Saturday 30 November 2013

Advent baking - a cause to practice creativity

Today at home we have baked Swedish Lucia buns and Pepparkakor - as we always do on the first advent weekend. This time though I decedied to challenge the children when we baked pepparkakor and not bring out the cookie cutters - saying we can use them next time (as no doubt we will be baking again before Christmas arrives).

Within 10 seconds one of my daughters looked up and said she wanted the cookie cutters - it was no good - they didn't look nice. I insisted that this time we would try without - it didn't matter about making mistakes - with dough its just to roll and start again - or accept the shapes that we have.

It IS a little scary to leave the safety of the cookie cutters - it was not just the case of being able to produce the shape they wanted BUT also to think up the shape in the first place. I suddenly realised how the cookie cutters took away their opportunity to work out for themselves which shapes they wanted to make, were Christmassy and were possible to form in the dough.

There was a lot of trial and error. Sometimes you could create a fantastic shape but not get it onto the baking tray whole (but that can happen with the forms made from cookie cutters too - but it was so much more frustrating when it was a hape you hade created yourself - it takes more time).

There was so much learning - the shapes that worked, the thickness that worked - how we could inspire each other - as one made a Christmas tree so they all did - as one started making letter so they all tried...

And by the time the dough was almost finished it was so much easier to come up with ideas and to make them - it was no longer quite so scary. Sometimes we have to take the plunge and try something that makes us feel a little uncomfortable in the beginning. This daring to try the unknown is an important part of the creative process - and it was so obvious to me watching my children today that exposing them to a situation where they had to use their own imagination and skills to create shapes was daunting at first but became more fun as they were able to see and believe in their own comptency.

How do you practice creativity?

making Lucia Buns has always invited the children to use their own imagination - yes, we make traditonal shapes - but then snakes, hot-dogs, snails etc start popping up - this year the girls were very interested in plaiting the dough to create shapes.
the ready Lucia buns tempting our senses as we finish off making the pepparkakor forms - oh and a glass of bubbles is never wrong!

cutting out the dough with a knife
the finished pepparkakor - hearts stars, tree, moon, letters, snowman, man and angel - the square is going to be a picture - as we will ice them tomorrow!

Thursday 28 November 2013


I love watching children construct - watching their patterns and rhythm of creating... how most start constructing outwards - like a construction drawing while others build up - and then there is up and out as the constructions get more complex...

Age has nothing to do with this - I see those children with a big construction interest will develop their building styles faster than others - its only natural that those who practice will!

These thought were stimulated by watching a four year old building yesterday a playground - she was the last child and I set the challenge "can you build a playground?" which she gladly accepted.

I have to admit I was surprised when I saw how 2D it was - everything was flat - including the slide - but she could explain exactly what everything was and it all made perfect sense when you looked at it with her eyes...

So I am interested in how I can offer challenges to develop this building - to challenge her more to create a more 3D sloping slide... by spending more time in the construction area, by putting up images of slides on the wall - or maybe making a model myself and just leaving it there to see what happens - or taking a photo of a a slide/playground construction... Maybe other materials...?

after explaining the playground to me she continued to build and the trees/forest for climbing were positioned around the park.
Today I spent time with two three year olds busy using the soft blocks - building up and out, I was involved in the early stages and connected my tower to theirs and exclaimed "a bridge". They continued to make many bridges - making lots of connections. We also tested the stability of the blocks - as part of the larger construction fell down a few times...

So I built a narrow tower which they blew down - and then I built a wider tower which could not be blown down. After that they concentrated on making their towers wide and more stable - that JUST up was not always the best idea to attain height!

Wednesday 27 November 2013

from magical forests to winter forests

In August we created Magic Forests - a collaborative artwork where the children continued on a different forest part each time...
They were created in four sessions...
part one
part two
part three
part four

As we have returned to the fairy project at a different time of the year and a whole new season the children felt the forests were just too summery - so we added snow. In keeping with how the magic forests were created tissue paper was used again, and also in keeping with that all the artworks belonged to all of us everything was arranged to create movment so that there would be no obvious place for each child to work.

