• Suzanne Axelsson

Reflections... part 1

Over on my Instagram I have started to share photographs that I randomly choose from my photos and add reflections - what memories does the photo (film) evoke and what reflections does it inspire...


Every fifth day I will share here as a collected post of reflections...



This photo was taken a year ago - so interesting that I randomly stopped in April 2019 - when I was in Athens...

Here is a photo from the first time this group of three -four year olds interacted with an overhead... and dinosaurs were their language of communication with it...

Exploring shadows, size, movement , social interactions with each other in the form of co-creating, turn-taking and sharing; making discoveries about projection etc... I love feeling the sense of excitement and wonder something new mixed with something familiar can produce - it was almost tangible


This was taken in the art studio of Nona Orbach in Israel - a marvelous place filled with wonder and magic and possibilities - also an amazing view.

This piece of art I took a whole series of photos of - from different angles... I like it when art could potentially reveal another secret depending on what angle you look at it from - just like life. We all have our different perspectives when viewing the same thing - our different histories, cultures and beliefs allow us to interpret things differently from each other.

Moving to Sweden from the UK over half a lifetime ago taught me this is the same with words... words carry different weight and value not just from country to country but even from person to person - and I think this is why I collect words and dig deep into the multidimensional meanings...

I also learned as a young child about different perspectives from my father who worked in the police - he said it was his job to find the truth wrapped up in all the truths - for example a car crash observed by 10 different people will have 10 different stories and not all match up - sometimes people get the colours wrong or the order of events wrong but they recount it as their truth.


When I have worked philosophically with children that has always been at the back of my mind - to create the space not only to feel you CAN say your truth but to also be able to listen to what else is being said and have the space to modify your truth closer to the actual truth. This took time mostly for the young children to gain the skills needed for this, to gain the trust to be able to share their truth and be valued and not ridiculed. To create spaces to think creatively and critically with empathy.



The third day of sharing a random photo (this time a film - which can be seen on my Instagram ) and my reflections... This film starts with a child washing their paint utensils (the film is taken during my visit to Anji Play ) and for me this is a potent reminder that routines can also be a part of the play and exploration.

I try to create a rhythm that allows children to not differentiate between play and the routine of “tidy up time” to sharply - I want to blur the borders and create a space and time for both. That does not mean every time but enough times for the children to get to notice things, to appreciate the process and understand it without it interfering in the serious play the children are already involved in... ie I don’t want to replace play with play - but for it simply be an extension of their play.

Sometimes I have observed that the children have engaged longer in the routine than in the activity because that process is what fascinated them.

As the film continues you can see there are spaces not only for the children to paint (on different textured surfaces) but also kind of hybrid clean up situations - where you see the children exploring the properties of paint leaving the paintbrush and becoming part of the water - how the water transforms depending on the colour type, the amount of colour the movement of the water... etc

Intentionality in the materials offered so that the children can explore deeper...

This reminds me of a phase a many of my preschoolers go through with the desire to blow bubbles in their milk at lunch time - which I think is a great way to experiment but often puts some people off eating because they get absorbed in the play... they then get the hungry grumps later... what I do is let them know that in the afternoon we can have a bubble session instead - they focus on eating their lunch and then later we blow bubbles - different sized bowls, different mixes, different ingredients over a period of weeks and bubbles allowed to flow over the table until their need to blow bubbles is satisfied - for the time being at least...



Random photo 4 + reflections

This photo shares an experiment that was spontaneously designed to help a child overcome the overwhelming negative feeling of breaking a shell. The child at first hid the fact but I could see they were upset - and after gentle probing the child dared to show me with shame and a little fear that a shell had been broken by them.

I am aware that in some homes breaking things can have a strong reaction from parents or that a child has experienced a teacher that responds negatively about things getting broken so that children become afraid to admit what has happened and seek help to possibly fix it or might try to hide it or blame others... In this instance I mentioned that the shell was now perfect for us to experiment with and told the child that sand was made of broken shells... so we could try and make our own sand...

The child got curious and excited - the anxiety vanished

I got a pestle and mortar and the grinding process started... others joined in... they took it in turns.. and they could see a powder forming - course at first and then finer and finer.

I took out some black paper and they tested small amounts - creating patterns, feeling the sensory difference of the course and fine powder , seeing how that interacted with the paper...

Eventually they decided to mix some water in and create a paint...

One broken shell consumed their attention for an hour as they not only explored and experimented with the properties of the shell but also practiced negotiating with each other - who should grind, for how long, how much powder could each child have, who was to add the water, how much etc etc .

Often there are great learning moments in the simplest of things is we slow down enough to see their complexity



Random photo 5

The philosophy circle...

Since 2013 I have been working philosophically with young children - developing ways to encourage children to listen to each other, value the opinions of others, be respectful - developing ways how to support the children to express their ideas and theories - regardless of language development there are ways to express and explore ideas - with limited words and also non-verbally.

This is why is many of my listening workshops that I hold part of it is done in silence. To expose educators and adults to non-verbal communication and to be aware of it - it’s power, it’s limitations - the comfort or discomfort that comes with that...

I find adults often want to fill the gap of silence - instead of pausing and trusting the children will manage to fill it themselves - but that we need to give them time to believe that we will not interfere and fix it... that silence is not something that is broken, or a time of emptiness - silence, in a way, does not exist - what it allows is for us to hear other things. The small sounds that are there in the background, of nature and the world, but also our inner thoughts and creativity...

For me listening is the most powerful part of communication


As I look at these five reflections I see the centrality of the child and the importance of understanding how to listen to them - to their curiosity, to their emotions and to their power and vulnerability. To learn how to create interactions and avoiding interference..

by supporting the children’s ability to listen to each other (and not just the adult) it makes it easier to create interactions without interference - because the children share the power of being listened to...

Interaction Imagination

© 2017 Suzanne Axelsson. Interaction Imagination. Stockholm, Sweden.
suzanne@interactionimagination.com 

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