Tag Archives: kim atkinson

How can this be a good idea?!

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Our local college is facing cuts to the early learning program, meaning that there will be fewer qualified Early Childhood Educators in our region. How can this be a good idea?

The Camosun College program offers excellent education and graduates about 30 students per year. We all know there is a shortage of quality licensed child care spaces in our province. We also know that qualified ECE’s are absolutely necessary for quality care. We also know there is a shortage of qualified ECE’s, particularly for infant/toddler and special needs positions.

Do we as a society think children do not deserve highly educated, motivated and passionate people? Do we think children ages 5 and up deserve well educated, well paid teachers in our school system….but children under 5 deserve less educated, lesser paid teachers?

How can this be a good idea?!

Generous Spirits

I continue to be in awe of the generous spirit of children.

Thomas and Darwin don’t know one another well but have found common interest in moving cars through tubes.

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They line the cars up, drop them through the tube where a waiting transport vehicle moves them.

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But various obstacles emerge, a toddler who wants the cars, a parent who takes the tube, a wandering alligator (a plastic specimen held by another child) who growls and threatens destruction, an adult shushing when Thomas and Darwin revert to vocal defence of the alligator.

To all of this Thomas and Darwin maintain equilibrium, adapting, placating, offering cars to the toddler, inviting the alligator to play,  and finding a train track that will substitute for the absconded tube. No one commends the accommodations made by Thomas and Darwin, in fact the adults seem to expect it.

Would an adult be so generous?

The Trouble With Toys

Lately I have been thinking about toys. Our childhood spaces are filled with toys, and we continually receive catalogues imploring us to buy more toys. Toys are ubiquitous in our business, but do we pay attention to them? Do we think about the corporate influence and marketization of toys?Screen Shot 2013-10-18 at 4.31.54 PM

Screen Shot 2013-10-18 at 4.26.20 PMConsider the big box stores, the ‘pink’ isle filled with dolls and tea sets, and the ‘black’ isle filled with action figures and remote control vehicles. There is an isle for babies, an isle for toddlers, a ‘learning’ isle, a ‘outdoor isle’ and an ‘arts isle’…..and more.  All these categories of toys sends three very strong messages:

  • Each activity a child engages in requires a different kind of toy
  • Boys and girls require different kinds of toys
  • Children of different ages require different kinds of toys

Do we believe this?

An educator in a multi age drop in centre was considering toys, particularly baby toys. She saw adults directing babies and toddlers to the ‘baby toys’ steering them away from the ‘preschool toys’. So she did an experiment: she removed the baby toys and in their place put an overhead projector. And voila! The overhead projector became a baby toy.

 What do you believe about toys?

Avoiding the “Shoulds”

IMG_1245Aidan sat at a small table in the house area with a doll and basket of doll clothes. He selected a small shirt and began fitting it over the doll’s head, concentrating hard, his tongue slightly protruding from between his teeth. It took experimentation, trial and error, but Aidan managed to get the doll’s head through the neck hole and the arms into the sleeves. He smiled, removed the shirt, chose a sleeper and began the process of fitting again. He found a headband that fit the dolls head, then a jacket. All the while Aidan worked silently, with intensity and focus, and no one paid him much mind.  A lovely example of a boy in the house area dressing a doll, playing ‘dad’.

Or is it?

I thought about how Aidan held the doll and the clothes, how he chose particular pieces of clothing from the basket and I began to see other possibilities. I thought about Aidan’s way of manipulating other objects and materials in this child care space, how he arranged objects in rows, fit items one inside the other, stacked things. As I considered all this it dawned on me that Aidan was not ‘playing dad’, he wasn’t ‘dressing a baby’. Rather he was experimenting with the mechanics of how objects fit together. How does a round hole in fabric, fit over a round plastic shape, the doll’s head? How do plastic arms fit into narrow cloth sleeves? How can the tension of the fabric change and accommodate the plastic body of the doll? The questions of fabric and plastic, and what they can do together, how they resist, pull, stretch, and slide are intriguing and endless.

The objects that Aidan was using suggested a particular way of seeing, a particular narrative of ‘house’ and ‘dad’ and ‘baby’. I observed Aidan interacting with the doll and clothes and assumed a narrative of ‘dressing a baby’. My assumption of ‘dressing a baby’ limited what I saw.

How often do we assume a particular narrative based on our assumptions?  How often do we limit other possibilities by not attending to different ways of seeing?

What if I had commented to Aidan “You are taking good care of that baby” or “Now that baby has pyjamas on, are you going to put it to bed?” With such comments would I have been imposing my idea of what ‘should’ happen in the house area, how materials found there ‘should’ be used, how an identity as ‘dad’ and ‘baby’ ‘should’ be played in the house area?  Would Aidan have felt he could continue his experiments with the mechanics of plastic and fabric, or would he have understood his experiments as not the right way to use a doll?

I am going to be listening and observing more, questioning my assumptions……trying to avoid the ‘shoulds’….