On one table was a basket of roughly ripped white tissue paper - the children were shown how they could glue it flat or roll it into balls and glue it on as techniques that could be used. The children would walk to the far side of another table to use the glue - using only three glue sticks between the six children (many are still at home with chicken pox) the children needed to negotiate and take turns. There were two blue and one red glue stick and for some children using the red glue stick was totally worth the wait!
The children then took their gluey tissue paper round the table to place somewhere on the magic forests. Then the whole process was repeated again and again and again until we had created snowy forests!

Some children tended to glue on a particular forest part each time while others really did put paper on every single one. Some were careful to put paper all over the forest while others tended to make piles - the snow getting deeper and deeper in just one spot. I noticed that it was the youngest ones that did this, so I am a little curious as to whether this is a personal preference or a kind of developmental stage - as I remember how some of the four year olds were doing this at the start of this year (and have noticed this with other children over the years but mostly with the younger children - especially when they paint on the exact same spot until the paper wears through).

When all the paper was used up we left them to dry as we headed out hoping for snow - but it looks like we will have to wait until next week!

a detail

Tuesday 26 November 2013

testing excursion possibilities...

Sometimes when there are a LOT of children off sick at the same time it gives you the opportunity as teachers to test your wings... and we have been doing that this last few days when two thirds of the group have chicken pox!

We have been using the tunnelbana (the underground train - which is actually overground where the preschool is) and travelling to new locations to test out the accessibility of parks, the time it takes to get there and how the children play when they are there...

By exploring in this way we have the knowledge that these are possibilities when the whole group is back - well one park we felt we would wait a bit longer for until out group are stronger walkers as it was a little bit further to walk and the distance meant that the time to play there is reduced (at the speed these children are walking at the moment - most are still being delivered by push-chair so don't practice their walking stamina so much).

Two of the three parks we visited we will visit more often.
perfect for allowing the children to play on bikes - and also for hanging and climbing and strengthen up those writing-to-be muscles... Easily accessible

a good challenging climbing frame - which not all children could manage - and those that did needed some coaching to feel safe as they went round the circuit. Also plenty of role-play inspiration with the fort. Easily accessible - even though it was a little further to travel.

beautiful park - a role-play dream - better when the ground is not so hard AND when there are puddles to make soup and things for the play-shop. The walk is not too far - but at the pace the children walk at the moment it does really cut down the length of time we have to play. The lack of toilets means a longer stay is not as easy as the other two parks which have toilets, if a packed lunch was to be considered.
I really recommend going out on longer trips when there are fewer children to see what options are for when all the children are back again.

Sunday 24 November 2013

November Philosofairy

Here are the notes from this last week's philosophy sessions - as we have returned to fairies again...

Are fairies real?
  • no, they are not
  • yes, pretend fairies are real
  • no (changes to yes by the end of the session)
  • yes
  • no (mentions something about her grandparents)
  • no
  • yes!
  • yes but they can't live. They can talk and can run and they can travel.
Why do you think that fairies are/are not real?

  • they don't even live (who sent the letters then) I don't know
  • they are not real but they become real when mummy and daddy are at work
  • because they can - er - do - because you can play with fairies (how do you play with fairies?) you fly and climb and dig (have you met fairies?) they are in fairy land
  • because I like fairies (have you seen a fairy) (nods) (where?) boot (and points up to the fairy boot on the shelf)
  • because they like me (have you seen a fairy, what does it look like?) Yes, it looked like this white because it had painted itself. Up there in fairyland, there are fairies up there that are real (points to the roof) Watch out for them! (Do we need to watch out?) because they are scary, they can scratch us so that my trousers break.
  • pretend they are real and for real they are pretend. (when you play fairies do you play with real or pretend fairies?) real. (do the fairies talk to you?) "what a beautiful house you have" they say and I say "its not just my house but also (lists family members) too"
  • because they like my home. If they want to be real they will be real, if they don't want to be real they won't. (Have you met fairies?) I went far far away and they were in a car (did they drive a car?) yes (how do you know that they are real?) look there are fairies in here - on XX heart. There is the treasure (describing the decoration on the top of a child opposite)

On the second day I read up the fairy letter where there were thanks for taking care of the forest as well as the statement "The door is broken on your side" the day's question was what does this mean?

