappointed that the next day they should visit that playspace - recognising the needs of others. During the process there was room for the children to present arguments as to why that particular playspace was good for play - and quite often this resulted in many changing their minds when they realised the same play could be offered in both play spaces, or another new, or an old favourite they had forgotten about could be played.
ALL of this could be done without my adult interference... we had modelled the necessary skills through philosophical dialogues which they then applied to many other situations.

Each child was heard and valued by the whole group. The whole group worked together to create a community of play and learning that would benefit them all and not just a few. I was their leader - not in the sense that I made decisions, but as a guide to ensure the group principles were upheld, and also with the knowledge that I LISTENED to all of them, as well as they listened to me. We created a community of play and learning TOGETHER where we were equally valued despite us all being different and the fact that over the years I have accumulated a considerable amount of knowledge that the children are just starting to build on.


On Wednesday I will share this journey of listening to create a democratic preschool in greater detail and with lots of images to illustrate.
To create/be a part of a democratic society then we need to listen... those elected to power need to listen to the many voices of the people, and not to exclude; the people need to listen to those in power and make informed choices; the people also need to listen to each other with respect and not to exclude - not to be convinced in the rightness of your own opinions but to consider the viewpoints of others, and to remember that democracy requires compromise, you do not always get what you want, and you also need to be aware of those who never get what they want, because that is not democratic either...
so that means listening to everyone so that we have a better understanding of who is being included and who is being excluded due to being a minority... this is as relevant in the classroom as it is in society... and is not just the responsibility of the country's leader or the classroom educator... but of the whole society and every child in the classroom to ensure that all are included and heard.