Go with the flow

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Let go, so that everyone can enjoy themselves, says Sue Cowley


In many ways, pedagogy in the Early Years Foundation Stage is very different to pedagogy in the phases of education that follow it. Perhaps the most striking difference is our focus on following the individual child, rather than on following a curriculum. The child's interests, needs and wishes take centre stage.

This is not a statutory phase of education; the child's ‘right to relax and play’ is enshrined within the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. A child who is in daycare for five full days a week, perhaps 48 weeks a year, needs to experience an environment that is as much like a relaxed ‘home’ as possible. One of the best ways to do this is through the use of freeflow.

When my children were young, I loved to open the French doors to the garden, and to follow behind them as they played exactly where they wanted. They would sit outside for hours, digging in the sand and playing with the water, only heading back inside to use the toilet, wash hands, or have a snack. One of my proudest moments at our pre-school was helping to create a garden so that our children could freeflow between indoors and outdoors to play. Outside, they might choose to dig in the mud kitchen, play with the water, use the ride-on toys, or look for minibeasts. Their choice is framed by what they wish to do, not by what the adults wish them to do, or by a closed door that keeps them shut inside.

The summer holidays are a time when children can rediscover the playful side of their natures, set free from the structures and routines of school to explore outside. My main memory of childhood summers is of heading into the woods with my cousins each morning, and eventually making my way home, exhausted, with muddy hands and a sun-kissed face, just in time for tea. Or of wandering on the beach, digging canals to link rock pools together, and splashing happily in the sea.

Even if we can’t offer our children a beach or woods to play in this summer, we can at least recreate a feeling of summertime freedom. Fling open the doors, go with the flow, and let them play wherever they wish!

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