The new school year commonly starts with an ‘ourselves’ topic. The same planning and the same intentions. Getting to know one another, build relationships and assessing. With Kitcamp’s ‘I am me’ toolkit we explore alternative ways to launch this topic. It is a great way to get to know the class and to help them get to know one another. The key distinction being practitioners can reflect on alternative teaching methods, avoid more of the same, and recognise the sense of self in the children.
The benefits of stepping away and observing
Allowing free play, and stepping back, leads to more creativity rather than prescribed activities. Self-discovery is stronger when children are genuinely allowed to lead. Start by offering a completely free choice of the design of the role-play area. The new term will start with an insight into the group interests, whilst the children gain immediate ownership of the environment. Furthermore, adults can then ‘guide from the side’ – suggesting and supporting as required.
Building adult/child relationships
A child’s invitation to play is an invitation to engage. They are gently exploring whether the adult is willing to commit at their level. Children setting up play spaces, to then invite the adults to play, allows for such exploration. This is key to the development of strong bonds and relationship building1. In time, the adult can provide a range of purposeful and engaging play opportunities; creating the productive environment through which children can develop their full potential.
As adults, we are used to creating the environment for the children. It is worth noting that flexibility in the play environment leads to increased flexibility in the child2. Consequently, this contributes to the level of flexibility in the developing child and directly affects the relationship between child and environment, hopefully, one in which ‘the children are rulers of their own tiny kingdom’. This control, as we know, is crucial to the sense of self.
Developing a sense of Self
Play is inextricably linked with this and as such the need to set up purposeful and engaging play opportunities cannot be emphasised enough – opportunities to be ‘the author of their own story’ (quite literally as puppet shows are performed and the personalised news is presented) can enable children to truly see themselves as creative and active beings. Ultimately, we want them to feel confident, free and spirited. It is doubtful that a set of downloaded worksheets and circle times can achieve this in the same way as active and engaging physical play can!
Using Kitcamp to set up play environments provides a tangible opportunity for children to invite the practitioner to engage in their world. Keeping the provision unscripted enables the practitioners to then assess the interests, strengths, and characteristics of the group. In contrast to some of our other toolkits, ‘I am me’ allows the opportunity to analyse the environment. Assisting in removing barriers to play whilst enabling the adults to enrich and stimulate further development.
1. Stephen Rennie, Making Play Work (Playwork 2003).
2. Brown, 1989.