2012 – Term 1

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A new year and what a time we’re having!

Our one-year-olds are walking and getting into stuff, as they should. Some tentatively and some in a whirlwind. Our speediest 1 year-old was babbling to the dials on the oven yesterday, and trying to sneak a quick play in the bin before I redirected him to other more hygienic tasks. And we officially have the sunniest, smiliest, and most placid 8 month old on the planet, making those first moves into the world of walking (and don’t you just love how he giggles during circle time).

Everyone is going through transitions. For some of the children it will be their (and their parent’s) last year at playgroup. I am already feeling a tinge of sadness about this, and it has been a privilege to see them grow and develop into the unique little characters they are.

One of our mums who now has her youngest child in Kindergarten has come back to playgroup to, as she said, “spend time with good people”. She is so very welcome. It’s a huge change for parents. I well remember feeling the grief and loss of my youngest child going to Kindergarten and not having him as my constant companion when I was home.

Years ago, we had a mum come to playgroup who had a baby and a toddler, and had gone through some difficult times. Other mums who did not have young children came to playgroup to support this mum and enjoy the company of playgroup. The parents at Kingswood Park school can be very good at providing the support and care that people need.

We did watercolour painting, which tied in nicely with our new story The Puddle Pail. The children thought the characters in the story were dinosaurs because we are all crazy about dinosaurs at the moment. Ernst and Sol are actually crocodiles, but we can pretend.

I put out some paper bags for craft thinking that the children may make puppets. There were all sorts of creations but not a single puppet. That’s so great!

At playgroup we have what we call “free range craft”. The children are encouraged to make anything from their imagination. We used to have craft with instructions and templates – a product. What I found was that the parents sat around the craft table making the craft whilst the children went off to play. The children didn’t take the craft home. What I noticed when I put a range of materials out and said “make whatever you like” the children stayed at the table making all sorts of things that didn’t have any particular theme but had meaning for them. Parents and children sat together and the language and interaction between them was lovely to observe. And the children took their craft home. The children enjoyed the process and valued what they created.

We also made houses out of cereal boxes so we could use them for the acting out of our story Millie and Clancy and the Very Fine House.

This is the house that Boo made. I nicknamed this little boy Boo because he always hides in the Orana Room when he arrives with his Mum and sister and I have to go find him. Of course, I get a big scare when he shouts “Boo”. Boo’s house is a “very fine house indeed” (a line from the story) as it has a staircase down the side and red curtains. It also has 10 windows on the other side, and his Mum commented that she hopes that side doesn’t face west.

This is Tayla’s house. Actually Tayla was mainly interested in playing rather than craft. Mum started it off and Tayla came along and instructed Mum on the design elements – pink curtains and a garden out front.

This is Monisha’s house. Red tiled roof, with a chimney and picture window no less.

Monisha has been hoping recently that her Mum would buy her a pig for a pet as they saw a sign along the roadside “Pigs for Sale” but Mum thinks that dogs, cats, and chooks, as well as two children is more than enough to keep them busy.

Can you see my snazzy new scissor caddy at the back of the picture?

And last but not least. This is Nishika’s house. Very upmarket with pond in front and luscious lawn.

Some children didn’t make box houses. One young fella didn’t want me to photograph his house although it too was a very fine house, and the first time he has sat down for craft at playgroup.

When we read the story, we piled the house boxes on top of each other, and huffed and puffed to blow them down. We had to be very careful not to damage them.

We have noticed that a lot of the stories we have read in the past six months have very interesting clouds in them. The Millie and Clancy story had clouds in the shape of pigs. Pigs? We thought it was an omen, but Monisha’s Mum insists “no pigs for a pet!”. Mums are so sensible sometimes.

When my boys were little I bought them a big fancy plastic house to play with. It had furniture and a family and a dog. And it had a doorbell! I thought it was the bees knees. My boys didn’t play with it. One day they asked if they could make a house from a Weet-Bix box they retrieved from the recycling bin. We made a lovely house, just like the children at playgroup – windows, doors, garden, curtains. I had some dolly pegs, wool, and pipe cleaners, so we made a family and dogs. My boys played with that cardboard house until it disintegrated. We still have the dolly peg people. I learnt a valuable lesson – children enjoy making stuff with their folks and they value what they make. They want fun not fancy – kids don’t need stuff, they need you.

