Jan White Natural Play

Natural Play, Natural Growth, in the Early Years


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Playing and Learning Outdoors shortlisted for Nursery World awards

Playing and Learning Outdoors is now in 2nd edition…

Cover of 2nd edition: image by Menna Godfrey

Cover of 2nd edition: image by Menna Godfrey

I’ve been meaning to post about the fact that my little book Playing and Learning Outdoors (Routledge 2008) has now been published in second edition (released Nov 2013).  Without taking anything out, I’ve reviewed the whole text and ensured that it still applies and fully fits my developing philosophy and approach, adding in some of the extra things I’ve learned since then.

I’ve also reviewed the text to take it from focusing on provision for children from 3 to 5 years, to being applicable to provision and practice for children from 3 up to 7 years (also adding in such things as fairy gardens and tinkering).  This is because I’m deeply convinced that this is the right way to offer opportunities for being, playing and learning outside for children in what we used to call ‘Infants’ (doesn’t ‘Key Stage 1’ rather lose sight of the fact that these children are still in the prime of the extraordinary human capacity to PLAY and learn through that playing?)

I’m also more and more convinced that we need to fight for the right of children from 5 to 7 years to do their learning through play, and being able to do that playing in the powerful play/learning environment of the outdoors, supported by educators who know how to work in the outdoors.  I’ve never locked my book into any particular external curriculum because the only ‘curriculum’ that matters, I believe, is that which starts inside each child and which ‘education’ should help to come forward, being satisfying and meaningful for the learner in the process (the Latin roots of the verb ‘to educate” seem to be a nice composite of ‘to nurture’ and ‘to bring forth’).

The main addition to the book is a new chapter, on an area which I have come to realise makes another rich and important ‘ingredient’ of fully nourishing and authentic outdoor provision.  Going Beyond the Gate aims to encourage practitioners to harness the layer of provision that exists around the boundaries of the nursery or centre, as a much-used, familiar and comfortable additional aspect of what they offer to children.  The streets, shops, houses, roads, verges, transport, pavements, people, transport, plants, events, processes, chances and surprises in this layer bring children into meaningful relationship with their locality and community, in a way that is just not possible in even the very best on-site outdoor spaces.

All chapters now have much longer lists of relevant children’s books to support initiation and responses to exploration and play, and many more sources of support for educators for making the most of each ingredient of outdoor provision.  It’s no longer a little book, but I hope that the menu of potential experiences is enticingly expanded and enriched.

So, now that the book has been shortlisted for the staff resources category of this year’s Nursery World Awards, and having seen the fabulous reviews that Julie Mountain and Juliet Robertson penned for the submission, I’m galvanised into letting you know about the new version.  In it’s first edition, well over 5,000 people purchased the book worldwide – I hope this edition continues to inspire and motivate educators to provide the best play and learning experiences young children can have OUTSIDE.

I’ll post the reviews that Julie and Juliet so kindly took the time to write in a following blogpost.

Here's the 1st edition cover: image by Jane Wratten

Here’s the 1st edition cover: image by Jane Wratten


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Articles on Physical Development (part 3)

In December 2011 and then again in April 2012, I contributed to the Nursery World conference on the ‘National EYFS Review: successfully implementing the revised framework‘.  My contribution was looking at Physical Development – why it had become a ‘prime area’ (hooray) and what really effective outdoor provision for physical development would include.

This led to me being asked to write several articles – for Nursery World’s equipment special on Physical Development, published in Spring 2012 (article in a previous post – part 1) and for Early Years Update, published in Summer 2012 (articles in a previous post- part 2).  I’ve also now been invited to write on this subject for Exchange magazine in the USA, published in the May/June 2013 edition (article in this post).

