It was a treat to do Tales For Toddlers in Lauren Godfrey’s Group Hat Exhibition.

The exhibition is designed as “a setting for play, reading, listening and reflection”, so it was perfect for Tales For Toddlers as we try to include a bit of all those things in each session.

I decided to use the exhibition as an important part of the session. I began by asking children and parents to take it in turns to do actions in front of the huge wall mirror for everyone to copy.

Next, we took this a step further and children took it in turns to lead everyone around the room, walking over the lovely seating blocks following their own chosen route, making actions for us all to follow.

These initial activities emphasised the fun that can be had from a surprising physical environment. Children discovered and experimented with how to travel round the room with its obstacle course of blocks. I feel lots of nurseries do something similar in how they rearrange play equipment to surprise their children on a regular basis.

After this activity we worked together to make a sitting-circle with the blocks. This was an activity in itself, with parents and children working together to work out how best to do it. I had planned to read my new book (Walking With my Iguana written by Brian Moses with my illustrations) at this point but the moment seemed to require some music, so we slipped into a musical improvisation session. We shared instruments and had fun and turned my song about favourite things ‘Yellow Cars’ into ‘Fish and Chips and Peas’. Children and parents joined in making a thunderous noise banging out the ‘Fish and Chips and Peas’ rhythm on the hollow wooden seats. Again, these thunderous jungle drums were provided by the exhibition.

We finished with Walking With My Iguana, which is a fully interactive picture-story-poem, with lots of joining in. It is actually based on something Brian Moses saw on Bexhill beach so it fits well in an exhibition inspired by the spirit of Bexhill!

I had also brought in a big bag of scrap cardboard cut into random shapes, and a stack of masking tape. The plan was for children to work on the wooden seats (perfect height for toddler tables) using the card and masking tape to perhaps create an iguana-ish creature. Or perhaps just play and experiment with what you can do with a bag of scrap card and a stack of masking tape. This activity had worked really well at a similar session the week before. These two simple, cheap, clean materials are endlessly versatile and I’ve rarely known young children not be engaged by them.

But unfortunately, we ran out of time for this activity. I feel it’s very important to go-with-the-flow of the moment and not rigidly stick to a plan. So, we really savoured and enjoyed the movement, music and story and missed out the making this time.

It was a splendid session, thanks to the great exhibition and, as always, the enthusiasm of the children, carers and volunteers who came along.

Ed Boxall

Posted by Caspar Jayasekera on Tuesday 10 September 2019