During Circle Time at the moment we are singing the song “Six Little Ducks”. I mentioned that one of my neighbours has a pet duck and this duck doesn’t actually “quack” but sounds like a low groan. One of our little bright sparks said “that duck should come to playgroup so we can teach it how to quack”. How gorgeous is that?

One little girl insists we sing “little girl who lives down the lane” during Baa Baa Black Sheep, instead of “little boy”. Girl power!

When we sang the “Wheels on the Bus” song, I asked the children what lyrics they could come up with. One of our newer children asked us to sing “The driver on the bus says “Stand clear, Doors closing”” . Very clever.  This same little boy came very well dressed to playgroup wearing a Monopoly tie, odd socks and croc shoes. One of the parents said she felt underdressed.

We acted out our story “Where’s the Dragon”. That was our first acting gig, and the children appeared to enjoy it.  The children had made dragon masks during craft time. I wish I’d taken a photo of all of those lovely masks, the children were so proud of them. One of our new children played the main part of George and she did a great job, and was especially good at snoring. The children nominated me to play the part of the befuddled old Grandfather. And there were various dogs, frogs, and of course, dragons. Some children came in and out of the story as they needed to. The story was embellished with stories from home and of dinosaurs (which are surely a distant cousin of dragons) and it was all wonderful.

I brought in some lilli pilli’s for the children to taste. I have a massive old lilli pilli tree in my backyard which is fruiting at the moment. The D’harawal people (Camden area) have six seasons in their calendar and when the lilli pilli fruits it means it is a new season – Bana’Murra’Yung  goes from March to May.

Weather cycles from the Bodkin/Andrews clan of the D'harawal People

Image source: http://www.abc.net.au/science/features/indigenous/calendar2.htm

The fruit is not so great from my poor old lilli pilli tree but I got enough for the children to taste. My kids love this tree because it is a great climbing tree, and kids come from around the neighbourhood in Autumn to try the “bush tucker”. My dogs eat the fruit that falls on the ground.

No-one in the group had eaten lilli pilli’s before. I thought that Napier might have as he is Aboriginal but he said that he had grown up in the city. Then we discovered that myself, Napier, and Angela (community worker from North Penrith Community Centre) all grew up in suburbs right next to each other. Small world.

We had an interesting discussion on rats, mice, ferrets, and guinea pigs for pets. One of our families likes interesting pets and sometimes brings in their stick insects to show us. Pets are a current theme at playgroup at the moment.

Some children made Easter hats and baskets. All free-range craft of course, no stencils or pre-made stuff for our crafty bunch of kids.

        

We had slinky apples for morning tea with our buns. I bought a peeling machine for playgroup. These are great for school canteens too. Kids eat apples when they are slinky.

And it was Children’s Choice for the songs during Circle Time. We sang some old favourites like Humpty Dumpty, Twinkle Little Star, Dr Knicker Bocker, The Wheels on the  Bus, and a new request for Pussy Cat, Pussy Cat. One little girl mentioned that she liked playing in mud, but I couldn’t remember the words to a song about mud. I said I would post it here…

I like mud
I like it on my clothes
I like it on my fingers
I like it on my toes
Dirt’s pretty ordinary
Dust is a dud
For a really good mess-up
I like mud!
Written by Zoe McHenry
 

We also read one of the best stories ever written, Green Eggs and Ham, by the marvellous Dr Seuss.

One little girl who comes along to playgroup asks her Mum every Monday if they can go to “Open, Shut” which is what she calls playgroup because we always sing “Open, Shut Them”. Napier also got a lesson from this little girl on how to make a bun in the shape of an ‘8’.

Have a lovely Easter and school holiday break. Playgroup starts back on Monday 30th April.

See you then!

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