This has become a key part of my work and I’ve become something of a crusader for children’s need to MOVE and BE PHYSICAL.  I’m now facilitating a new Post Graduate Certificate [MA in Education (Early Years), double module 60 credits] in Children’s Physical Development from birth to Seven in collaboration with paediatric physiotherapist Sue Heron of Tatty Bumpkins, at the Centre for Research in Early Childhood (CREC) in Birmingham.  This will run alongside my double module Learning Outdoors in Early Childhood, which is running again successfully this year.  Both courses start mid-October – contact CREC for further details about the 2014-15 courses.

Exchange is the magazine produced by the World Forum Foundation, a non-profit organisation whose mission is to promote an on-going global exchange of ideas on the delivery of quality services for young children in diverse settings – over 80 countries are involved.  Exchange is distributed mainly in the USA, however a digital international edition is also available (currently free for the first year’s subscription).

Thanks to Petra Arzberger and parents of children at Children’s Oasis Nurseries in Dubai for their very kind permission to use the great images in this article, taken on my visit there in January 2013.

39 Exchange Somersaults and Spinning p1 copy

39 Exchange Somersaults and Spinning p2 1 copy

39 Exchange Somersaults and Spinning p3 copy

39 Exchange Somersaults and Spinning p4 copy


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Mudlark Finds *6: Blossom Buddies

blossom buddies

Mudlark Find Number 6 is a book I’m adding to my Fairies collection.  Found in the nursery classroom of my good friend and inspirational teacher, Vanessa Lloyd, now of St Asaph VP Infant school in North Wales, Blossom Buddies: a garden variety makes me smile.

Inspired by her 3 year-old son’s love of being outside, Elsa Mora describes how she “went out with a basket and collected some natural elements like petals, branches, leaves… and started composing silly characters with them in my studio.  Since they were so fragile I decided to take some photos so I could look at them later, and that was the beginning of the series of flower characters in this book…  I hope that the pages in this book bring a smile to your face and also make you think that it is important to slow down sometimes and enjoy the simple things that life and nature have to offer us every day.”

The petal, twig and leaf characters on each page look like a cross between fairies and aliens, and also make you appreciate the complexity and detail of flower parts.  The book itself has around 140 individual flower characters, but you can also purchase a calendar with twelve of the best on a bigger scale (I’ve taken mine apart and laminated each page for use outdoors) and a delightful set of notelets called Ecobuddies (unfortunately only of one of the petal fairies) that would go down well in an outdoor writing kit.

With this section of my website, I share some of the many wonderful treasures I dig up while researching and supporting outdoor play for children from birth to seven. I hope they inspire you too, and help you to create motivational, meaningful and satisfying outdoor play experiences for all the children you work with.

Mudlarking is the ancient practice of digging in the mud of the Thames to find treasures.  It still goes on today, uncovering and recovering some amazing artefacts from the life of London city through the centuries.  Click on this link for more information about mudlarking.

images
Futurelab – Projects Archive – Mudlarking in Deptford


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Mudlark Finds *4: The Garden Classroom

Mudlarking is the ancient practice of digging in the mud of the Thames to find treasures.  It still goes on today, uncovering and recovering some amazing artefacts from the life of London city through the centuries.  Click on this link for more information about mudlarking.

images
Futurelab – Projects Archive – Mudlarking in Deptford

With this section of my website, I want to share some of the many wonderful treasures I dig up while researching and supporting outdoor play for children from birth to seven. I hope they inspire you too, and help you to create motivational, meaningful and satisfying outdoor play experiences for all the children you work with.  Mudlark posts will be brief and to the point.

the garden classroom

Mudlark Find Number 4 is a superb ebook from Cathy James at Nurture Store, The Garden Classroom.  Nurture Store is an absolute treasure trove in itself, and I’ll refer to it again in future.  This book is 114 pages of beautiful images and text that make you want to get stuck into gardening with young children straight away.  Watch this little video for a taster.

As we found with Learning through Landscapes’ Growing Upwards project, you don’t have to know anything to make a start with growing – the very best way to work with children is to be genuinely curious and interested, to wonder and discover alongside, and to treat all ‘mistakes’ positively as ways of learning or getting better at something.  Being involved with the year-long Growing Upwards project convinced me that gardening is deeply important for children and remarkably powerful at developing child-led practice for adults, as well as being chock-full of thinking and learning that uncovers the entire curriculum (whatever that might include) and yields interest all through the year (see here for the findings from the project).

