by Julie Newnham, Silver Birch Kindergarten Teacher
Every day in the kindergarten is the same! This gives a peace and security in which children can ‘just be’. The children know the rhythm of the day and the week, and as time goes by they become in tune with the seasons and festivals of the year. The children often name the day by the regular food or activity of each day. ‘It’s sewing day today and it’s apple crumble!’
Every day is the same and yet every day is different as we never know what will happen from one day to the next. Each day the children bring something new and creative into their imaginative play and into the life of the kindergarten, as of course there are always discoveries big and small in the lives of growing children. ‘Oh, look I can walk backwards. I can skip backwards. Let’s walk backwards all the way to the willow tree. I can hop backwards...’
It is not unusual to hear adult visitors say after a visit to kindergarten. ‘Oh, I only wish I could come to kindergarten!’
Unstructured, free, self-initiated creative play is of huge importance in the kindergarten, being essential to the health of the child, physically, socially and emotionally, now and into the future. There are long periods every day inside and outside in the garden when children can ‘just play.’
The kindergarten teacher and assistant get on with their work as the children play. We only intervene if, for instance, we are invited to ‘have a cup of coffee and see my baby..... ‘ or if a child is really ‘stuck’ and needs gentle guidance into the play. After a short visit we return to our work which is always real and necessary to the life of the kindergarten. If we do have to step in for any reason we try to go carefully so that the flow of play is not unnecessarily interrupted.
Children play out all that they see and hear: it is the most wonderful practice for life and their need to play cannot be overemphasised. For children, work is play and play is work, and reality and fantasy can also be one. Once a four year old came from his house to the baking table and asked a friend, ‘Do you want to come and have a pub lunch with me and my babies?’ And the answer came, ‘I will in a minute, when I’ve finished baking'.
The seasons and festivals are our ‘curriculum’
We have been celebrating May time with our May time band of musicians and singers. At ring time we dance around the maypole. We play the traditional games ‘Here’s a branch of snowy May,’ and ‘In and out the dusty bluebells.’ There are rhymes about the birds building their nests, and flowers bursting forth. Maypoles may appear in drawings and paintings. We make May crowns and decorations. A six year-old tells me about her drawing: ‘they are two children who have untied the ribbons and now they are running away giggling.’ The six year-olds can be full of sixishness at this time of the year! They are busy finishing off their woven bags and sewing on straps. They delight in helping and reminding and knowing just how things work and they can be thoughtful and kind and motherly towards the little ones, putting on shoes, holding hands around the Maypole, helping to put a roof on a house. The six year-olds play schools using pieces of stick and bark for crayon and paper and sometimes they sit and talk their play as they no longer rely on the equipment around them to provide their inspiration. Now they can call on their wonderful inner store of ideas and imaginations!
The apple crumble is ready and the sewing things are being packed away. Tidy time comes and soon all the little things are back in the ‘shop’ and the logs have been piled into the basket and taken to the ‘wood yard.’ The table is set by two big girls and a little boy. Then we have our little rest before our ring time. At ring time we have rhymes and singing, movement and games, and once a week at this time it is ‘Jessie’s day’ (eurythmy) when she brings us her special stories, songs and rhymes.
Everyone comes together for snack time and now we enjoy the food that we have made in kindergarten. This is the time when we may have conversation and hear about someone’s birthday or picnic at the beach or a puppy’s pranks....... It is the same, but different every day!
Outside we enjoy the sunshine. Every day, throughout the year, whatever the weather we play outside or go for a walk, sometimes for the whole morning. Someone makes a little Maypole in the sandpit, there are fairy gardens dotted here and there. We watch for the first sprouts of the potatoes, we water the baby sweet peas. Class 7 has made a bean wigwam and we must water and tend the beans that are buried in the good earth. The ground is dry and the children love sweeping and gathering the dry earth. Planks are arranged – ‘It’s road works!’ Someone is throwing sand in the sandpit. ‘No thank you, let’s make that chocolate sand cake.....’ Two little boys have made a garden in an old colander. One of them whispers to me, ‘It’s for our pet wood louse. Do you think he will like the flowers?’ The blackbird flies across our garden with a worm. Will someone notice where it goes?
We carry planks and logs to make benches and bring out all our chairs to go around the Maypole. Mummies and daddies are arriving. Musicians from Class 7 arrive and oh, how we look up to them as they play for our wonderful skipping and dancing, all parents and children together!
After garden time comes story time. The children appear to sink into another world as they listen to the story. Ahh! There is a sigh and a stretch and we sing our goodbye song.
Parents are the most important people in the lives of their children. Parents and kindergarten staff working together are committed to giving the children a wholesome and nourishing childhood. By not hurrying them into adulthood we strive towards providing a strong and healthy foundation for life.
We are very privileged to have wonderful purpose-built kindergartens that are a joy to work and play in. They have been carefully built to serve us well and are very beautiful.
Every care is taken by the staff and parents to provide a beautiful and safe space for the children.
Caring for our kindergarten and garden, in sweeping and cleaning, making and mending, tidying and decorating, sowing and weeding, is the first step for children towards caring for the wider environment.