  • the fairydoor, we need to take some nails and fix the door in fairyland and then we can go throuh the door and find the fairies. There, there will be a daddy fairy that was also stuck in fairy land. (is there another door?) Yes, in fairyland
  • I don't know (can you guess or make something up?) imagine if the fairies are stuck so that it became destroyed (is it broken somewhere else?) no
  • err - they try to hide the key and try to hide it on our side. They try to hide both the door and the key so that Minnie Mouse hid the door - the fairies broke the door (child is wearing a Minnie Mouse top with a key on it) (on our side?) the fairies did not think about which side it happened by accident they thought that it was our side and not their side.
  • it means that we must fix it.  XX take a stick, AA take a stick, BB take a screw, CC take a hammer and then AA takes a fairy, DD takes a leaf and I will take... a screw (what are you going to do with all those things?) we are going to let everyone build build build, we are going to build a little house (does everyone think that this sounds like a good idea to build a fairy house or door? - all nod) and then we need to take a star that is there (point to the star on the flag of Chile) (do you mean that we need a lot of things to build a fairy door?) (nods)
  • we can make a black fairy door (can we all make our own fairy doors so that there will be many doors - eleven doors - wow did you notice eleven (elva in Swedish) sounds the same as fairy (älva in swedish - pronouced the same as elva) how do we build the doors?)
  • we can take a drinking straw each and we can... we can... we can... a board also (why?) because that is how you build a fairy door you need a board like that (point to the half wall) and we can build a fairydoor with glass
  • is there anyone who would like to add something more about why the fairy door is broken on our side?
  • because because we can have sticks and build a fairy door, lots of fairy doors and therefore they must be in the house.
  • D you want to build a fairy house too?
  • yes, a hammeer bang bang bang because the fairydoor is broken and we can drill.

So as you see there will be a few projects going off in the coming weeks -

the ceramic art that the children have chosen - the idea being that they draw what they see and then we make a clay model (the ceramic art had many areas that looked like fairies and this is why it was chosen to stimulate the children's thinking and also to introduce a new medium)

creating a winter fairyland for small world play

the opportunity for those children who have not drawn their self portrait to have a go

creating fairy doors - and possibly a fairy house (need to collects lots of material - screws, nails sticks and hammers seem essential)

and some fairy inspired Christmas activities...

Looks like the children have filled my planning and reflection time with enough ideas not only to fill the weeks leading up to Christmas but longer than that... we will just have to see how it goes...

Friday 22 November 2013

Making snowflakes....

Talking with the children it has become clear that the fairy land with a Moroccan feel that turned into "Scaryland" as we investigated fears is to be returned to a fairy land but this time with a winter feel!

I am not the one for pulling down artwork on the wall (both as it serves as a reminder of what we have been doing - but also as part of a sustainable preschool - we do not just want to use materials for the sake of it - for instance the Morocco inspired fairyland was painted on the back of old wallpaper taped together)

Back to winter fairyland...

Snowflakes seemed essential (as we are waiting for snow here - unusually late for Stockholm - but I am not complaining - as the ground has not turned to concrete and there are still puddles to spalsh in and mud to play in)...

It was the first time to make snowflakes...
I prepared the circles and then started cutting snowflakes as the children played fairies - I felt the children were tired (they all seem to be catching chisken pox at the moment - today we had just 4 of 11 children!!) so instead of it being an "activity" it was just something I got busy with and the children were welcome to join in when they wanted to...

A three year old sat next to me and wanted to cut a snow flake. I showed how to fold the white circle of paper and guided the first cutting - then he opened the snowflake - BIG EYES and a HUGE smile - his first snowflake. He jumped up from his chair and had to show the fairies playing in the room next to us...

A few moments later the fairies came to the table as they too wanted to cut their first snowflakes - both four year olds. I showed them how to fold their circles and how to cut. I told them not to worry if they went wrong - there were lots of circles - for now it was about experimenting. I explained about how you could cut small triangles into the sides so that the circle did not fall apart...

