Fairies in our Nursery? An Invitation to Play! (week one)

Fairy investigation through play is something which has been around for over a century! It is also something which gets asked about a lot.

I’m not talking Tinkerbell or Disney here, I mean the REAL fairies, the ones we can feel everyday who could be hiding in the tree outside your window…

A bit about utilising the outdoors and the importance of child-led investigation. Remember here, we are provoking learning by providing an ‘invitation to play’. In this instance, the children are empowered by inviting the fairies… therefore inviting play and learning.

Children’s own enquiries lead them to learn about language, science, art, mathematics, their relationship with the world and with others within it. It is only through spending extended, unpressured time together, looking at problems and investigations together, that you can really experience the world through the child’s lens. Listening carefully to both their ponderings and their BIG questions, that you can really know how to respond and extend their thinking.

So, with this in mind, we need to rethink ourselves as partners to learning – not leaders of it.

So, week one. What will you need?

We suggest:

NurturePlay downloadable ‘Fairy Spotter’ sheet (completely FREE! Have a look at the bottom of the blog).

A collection of interesting trinkets and items - these come in a little later, however you’ll need to start gathering! We do offer a fairy investigation sack. It’s on the bottom of the blog, however you may feel you have a wide enough range of items already. *Don’t be tempted to get these all out at once, evolvement of the project is in the children’s hands, and unfolding of the discoveries are a big part of this. Be led by them.

Use the spotter sheet as a prompt to search the garden (or go on a walk). There WILL be many more items apart from those pictured which the children will find. Listen carefully to their ideas. Find a central (but quiet) place to collect and leave the items – the children should decide. Could be under a tree, on a stump, under a little bush. Role model open questions around this to help them craft their ideas themselves.

A little note on questions… questioning is by far one of the hardest things to control in our interactions! We don’t realise how many questions we ask young children throughout each interaction. However, questions are often closed and also place a huge pressure on children as they think we already know the answer – what a risk if they get it wrong?! However, the aim here isn’t to answer correctly, it is, rather, to become the questioners… the investigators and researchers.

Therefore, we generally remember the power of FIVE. Using our hand as a reminder – our thumb is the question, for every question we ask, we intend to make four comments. This can be in the form of asking yourself a question: “I wonder what they may use this little nut for…” or “I’d like to find something which is soft for the fairies”. In this manner, you are role modelling the concept of questioning without placing pressure onto the child.

Another note – this is very empowering for children with less confident speech and language. Inviting them to lead physically and communicatively really validates their place in the play, without relying on words and conversation.

Continue this investigation for as long as the children would like.

Laminate the spotter sheet and place in a window or somewhere the children can access during garden play. It can be a good idea to make a keyring to add to a tinker box or a belt loop – the children will be using their hands to investigate and usually other tools to dig and search. This makes the tool more robust and useful. This is a good link to literacy as they use it as a visual reference throughout their free play. They may even want to add their own (at a later date). Pens enable them to draw over the top. Ensure you have this available in your tinker box.

Allowing the spotter sheet or keyring to be accessible in future, means that other children may become interested at a later time or day. Let this unfold in a relaxed manner – be sure to follow the different questions and directions, however don’t be too excited to try and help them answer all of their questions at once! Pause for thinking and allow them to create their own connections based on experiences and thought.

In the following days, you may wish to place some fairy dust around your fairy invitation area. Or perhaps leave out a little sign that they’ve been there! (teeny tiny cups and saucers are perfect!)

In our next blog, I have some fantastic book suggestions and attractive invitations to play to investigate our fairies further!

Don't forget to check out our fairy invitations and more of our loose parts and natural items

Click below to download your free spotter sheet!

Fairy Spotter Sheet - click to download!

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