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  • Skribentens bildSuzanne Axelsson

The International Fairy Tea Party

The International Fairy Tea Party is more than just a bit of fun... it is fun, and it is meant to be a whole heap of fun... but there is more to it... There are more and more articles lamenting the loss of play, about the lack of value imagination is given within the curriculum (despite people considering it important that we are creative), about a lack of connection with nature, about gender divides and stereotypes, the need to have empathy and understanding with other cultures, and about the need for children to be valued citizens of today rather than tomorrow... ALL of this is baked into the International Fairy Tea Party - and its not meant to be a slap in your face look at what you are learning occasion for the children... it is supposed to be a fun way to see how we all connect, a way to open perspectives in a fun and natural way... and also a way for adults to join in children's play. The celebration has been held on the Friday closest to the equinox - a day where the number of sunlight hours are the same no matter where you are in the world... suddenly we are united by light... and play... and our imaginations! This year, like last 2 years, it will be three days... the Thursday, Friday and Saturday... in order to be as inclusive as possible... having spent time in Palestine t I realised that Fridays are not the best day to be inclusive... so to be more respectful I decided that we could have a three day long celebration (as I had noticed some other places needed to have different days or more than one day, so that all the children that visited their settings could join in). It is a chance for children (and adults) to see how other children (and adults) celebrate around the world... to see children in Pakistan, Australia, Sweden, UK, Tanzania, Canada, USA, Costa Rica, Vietnam, Mongolia and more celebrate... are there differences? are there similarities... they get to find out that the children in Australia and New Zealand start first... because the day starts there and then spreads across the globe... so there is a chance to learn about time differences... also that some celebrate in autumn and others in spring... while other countries have a different way of dividing the year than four seasons!!! We usually post photos after the celebrations... either of the children celebrating, or how the celebration was sett up, or the aftermath... (as not all feel comfortable sharing images of the children... and that is fine, we all share the way that suits us the best). This has been a great way to be inspired as a teacher, and also to share with the children that they are part of a whole world of play and not just the community they live in... its a fabulous way to learn about the world... new countries to discover and learn about... It has been an amazing way to discover nature... as we have talked about fairies and where they live and what they are, the children I have worked with have come up with the idea that they are small... this has got them looking closely in nature for signs of fairies... suddenly they were noticing small details they would have missed... small holes, pine needles, holes in leaves, small markings, animal tracks etc etc etc... Then their imaginations kick in and invent whole stories - making connections between fantasy and the real world and back again...

There has also been a huge drive to making sure that nature is kept free from human rubbish/trash - and we have spent time collecting it, and recycling what could be recycled. The children learning about sustainability and the human impact on nature through fairies! We have talked a lot about are fairies real... and most come to the conclusion that they are pretend real, but they are absolutely real within the imagination... and that we are invited into their imaginations to play there... I know some educators and parents are wary of telling lies and will not want to say fairies are real... I will always reply that I believe in the magic of fairies, in the same way that I believe in the magic of Christmas... and the magic of love. It is the imagination... the play... In a philosophical dialogue about fairies the children talked about flying as an important part of being a fairy. So what did fairies need to fly? Wings they all said? So I asked, if you have wings will you fly and be a fairy then? Yes, the answered. So we made wings from paper... we stood on the tables to launch ourselves (cushions and mattresses below for protection) and I waited for them to say... it does not work, we cannot fly... but they did not... they jumped as usual and exclaimed "we can fly". My attempts to bring reality in were thwarted by their imaginations... I did not correct them, but enjoyed watching their flying sessions... and this is the power of imagination. We could go on to explore flight and the science of it at another moment, but at this first moment they experienced the sensation of being in the air... each time we learned something new, we developed a new theory we tested it through play - and experiments that then went on to feed their play... It has also been a time to explore stereotypes... fairies are not just for girls... they are for boys too... there are big fairies, small fairies, young fairies, old fairies, boy and girl fairies, ugly and beautiful, all sort of colours, dainty and warrior like, kind and scary etc etc... we have exploded the idea that fairies are creature in pink tutus for girls... in the first years it was the parents who seemed to be a little concerned about their boys dressing up as fairies... but it did not take long for the children to explain to the parents that the ability to fly, make magic, be tiny, and go adventures is something that should be accessible to all genders and not just girls... Each year I have tried to give the International Fairy tea Party a different focus, and I encourage other educators to have a focus too (not required) - last year it was children in public spaces. To get educators and adults thinking about children's rights to public spaces and how spaces are shaped for children and used by children... There have also been focus on being outdoors, construction and nature... this year the focus is on sustainability, which seemed appropriate as there are youths and children worldwide using their voices to bring attention to the climate... what materials can we use that avoid using single plastics or plastic glitter... can we still create magic and be climate friendly?

The idea is to always encourage the educators and adults to reflect on their role and how their choices impact the children, their play and learning.

All are welcome to join the Fairy Tea Party - no matter where you are in the world, you can celebrate your way... you can create a fairyland for the children to play in, or get the children o decide how that space would look what would fairies eat and drink, what kind of games they would play etc. The important thing is that you as adults also get dressed up as fairies and enjoy this pretend play too. Not to take over the play... but to understand how it feels.

If you know how the play feels it becomes easier to plan play filled activities for learning...

So we need to play to understand play. Mess about is what David Hawkins would say.

You can sign up to be a part of the Fairy Map on the face book page International Fairy Tea Party

The map can be used with the children too, to discover all the other celebration locations around the world - such an easy way to weave in geography!

Here is a film I put together from the 2017 celebration with the permission of all the schools and settings featured... Its a 10 minute film that shows that many areas of the curriculum can be covered - whether it be a one day event... or becomes part of a project...

Over the years fairies have been a mini project of various lengths... from a few weeks to half a year as the children explored different areas of magic, flights, stories and nature... from using maths to designing fairies doors and magic oranges in the forest... to science, to art to... It has continually surprised me the breadth and depth of research done under the name of fairies...

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