The Garden Classroom ebook is available here as an instant pdf download that is delivered by email, and costs $9.99 (approx £5.60) by Paypal.  Cathy also runs an associated Facebook page.


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Articles on Physical Development (part 2)

In December 2011 and then again in April 2012, I contributed to the Nursery World conference on the ‘National EYFS Review: successfully implementing the revised framework‘.  My contribution was looking at Physical Development – why it had become a ‘prime area’ (hooray) and what really effective outdoor provision for physical development would include.

This led to me being asked to write several articles – for Nursery World’s equipment special on Physical Development, published in Spring 2012 (article in previous post) and for Early Years Update, published in Summer 2012 (2 paired articles in this post).  I’ve also now been invited to write on this subject for Exchange magazine in the USA (part 3 to follow).

This has become a key part of my work and I’ve become something of a crusader for children’s need to MOVE and BE PHYSICAL.  I’m going to be facilitating a new Post Graduate Certificate [MA in Education (Early Years), double module 60 credits] in Children’s Physical Development from birth to Seven in collaboration with paediatric physiotherapist Sue Heron of Tatty Bumpkins, at the Centre for Research in Early Childhood (CREC) in Birmingham.  This will run alongside my module Learning Outdoors in Early Childhood which ran successfully this year.  Both courses start mid-October – contact CREC for further details.

Early Years Update is published monthly and is available by subscription from Optimus Education.

37 EYU Physical Development in the Revised EYFS p1 copy

37 EYU Physical Development in the Revised EYFS p2 copy

38 EYU Creating an Enabling Outdoor Environment for Physical Development p1 copy

38 EYU Creating an enabling Outdoor Environment for Physical Development p2 copy


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Articles on Physical Development (part 1)

In December 2011 and then again in April 2012, I contributed to the Nursery World conference on the ‘National EYFS Review: successfully implementing the revised framework‘.  My contribution was looking at Physical Development – why it had become a ‘prime area’ (hooray) and what really effective outdoor provision for physical development would include.

This led to me being asked to write several articles – for Nursery World’s equipment special on Physical Development, published in Spring 2012 (article in this post) and for Early Years Update, published in Summer 2012 (articles in next post).  I’ve also now been invited to write on this subject for Exchange magazine in the USA (part 3 to follow).

This has become a key part of my work and I’ve become something of a crusader for children’s need to MOVE and BE PHYSICAL.  I’m going to be facilitating a new Post Graduate Certificate (MA in Education [Early Years], double module 60 credits) in Children’s Physical Development from Birth to Seven in collaboration with paediatric physiotherapist Sue Heron of Tatty Bumpkins, at the Centre for Research in Early Childhood (CREC) in Birmingham.  This will run alongside my module Learning Outdoors in Early Childhood which ran successfully this year.  Both courses start mid-October – contact CREC for further details.

Nursery Equipment 28th May 2012: Introduction –  Action Points by Jan White can be found on the Nursery World archives website – search under the title of the article.

35 NW Action Points p1 copy

35 NW Action Points p2 copy


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Celebrating Dandelions for Earth Day

Today is Earth Day and, inspired by Juliet Robertson’s recent post about celebrating it (thanks Juliet), I want to celebrate Britain’s best plant – the Dandelion.

Yesterday, after many gloomy and rain-filled days, the sun shone all day long.  As I drove to and from delivering some training at Early Excellence in Huddersfield, I passed verge after verge stuffed full of uncountable numbers of dancing dandelions, fully open and making the most of that lovely heat and light.  What a truly heart-lifting sight an expanse of dandelions is!  What stunning plants they are.  Why on earth do we have such a negative attitude to them, which we most likely pass on to our children?

