Post written by: Polly Ferguson-Carruthers
Early years workshops are becoming more and more popular in various fields, from drama, ballet, sing and sign, dance, rhythm and rhyme, rugby tots ( the list goes on). And why is this???
It’s because the early stages of a child’s development are so important, parents can see the importance of this, yet it must be through a playful programme. If you ask a child between the ages of 1-4yrs to show you the colour red, you might get a response, or if you ask them to jump up and down they might do it, but they might not and may look at you with a glazed look. But, if you show a child that you play, that you are interested in all the colours of the rainbow, and that today you are going to go on a rainbow hunt, because you love rainbows and when you find the rainbow, after journeying through the jungle, dinosaur land and sailed across the seven seas, that a magical edible field full of games is waiting for you! What activity do you think the child is more inclined to be apart of?
Early Years workshops have to be play lead and exploring their imagination is key to growth, confidence, speech & language, movement and literacy. Using books as a stimulus is often a perfect way to introduce very young children and this is a topic I love using in my workshops. As children as young as 8 months can engage in a active of looking at pictures in books and through the wonder of a drama facilitator, these worlds can come to life for your children.
Our Early Years workshops have been successful running over a year now and it feels like a community. The children have created a space where they feel excited to explore their imaginations and play with children they only see once a week, and the parents are able to support each other from either giving advice on sleep deprivation, learning new ways of drama lead play, to simply making each other a cup of tea. This workshop is based in a beautiful location in Torre Abbey in Torquay, however a Museum isn’t usually the first place you would take a child under the age of 4 yrs to when you know that quite often you might be shouting these word “ Don’t touch that”, “Slow down”, “Shhhh, don’t shout”, “quiet feet”, “don’t run off” “come this way, not that way”. I could go on but I think we all know the list. It can be so stressful taking a child to an unfamiliar setting but how can we over come this. I believe this can be done through play. If there is an environment a child might need to be quiet for a small amount of time, asking them to be different animals throughout there journey is a great way to explore their imagination. I often use mice and butterflies to assist with these environments.
Why am I telling you all of this? We have recently started a new partnership with Action for Children called Artist Take-over. Every last Tuesday of the month a local Early Years practitioner goes and Take-Over their stay and play session and brings their session to life with a fun and exciting experience the children, parents & carers may or may not have experienced before. We have dance & movement, music, drama, and craft workshops, specifically designed to spark joy for the children. Our aim for these sessions is always to ignite new interests for children and parents using the arts. We have had Squircle Arts, myself (Polly Ferguson) & Hugh Nankivell leading sessions over the past three months and we have a list of varied artists awaiting to begin next term. The response so far has been brilliant both from children & parents. From seeing a child’s face light up when they meet a puppet, to making a scrap tot, to creating up a song as a group, each of these moments is a moment of joy and growth.
We all believe the arts to be such an integral part of a child’s develop, just as important as learning there A,B, C and counting to 10. These workshops assist children in their speech, fine motor skills, gaining confidence in their interests, learning to socialise and identify colours, yet delivered through a fun and enjoyable workshop for children, without once having an iPad placed in front of them or being asked to sit still. Children are incredible thinkers, dreamers and story makers, why wouldn’t we want to make an environment for them to continue playing, so their tool kit is equipped for when they start journeying into school settings.
We don’t know the future for all of our young people, but we can support their development by continuing to lead excellent workshops for Early years across Torbay and acknowledging the importance that the arts do play an integral part in these children’s lives.