10th International Fairy Tea Party part 2
Why the International Fairy Tea Party?
It is a day to share the learning power of play and imagination. Through play and imagination so much can be discovered, small details found that would be otherwise missed, collaborations made, problems solved to enable the play to develop etc etc.
This year the focus is on nature to get outside and discover where the fairies might be hiding, and also to learn more about the nature that surrounds us, regardless of where we are in the world... forest fairies, desert fairies, rock fairies, mountain fairies, sea fairies, rock pool fairies, meadow fairies, flower fairies, cactus fairies, mud fairies, garden fairies... the potential is endless.
The International Fairy Tea Party was originally held on the Friday closest to to the equinox this has been extended to 3-4 days closest to the equinox (21st September) in order to be more inclusive. The aim is that all children around the world are united by the fact that they have the same number of daylight hours... even if they do not share the same cultures, language, resources etc - we will share the daylight and the imagination and the play.
My previous blogpost The Tenth International Fairy Tea Party shared how it all got started, this one will continue the story. Each year I have given a theme for people to reflect on and connect with... not something that people have had to adhere to, but just something that hopefully encourages the adults to think a little more about children's rights, play, imagination and what adults can do to empower children (and avoid constant control).
Themes have included
Connecting with nature
Play as an act of Healing
I once got asked
"How exciting!I'm curious how you think about the learning purpose, whati s it you want to make visible for kids with the theme?"
First and foremost this is a celebration of PLAY... it is pure play - not to focus on the learning... but children's right to play... yes, learning happens but what the fairy tea party is about, for me, is for the adults to be reminded about the value of play... the power of play... and creating the time, space and permission for children to play and let their imaginations fly... and for us adults to step into this world of imagination and play with ideas and possibilities to co-construct with the children and enjoy the play.
Of course, many places as educational settings that join in, and I have been one of them - so here are some of the things the children and I learned together over the years...
BOYS AND FAIRIES - we discovered quickly that fairies are not just for girls... that boys have enjoyed this realm of magic, with flying, spells, wings, fairy dust, being small etc etc just as much. The children have been allowed the chance to experience gender equality in the sense that we are not dividing play into categories for boys and girls. The STORY-CARDS were created to allow the children see fairies in many ways (I created story-cards with other themes too with norm-critical thinking applied to them - and they could all be mixed up too) - the idea is that there are fat fairies, skinny fairies, angry fairies, kind fairies, babies, old, with and without wings, ugly, beautiful, those that look real, those that look like a child or an old person dressed up as a fairy, different ethnicities, different sizes, different genders, different abilities, hunters, warriors.... the idea is that the idea of fairy is not a fixed idea but has many possibilities... just as a flower is not a circle with five loops around it (as is often drawn) but comes in many sizes, colours, shapes, just as we humans come with out many variations... we learn to accept differences as natural, not simply tolerate differences.
FAIRIES IN THE FOREST - was a great way for the children to get out into nature and to make new observations... we had talked about "what is a fairy?" and the children described them as very small and with wings and magic... so when we went looking for them it was small details they suddenly saw... the small tiny things that had gone unnoticed before... and a desire to find small every day wonders as signs of fairies. The children had also been very clear that fairies are real in the sense of pretend real... they knew that in their play they are real. The children also became aware of the need for a clean forest if the fairies will want to live there, so multiple times (throughout the year, and not just as part of the fairy tea party) the children decided we needed a clean up day in our local patch of forest - and we would wear gardening gloves, take bags and pick up all the human stuff people left there. We discussed what to do about glass and other dangerous objects, as these were 3-5 year olds, and they would call out to the adults when they found something deemed potentially dangerous - like broken glass, and the adult would pick it up and carry it in one of our bags. Because yes, we adults helped too - not just watching the children do the work!