I often sing the praises of dandelions as play materials on training courses, and have been eagerly waiting for Dandelion Season here in the UK.  I love all the spring flowers, especially primroses having grown up with coppiced woodlands full of them in Kent (mostly developed land now).  But my admiration and feelings for the humble dandelion have grown as I’ve become more aware of just what spectacular plants they are. 

Have you ever noticed how complex and beautiful they are?

Well, they are here now and, as it has been for the last few years, it’s a very good year for them again – and long may they stick around!  Why are they so wonderful?

Ÿ         The flower itself is highly complex and incredibly beautiful, with a dense central area and delicate outer rim; the green bracts on the underside are also lovely;

Ÿ         Their yellow colour is the most perfect yellow: strong, luscious and sunshine-filled (unlike the weak and sickly yellow of the acres of rape seed our country is now covered with at this time of year – have you noticed how it’s taking up residence into our verges too?)

Ÿ         If you feel the flower, especially with your cheeks or lips, it’s exquisitely soft and cool;

Ÿ         If you smell the flower, it’s revolting (apparently bees, ants and moths also like the early nectar source, but I guess this is to attract fly and beetles with different smell sensitivities to humans…)

Ÿ         The stem is long, waxy and curiously hollow, and allows great jewellery to be made;

Ÿ         The white sap from the end of the broken stem, which I was told as a child would make me wet the bed, is intensely bitter and sharp on the tongue, and therefore surely unlikely to make children who play with them wet the bed!  The French name for the plant pissenlit derives from the strongly diuretic roots (it’s also known as Dog’s Lettuce and Mole’s Salad) – I’m glad the more Norman name meaning lion’s teeth (dent de lion – from the shape of the leaves) made it into our language though.  It makes your fingers sticky and dirt-attracting and is hard to get off: fascinating stuff.

Foraging and collecting is an ancient drive so present still in children's play

Not only are dandelion flowers wonderful in themselves, there are also the obvious pleasures of the seeding stage with its exquisite structure and its well-known time-telling abilities; and the value of the leaves to rabbits and foraging humans (both leaves and flowers are edible with high vitamin and mineral content).  But I most love the way dandelions close up when it’s wet and come out to bask when it’s sunny – such enthusiasm for life and pleasure in the here-and-now moment. 

And I especially love the super-abundance of the plant.  The epitome of the R-species (with its high seed production and short life-cycle it has a rapid response to opportunity) the dandelion is an opportunist able to take full advantage of every prospect open to it.  Is this perhaps a metaphor for what we seek to do through early years education, in laying the foundations for a resilient, capable, confident and self-assured person who is able to make the most of their abilities and talents as they grow?

Their abundance is key to their play value

And then, above all of this, is the reason I love dandelions professionally – because they make such stunning play materials, especially when available in abundance:

Ÿ         collecting them feeds our ancient foraging instincts, so visible in children’s play;

Ÿ         arranging them in jam jars is wonderfully satisfying;

Ÿ         they make excellent jewellery – easier and better than daisies;

Ÿ         the heads and stems taken apart lend themselves to pattern and picture making (see also the adult artworks of Andy Goldsworthy and Marc Pouyet)

Ÿ         crushing and using the yellow pigment from flowers and green colour from leaves can contribute to much petal perfume making and cocktail creating.  The milky sap is good for potions and spells, and the roots are interestingly vegetable-like;

Ÿ         they are excellent for garnishing mud pies and other mud kitchen cookery, and have real cooking potential since the whole plant is edible.

The garnish completes the dish

 I am enthused now to do more to promote these fabulous plants for children’s play – and to ensure that they are ‘designed in’ to any play and learning environment I’m involved with. 

I’m also thinking of introducing Dandelion Day as a sister to International Mud Day (29th June) – would you be in on it?

Artists and art; Children and play

All images (C) Jan White, with thanks to Learning through Landscapes and Danish settings visited with the help of Inside-Out Nature for the inspiring experiences of dandelions at work in children’s play.