The Environment

Be a creature of tradition - the known can be magical!

In a society where the ‘novelty bug’ is rife, Christmas offers us a beautiful opportunity to go for tradition instead.  Rather than brand new decorations every year we can have recurring ones that can be looked forward to each year. Seeing these back in the environment reminds everyone what time of year it is, while still being ‘special’ enough to light eyes up year after year.

Say YES to the season - put Christmas back on the menu

When you think of Christmas in ECE settings you may be thinking things like the tacky tinsel on mantels and sills, the ‘no-personality crafts’ where every child’s collage is the same, and some half-hearted kiddy songs about Santa.  We’ve probably all seen examples of this. And even though it’s supposed to be a joyous time of year, you can see how these ‘lifeless’ attempts actually take the joy out, for our teachers and our wee people. This is why some settings have left Christmas off their yearly menu, and we can see why if these are the only seasonal dishes they know can be served.

Preparing for Christmas - Will you be my Christmas fairy?

The festive season is exactly that - a season.  It’s a short space of time that comes and goes, built into the rhythm of the year.   For our children it is such a short window of time in their year but one that truly matters to them. They find this season exciting and magical, and it is up to us whether we leave the festivities at the door, claiming we don’t have the time or energy to ‘do Christmas’, or whether we say YES.  

Big little things - the unseen little touches

It really is the small things that make the difference.  Tiny little touches set apart the ho-hum “just fine” ECE settings from the really special heart filled ones.  There may be big differences in size and dollars spent across the sector, but the no price tag items are the things that speak volumes.

A home away from home - what does this look and feel like?

"A home away from home". 

It's a description of ECE settings that is bandied about so often that its true meaning tends to be overlooked.  It is not enough to use the phrase as a selling point for parents.  We need to think about what home means to a very young child, and find genuine ways of offering a homely, nurturing safe haven. 

Are you giving or are you living the lessons?

 "There is no difference between living and learning... it is impossible and misleading and harmful to think of them as being separate." - John Holt

We have noticed a growing trend to implement ‘teaching programmes’ in an attempt to teach our young ‘pre/before school’ children academic as well as social/emotional skills. Much can be said about how and when to teach children reading/math/writing skills, a topic for another time. What concerns us is the trend to ‘teach’ children social skills and values by way of ‘giving lessons’.

The WHY of 'Less is More'

One of the current trends moving into 2017 is the minimalism trend. A trend of owning less, and tidy places. There are several different interpretations of what minimalism is, ranging from owning no more than a suitcase with the absolute necessities for living to sterile environments with just enough chairs, cutlery and plates for the number of people that reside there. Then there are those who see minimalism as a concept of simplicity and no clutter. 

Loose parts - Let the children lead the way

What is more natural for children than to play? Just as we can’t separate learning from living, we cannot separate playing from learning. There are certain universal urges that can be witnessed in children’s play –things they just feel compelled to do and driven to repeat, in many ways and with many objects.  Urges are repeated patterns of play and thinking, they are biological imperatives. They are innate and totally intrinsic to what children do. If we provide for the urge we can let the children lead the way! 

Rituals, transforming the mundane into the sacred!

Do you remember setting up the Christmas tree? Your birthday celebration? Friday evenings, first day of summer holidays? You may not remember all of it, nor will you remember exactly what happened during those events, but what you probably do remember is the feelings you experienced. You may remember how you felt, setting up and decorating the tree in your living room. You probably remember the anticipation of seeing presents under the tree and the excitement of finally unwrapping them, even though you don’t remember what the presents were. You may even remember some of the smells, and sounds, the Christmas jingles coming through the old cassette player (remember those?). These traditions or rituals are the spice in the dish of life.

The gift of animals

In studies of children’s dreams, 80% of young children's dreams are about animals. Seems as though nature has designed us that our dreams support the all important development of relationships with the animal world. Animals in our environments offer the children authentic experiences of observing, caring for and even mourning the loss of feathered, furry and scaled friends. Cultivating children’s relationships with animals during early childhood is one of the best ways to foster empathy.

Feeling the joy of a special season

The festivities of the Christmas season have made their way into our environments and into our hearts at The Heart School.  Our spaces are infused with seasonal and beautiful special treasures that only come out for this season, allowing the children to build beautiful memories and magical anniversaries of the heart. Festive ornaments bring life and celebration in as we warm up in this summer season and wind down our year.