One of the things we are confronted with everyday in childcare are bias’. How we react to others, how we help children interpret their own and ensuring that we both understand the families personal choices as well as helping parents and carers understand where we are coming from.
The other day we had our make up day. This can be quite confronting for some families – especially so for Dad’s opinions of their sons.
Likewise we can have parent’s upset because their little girl comes home with bruises and scrapes from climbing, running, building – instead of a bag full of artwork like their big sister.
What had me thinking about this was watching the ‘Koala’ kids cooking. The age group is 2 years old to 3 and a half, so their abilities and interests vary. The connections they make to each other and the resources vary greatly. The way they play with the equipment you put out is influenced by the particular individual or groups of children attending the activity. Because not all of them are talking yet, their play is far more interpretive. They are literally showing your how they understand the world around them. what they connect when they look at the play area you have out, to what they are aware of.
Originally the ‘home corner’ table was set each morning with sparse plates and all the foods in the kitchen, gradually more food was added to the plates and the table until it looked like we were expecting a medieval feast!
It took one comment, from one of our fantastic Koala room girls, for me to notice that we didn’t have saucepans or different textures of household objects; wooden spoons, metal whisks, plastic spatulas – it was all plastic. Was this because we saw it as a play area instead of a learning opportunity or because we didn’t trust the children, ourselves or the value of these items? Wow. I couldn’t believe I’d been so biased that the questions had not occurred to me, until *that* innocent comment!
So off to the local Op Shop I went. Disappointed to find only one small pot for sale and very few utensils at all. I tentatively asked the girls at the counter if there happened to be any more pots available and what followed was one the most exciting op-shop experiences in my life! I won’t go into details now, but I ended up walking away with a carton of saucepans, various utensils, bamboo steamers, many cane baskets, kids costumes and a box of lego!
Hoping that the new additions to home corner would create more interest and extend the connections between the children’s knowledge, the opportunities for learning and the bonding between staff and children, we changed up the area to allow for more space, but also to set a boundary for play (so no stray pot pans wandered off to cause damage to peers and windows!)
The initial layout had 4 pots with a utensil each and a collection of cotton balls inside. The area soon became so popular, that we bought out the other saucepans and utensils! The children showed us their understanding of hot, of sorting, or space and complex motor skills needed to hold a pot and stir at the same time. Their imaginations engaged their peers and their educators in play.
Dinners, food and even marshmallows were being cooked and served up! We needed to add another table as the play gained momentum and more children were served meals and drinks.
The success of the area was valued through the positive interactions between carers and children, the engagement the children showed when accessing and extending play in the area and the engagement other children could enjoy in various other areas of the room. Without a doubt, the area will be tweaked and refined to reflect the growing involvement of the kids, but it’s one I’m hoping to walk through without the blinkers of unrecognised bias’ on!