A post written by Suzanne Axelsson. All images provided by Paola Lopez and Kinderoo Childhood Academy in Ocala, Florida.
It's that time of year when there are so many suggestions about "seasonal magic" sprouting up all over the wide spectrum of social medias..
Yesterday on my Interaction Imagination Facebook page I shared two posts that I have written over the years about traditions - you can read them here and here - where I explain my own approach to traditions when working with children.
I love magic. I love traditions that allow my imagination to go all out.
But I also think that I need to rein that in to ensure that the magic we are creating is more democratic, and less exclusive.
When I was in Washington DC attending the NAEYC conference I shared a hotel room with Paola Lopez and we talked late into the night about all sort of things - play, pedagogy, loose parts, inclusion - if it has something to do with early childhood, I am sure we talked about it (oh and we also talked about other stuff too - like our enjoyment of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) - our magic in the every day!! haha).
Creating everyday wonder, everyday magic was one of the topics we discussed. if you check out Paola's school, Kinderoo Children's Academy, Ocala, you will see wonder-filled images that the children get to experience every day.
So everyday magic can be interpreted as
magic we create for children everyday,
magic we create with children everyday, and
everyday magic that is like small wonders that we need to discover with the children.
I think all three forms of magic are needed. Not at certain times of the year, but throughout the year. Magic does not have to be on a grand scale, the magic we create can be small in space, or number of loose-parts, or costs to put it together - but, the largeness of the magic is in how it is experienced and the time that we give children to fully immerse themselves in it.
In my soon to be released book (January 3rd 2023) - The Original Learning Approach I write
"Wonder can be introduced in a variety of ways, including,
Small everyday wonders children can discover with minimal or no adult intervention
Grand wonders that are more “event-like” and require adults to plan and set them up."
I think the way I am writing about magic in this post, relates to how I write about wonder, and also connects to imagination. I think play is an essential part - not only for the children, but also for ourselves - we need to play to discover the wonder and magic by engaging with our imaginations.
This requires time, as we need to slow down, look closely and listen deeply.
I started the International Fairy Tea Party as a way for adults to re-connect with play and imagination together with the children. It's a global celebration of play, imagination, nature, inclusion and more... children and their adults, from all over the globe, engage with the three kinds of magic described above to explore and make sense of the world through their imaginations.
It's an event to help us re-connect with the everyday magic - rather than the commercialised magic of many of the traditions we celebrate today - where some are so loud they drown out the magic of others. Often leading to multiple issues - people doing stuff because it's a tradition and "we have always done it like this", and many get excluded or ignored because their cultural traditions are not given the same "magical treatment", or if they are celebrated often it is not for the same length of time, and sometimes in stereotyped ways that exotify rather than respect the magic of those traditions. This is why I think it is best coming from the children. How do their own families celebrate? What do they know about other traditions? What would they like to find out? Helping them to be respectfully curious rather than just telling them your own version (or some packaged version) of what they are.
I know there are multiple people out there trying to convey the importance of slowing down - especially at traditional celebration times - so that the traditions are not about stress and getting everything done, but about the essence of the tradition itself. Togetherness, wonder, love, respect - and often food and stories are central. What materials can you place out for the children to tell stories and discover the magic, or share their own magic? Not just at big celebrations, but also those everyday stories. How can you slow down to notice the everyday wonders?
We will all have to find our own strategies for this. In the last few days I have completed my book manuscript for a Swedish book on risky play, where I have used the term "play-literacy" coined by playworker Penny Wilson. I felt I needed to define it - so researched the words - how play and literacy are defined, and then applied this knowledge to what I know about Penny through our dialogues together and wrote a definition which I sent to her. She added some thoughts, I adjusted the definition and resent it. She added further reflections, and I adjusted the text some more. The reason why I am writing this, is because the "everyday" was one of those important inclusions... here is the definition
"Play-literacy is our ability to read, interpret, sense, and understand the essence of play; an ability to communicate in a common language about play. It is a set of skills and knowledge needed to recognize play, know when to interact and intervene, and how to avoid interference. It is the ability to evaluate and analyze play in order to provide credible and meaningful information about it to others and to be able to design and sustain an environment in which play is given time, space and validation. It is also recognizing that the essence of play can and should be found in everyday experiences."
The magic of play.
Because isn't this what we are trying to create? Beautiful, wonder-filled spaces for the children to explore?
What is beauty? This is something that I have written about previously. It is incredibly subjective, and requires us as adults to pause and truly reflect how our own aesthetics impact our ability to see and provide everyday magic.
All images below are taken at Kinderoo, Florida, USA, with the permission of Paola Lopez.
The above images share the everyday magic of snow. A child had experienced snow while travelling and wanted to share the magic with friends. The teachers helped him recreate the magic for his peers to explore.
Fairy Tea Party Magic. Places for story telling, connection and imagination.
Below is a small selection of images taken throughout the year showing various magical play experiences offered. From outdoors to indoors, from large scale to small scale - individually, small groups and large group magic experiences... You can see how the children are immersed in the magic - and that often it does not have to be large scale to create that sense of wonder, to inspire stories and to ignite the imagination. It is also apparent from the images that the children have time to become immersed and enjoy the everyday magic