Circles became bits - but they also became snowflakes - and there was so much PRIDE. "MY first snowflake" "My second snowflake" - and also the ability to laugh when they opend their snowflake and it fell to pieces. This was a session of messing about - not of prestige.

It was a session about learning - the children learned that we don't need to master everything the first time - that we NEED time to practice.

the first snowflake cuts - WONDERFUL to watch just how invloved the whole body is when concentrating on cutting - the mouth and tongue supporting the brain to make each cut!!
pure joy - like magic - opening the paper and seeing that there is a snowflake. One of the other children was totally blown away by the fact that she had made one hole and when she opened the paper they had turned into many holes.

"look, look at my first snowflake"

Wednesday 20 November 2013

Building a mermaid house

I had one of those wonderful sessions with just a few children where it was calm, busy and concentrated and I got to interact and observe, mess about and be surprised all at the same time...

I sat together with three 2 year olds and a three year old and we made patterns on mirrors with gems, platic cups, tubes and geometric shapes and later small mermaids (designed as drinking glass markers at parties) and magnetic tiles...

The children were busy with their own creations and at the same time looking at each other and inspiring each other... the coloured geometric shapes making us giggle as we could transform each other into different colours by putting them in front og our eyes...

as I saw how busy the children were there was time for me to play too - I was also fascinated by the patterns that could be created by using the reflection as part of the construction...

the two year olds were very preoccupied with the feel of the gems, an moving them from the bowl, to the mirror into one cup and then into another...

the three year old felt that the mermaids needed a house and promptly built one. Once he had fixed walls all the way round I asked him if he wanted to try and build a roof. This he did. I was very sure that the large surface area would mean that he would have to rethink his design plan and put in some supporting walls... my eyes widened and jaw dropped as he placed the middle piece just after the piece he is placing in the photo above - it held - and he continued without one bit of awareness that I was sat poised waiting to say "how can we get the roof not to fall down?" It was not needed. He moved quickly on to discover that by opening a piece you could create a door and see the mermaids inside - it looked pretty magical in there....
Well today I have learnt a little more about the magnetic strength of these magnetic tiles!!

Monday 18 November 2013

making patterns

Another promise to keep.

"Take a photo of my pattern - and show it to the world"

Early in the morning when there were still just a few children I sat in the construction area and started to build a spiral staircase (which was promptly knocked over by a two year old) - but it inspired another child and she made a kind of spiral and then carried on building outwards on the map - after a short while I noticed that she was creating a very distinct pattern - and we followed it together following the numbers and shape rhythm across the floor. She continued and then asked me to take a photo of her creation. After that she left it to the mercy of the small children... and was not concerned about it being destroyed - she had her fun, was busy with somethig else - and besides I had taken a photo of it...

So here it is to remember... you can see the initial spiral at the top - and how it has expanded from there...

Sunday 17 November 2013

Using Food in Preschool

 "Oh dear, I was very excited to see your blog and follow in my RSS reader. Unfortunately, after stumbling across this post I can't say I will be following anymore. I know that many people in several countries would find the fact that you use edible food for an art experiment completely offensive. I do. I don't understand with so many natural resources readily available (and in this case string?), with a number of people struggling to feed their families that this would be considered an appropriate activity for children. We should be teaching them about the value of food and resources. Each to their own, but I do hope you consider the next time you try these experiments in your classroom the number of starving families there are in this world, who would do anything for a bowl of spaghetti."

"I totally understand where you are coming from... and have had this discussion several times over the years... if the food is out of date and not fit for consumption then instead of just throwing it away it can be used for art... yes string can be used, but it does not have the same sensory exploration. The spaghetti used was spaghetti that was going to be thrown away after lunch as it was not consumed and with all the coughs and sneezes was not something we are ALLOWED to save and instead of throwing it directly in the bin it got used for some fun first... There are also MANY MANY people around the world that do not have access to clean water - many thousands, millions that die from lack of water or lack of clean water... does this mean we cannot have water play? Does this mean we should not use water in our art? By using food occasionally as part of art and sensory play we can naturally take up the fact that not all children around the world have access to enough food." Suzanne

Food  is always going to be one of those areas that can trigger a discussion as the reality is that many people around the world are in situations where they are not getting enough food. For some reason there is always more controversy about the use of food than there is the use of water - despite the lack of clean water having more devasting effects around the world.