THE START OF A MAGIC FOREST - (going to my old blog platform) this post is one of many where we explored the fairy world through art... not just representing their ideas artistically, but also scientifically exploring colours and texture... we also explored the cultures of where the children came from, learned about personal limits and how disregarding them affects others, there were opportunities to develop motor skills... including blowing through straws to aid oral muscles for pronunciation.... here are more links to art projects that I did with the children on my old blog platform (at some point I will transfer them all here) Morocco inspired fairy art ; adding more to the magic forest ; Fairy sky - windpower ; Painting by letter... testing boundaries ; Fairy Portraits ; winter magic forest ; WINGS for fairies ; transforming friends into fairies ;
I think what has been beneficial is that the fairy realm opened up so many explorative opportunities that could be explored with multiple materials that suited the needs, and interests of the children. So some years it was about wings, others about the location and homes, other times flight, magic potions, friendship, writing messages, fairy doors etc
Philosophy - we have also explored fairies through philosophy... the children learning about respect for each other, listening to ideas, developing their own, developing their language skills, their social skills, their critical and creative thinking, - are fairies real? Which looks most like a fairy? Whats do they eat? Where do they live? Are there bad fairies? etc etc... following the children's interests we have explored the imagination and the reality of fairies... using activities and play to explore further and test ideas we have discussed. As part of the Original Learning Approach and being play responsive the teaching activities I offer are a mix of experiences that either allow children to develop the skills they need for their play, or gain knowledge about what interests them, or as a space for them to practice the skills safely, or a space to express their ideas to influence what we do in the future. So often it is hard to say where is the beginning - the play influences the philosophy sessions, which influences the activities I offer, which influences the play - they are entangled.
We have done a lot of role play and theatre/improv activities too - re-enacting favourite fairy stories, creating props (like wands and wings), setting the stage, listening to music, dance - all of this contributed towards language developments, social skills, body awareness - as well as an awareness of diversity - materials and stories chosen were carefully selected to offer the children multiple perspectives and to think and act beyond the normative and in more inclusive and accepting ways.
Maths, technology and science were constantly being used as we built fairy doors, landscape models, made fairy films, created magic potions, explored nature and the different flowers, trees and tiny wonders that encouraged us to find out about the world. Some of the games we played, inspired by books about fairies were maths based - for example, hiding and finding ten oranges in the forest, inspired by Elsa Beskow's Sun Egg. Risky play - being able to make informed decisions to keep themselves safe has also been an important part of the fairy celebrations... whether it be collecting litter in the forest, pretending to fly (and choosing what height to jump from and what kind of surface to land on) or exploring the forest freely and not getting lost... all of these and more provide opportunities for children to negotiate fears, consider themselves and others and able to make balanced risk assessments that allowed them adventure without danger. I think it is important that it is not just the adults making all the balanced risk assessment decisions.
Another important learning area of being a part of the International Fairy Tea Party is learning more about the world we live in... there is a fairy map... and all the parties are located on the map... we can see where in the world our party is, and where in the world others celebrate... we learn about the names of countries and towns that are meaningful to us through this connection. We also get to see images of the celebrations... we get to talk about similarities and differences... and opportunity to see play around the world... There have been celebrations on all continents of the world except Antartica. It allows us to make the world a little smaller and our play a little bigger...
To sign up - check the pinned post of Facebook International Fairy Tea Party - and in the comments leave your party name and location, and I will put you on the map. Or do the same over on Instagram "InternationalFairyTParty".
Every Friday we had a meeting to talk about what we have learned during the week... sometimes it was as simple as . "I learned that if you wear welly boots without socks you can get BIG blisters" - so sock wearing with wellies became a big thing... an important lesson learned... often we learned things that were not directly related to fairies, but our fairy play allowed us to learn it... and for me that is what it is all about... the learning within the play. We are not learning ABOUT fairies... we are learning about LIFE within our fairy play. And the children are doing this with joy! And sometimes the learning needs about how to feel and sustain joy - and this is why play is so vital for the wellbeing of humans.