We launched Play Circle at DLWP this month, a new session for learning and play with little ones…
It’s a cold crisp Autumn morning, the ground floor gallery is flooded with golden sunlight and artist Renee So’s ceramic and textile works look stunning. On the bare wooden floor we have marked out a circle with brightly coloured lengths of cloth. The circle is geometry’s most democratic shape. Everybody joining the circle is included. Everybody joining the circle is equal. Welcome to Play Circle – DLWP’s new series of monthly creative sessions enabling toddlers to do what comes naturally to them: PLAY!
Storyteller Kevin Graal, our facilitator for this first Play Circle, says:
We don’t need to teach toddlers how to walk. They do it by themselves. When they take their first steps, we just need to encourage them and make sure they’re safe. In the same way, we don’t need to teach toddlers how to play. We just need to – ever so subtly – facilitate it. That’s why we’re introducing Play Circle at DLWP. We want to create a space in which toddlers and their adults can play together freely – without preconceived outcomes – but with light-touch guidance and inspiration from creative practitioners. We want to show that as well as the proven links between play and the development of cognitive and social skills, play also has its own intrinsic value as a way of finding out about the world and everything in it – including ourselves.
As the Roman poet Ovid said more than 2000 years ago:
“In our play we reveal what kind of people we are.”
Play Circle takes place on the 2nd Monday of every month with a session at 10.15am for members of the general public and a further session – expanding the play circle – for toddlers from a local early years setting. Sessions will be facilitated either by storyteller Kevin Graal or dance artist Anne Colvin together with experienced DLWP volunteers.
Today little girls were made of far more adventurous ingredients than sugar and spice and all things nice!
In Tales for Toddlers today, Polly was sick of putting the kettle on; Little Miss Muffet wasn’t scared of the spider any more; Mary wasn’t quite so contrary and decided to explore the world beyond the garden; the queen had better things to do than sit in the parlour eating bread and honey, and the maid was tired of hanging out the clothes.
Responding to DLWP’s current exhibition Still I Rise: Feminisms, Gender, Resistance, Act 2, storyteller Kevin Graal introduced five traditional British nursery rhymes which frame girls and women in vulnerable or disempowered roles. Then Tales for Toddlers participants created collages in which those very same nursery rhyme characters were placed in positions of power and authority. Polly took her kettle off and used its contents to put a fire out. Little Miss Muffet became fearless and walked on the moon. Contrary Mary left the garden and took up residence with her nursery rhyme sisters in the Oval Room of the White House, the Queen occupied the counting house and the maid told the king to go and wash his own clothes. Sugar and spice was replaced on the menu by courage and ingenuity.
Kevin says, “I wanted to reinforce the vital role that traditional nursery rhymes can play in the development of children’s language skills but at the same time have some fun with the patriarchal norms which often underpin these rhymes. So I invited our Tales for Toddlers friends to reframe them for the modern world and imagine different, more positive futures for their female characters. It was great fun for toddlers and adults alike!”
Here’s a ‘before and after’ picture created by one of our very talented parents, who brings her daughter to Tales for Toddlers. The children’s ideas were just as clever and adventurous!
Storyteller Ed Boxall tells us how he introduces little ones to art and exhibitions at the DLWP.
I like to base sessions for the pre-schoolers at Tales For Toddlers on coinciding exhibitions at the De La Warr. So, inspired by the Hayv Kahraman exhibition, Tales for Toddlers for February was all about pattern. Pattern appears in all sorts of ways in her work- the fabric of the clothes, the rhythms of the bodies.
The link to the exhibition needs of course to be right for the age group. With toddlers, we’re not ‘educating about art’ but experiencing the fundamental processes involved. In the long run, we might be helping children to get in the habit of delightful artistic processes and perhaps seeing a connection between what they do and things they see in galleries.
We had the space ready for the children by covering the floor with giant paper. You need something for children to do if they arrive early so they started by drawing round bits of their bodies with bright oil crayons on the paper while everyone arrived. They could repeat patterns with hands, fingers, feet and whole body shapes.
When everyone was ready, we moved onto pattern in poetry and enjoyed Brian Moses’ ‘Walking My Iguana’, which has a great chorus to repeat. Next, musical instruments were handed out and we noisily got to know our chosen instrument. We all joined in with my song ‘Yellow Cars’ which has a nice loud/quiet pattern from verse to verse.
We went back to the big paper for the remainder of the session but with some more pattern based processes to use. I brought rubbers to print with, stamp pads, patterned gift wrap and textured wallpaper. The stamp pads are great when you want to print but don’t quite want the full on mess of printing ink.
The children were probably unaware that we were ‘exploring pattern’ but I hope had a great time doing so and parents and children left with some easy things to try at home.
More Tales For Toddlers workshops with different storytellers and workshop leaders will take place on March 11, April 8 and May 13. See our full workshop list and sign up here.
Images courtesy of Matthew Harmer