Erin at Royal Baloo suggests (in a group discussion we were having about this) that  you can buy a 50 cent bag of rice and donate $5 to some relief fund. They could get 10 bags of rice for the one bag and could still use rice with kids. It's not a food shortage that causes people to go hungry!

I DO buy food to be used as a sensory exploration or as a part of art etc I feel that if we can make playdough from salt and flour etc then the idea of using food should not be a big problem.

 Over the years I have never seen children start to play with their lunch food anymore than they did BEFORE we used food in art or exploration.

Filosofiska Preschool, where I work, supports a school in Nepal Southwestern State School Filosofiska School where children who would be on the street are funded so that they can attend school and also have a meal when they are there. If you are wanting to support the school then drop by Filosofiska Facebook Page as there are requests for financial support so that more children can be provided with an education, food and the chance of a better life... the page is mostly in Swedish, as we are a Swedish preschool (and one day a school too). By supporting children in Nepal this could be a way to compensate, in the eyes of food-frowners, for the use of food in play when there are so many around the world starving.

I feel I have a clear conscience when it comes to playing with food. Not only my connections through work with Nepal, but as a family we also support another family in Indonesia. BUT I will always use ALL resources with care. Food resources or other resources. When thinking of sensory ideas for Nepal I try to think of using what is around them - stones, gravel, mud and sand.  When thinking of sensory ideas for the children I work with in Sweden I think about allergies and how to make everything inclusive.
coloured sand - making tests for sensory explorations for the children in Nepal

mudplay - using coloured rice and lentils

piainting with spices and couscous

a wonderful experience

coloured salt

coloured rice

cloud dough - flour and baby oil

painting WITH fruit and vegetables

painting with fruit and veg - and themselves

melting candy and sugar to create a candy volcano

experimenting with flour and water to make a volcano base

using baking soda and vinegar to create a volcanic explosion!

using eucalyptus scented playdough (oild, flour, salt, citric acid water) and coloured rice amongst other things to create an Australian landscape

playing with tapioca

printing with ornages - and exploring them too

inventing sensory stuff - "slopcorn" cornstarch, water and popcorn

adding water to an oats filled sock

coloured rice

rolling boilded eggs - and then experimenting with the crashed eggs afterwards

coffee grinds - saving the used coffee for sensory play
semolina flour


herb bashing

spaghetti sensory play and painting

spaghetti painting (from the the offending post)

coffee grinds in paint

sugar paitning
sensory play with left over breakfast porridge
getting creative with milk

We live and share a planet - that we want to hand down to our children - and to their children... we need to live sustainably and respect nature and to make our own footsteps as small as possible...


this is going to be a post of little words - but many images... ideas for contruction - up, out and with many materials - and I have by no means come close to exhausting the possibilities and material choices
with paper - to make bridges, curls - whatever you can imagine and test...

with curlers

with play-dugh and ice-cream spoons

curlers again

play-dough and bit of plastic (from packages that are delivered - the band that goes round)

with tubes and old discs

with magnets

in lines and lines and lines - and yes the light table is under the table - we notoced that children wanted to explore under there!

constucting with just tape

with cans

with jewels

with sticks in the forest

with sand

with ice

with cardboard

with plusplus

airplanes with blocks

with stones

more playdough construction

with ear buds

with leaves

with mixed media - animals soft blocks and bristle blocks

with beads

with stones and conkers

with branches and cones

branches, yarn, shells - etc etc etc

soft blocks

mats and blocks

don't ask me what these are called - but they spin and they can be built with...

with chairs

with magnatiles
with BIG cardboard boxes high high up

or houses
and of course for some it is not so much the construction as the destruction that is the most fun!