Discussions around death, dying and funerals have been a relatively regular source of discussion for some children in Gorton House preschool over the past months.
As with any significant event that occurs within a family, children often bring these with them when they come to the centre, and try to process and share their feelings and experiences with their educators and peers within the preschool space. The children in Gorton House preschool have already had some prior, direct experience with death and funerals over recent months as on two separate occasions they have found dead lorikeets, who’s deaths and little bodies we have honoured within The Infants’ Home by holding funerals for them and burying them together with a solemn little ceremony. Later, when one of our fish died, there was another acknowledgement of death, and a funeral was held.
The children had the opportunity to then explore, discuss, process and share their evolving understandings of lifecycles and death. More recently, the passing of one child’s great-grandmother, with whom she had a very close relationship, caused a strong sense of grief for the entire family and it was to be expected that the child experiencing this loss would share her strong feelings of grief and loss while at the centre. Another child’s grandmother is currently in hospital and this child has also explained to us that her grandmother will soon die too, as the doctors have told her family this.
With all of this occurring we have been supporting both children, as well as their peers, by acknowledging the sense of sadness and loss that is often felt at these times and offering understanding and emotional support to the entire family, while encouraging the children to recall some happy memories. We have also been fortunate in being able to draw on the specialist advice of our two social workers at The Infants’ Home when needed, to help us in supporting our children and families.
The children’s discussions about death and, for some, their experiences with funerals and cemeteries, led us to take a walk to St John’s Park, where we were able to have a picnic lunch and wander through the cemetery, giving the children another opportunity to discuss their thoughts and experiences. By providing children with the opportunity to talk, and normalising these discussions and these spaces, we make it clear to children that it is ok to share their feelings, no matter what they are. We found on doing this that almost every child had an experience of death to share. Reading a book called “The memory tree” by Britta Teckentrup, which aims to help children celebrate the memories left behind when a loved one dies, inspired us to create a memory garden in Gorton Preschool. Over the past few weeks, we have been very busily carting soil in wheelbarrows, filling garden beds and planting beautiful plants in honour of many people, named by our children, whom they have lost. The children have spoken with such joy about these special people whilst planting for them, and often again while watering them. On the contrary to being solemn and sad, our children are smiling and laughing as they tell us about their loved ones. We acknowledge the sadness, but we also celebrate the joy of acknowledging and celebrating people that are loved.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar
To continue to follow the children’s interest in literacy experiences, and to extend on their existing language skills we shared the story ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’. This experience also followed on from the children’s enthusiasm about using props as a provocations for learning as we share stories together. The children are familiar with this popular story, and they could help educator Cathy to read it. The children held some food props and a felt caterpillar as we read the story. The children enjoyed matching their food to the illustrations in the picture book. As the children engaged in the experience they were continuing to facilitate the development of their relationships with their peers as they contributed their ideas to the small group discussion and shared the resources. ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ story facilitates the children’s learning in several areas: the text is very simple and repetitive, which helps the children to recall and predict, and promotes their oral communication as they add new words to their vocabulary.
The children in Johnson House preschool celebrated Diwali this week and have been working on a range of art experiences linked to this. Traditional Rangolis (an Indian art form) have been designed and drawn, and the children have been given the opportunity to read stories to learn more about this cultural celebration. The children demonstrated enjoyment as each day the projects were revisited and more knowledge was gained. Such celebrations help to develop the children’s understanding of a range of cultural values and beliefs and help enhance their knowledge of and respect for diversity.
Educator Yi in Murray House infants has been working on developing musical instruments with natural resources to follow on from the children’s interest. The children have been creating music with natural objects from the outdoor area surrounding Murray House. They love singing ‘Inanay’ (which is a Torres Strait Islander nursery rhyme) with the unique instrument that they have found.
This week Yi extended this experience further by making clapping sticks with a group of children, using different colours that symbolise the Aboriginal culture. Children have been enthusiastic about creating marks and lines to cover the entire stick. This experience allowed children to develop their sense of agency and belonging as they participated in music time with their special instrument, as well as learning more about the Aboriginal culture.
Celebrating Diwali at Rigby House
We have several families and staff members who celebrate Diwali at Rigby House, so over the last few weeks, the educators have provided the children with experiences which included us all in preparing for this lovely ‘festival of light’.
The children enjoyed working with clay, learning to make depressions in their small mounds of clay to make ‘diyas’, which are small clay pots to hold our electric candles (in place of real tea lights). The children enjoyed the process of forming the pots and decorating them was lots of fun. At rest time we all enjoyed watching the glow that came from the diyas the children had made.
The children were also involved in making ‘Ladoo’, which is a traditional celebration food. They were busy measuring, counting, pouring, mixing, and observing and discussing all the changes that occurred to the ingredients, till they became Ladoo.
Then, as Diwali drew closer, the educators and children decorated the pathway and entrance to Rigby House with beautiful Rangoli patterns. We all had a very happy Diwali, and this was a lovely way for our young children to become aware of the wonderful diversity and customs in our community.
Family Day Care Sydney Wide
The children at Rachel’s Family Day Care Sydney Wide service have been showing a particular interest in nature and are currently learning about the wonderful world around us. In the past few weeks the children have been inspired by their beautiful natural surroundings and on their daily early morning walk have discovered large trees, twigs, leaves, birds and even found a bird’s nest! Through this shared interest the children have been encouraged to participate in a joint group project which has included developing a nature mural, creating birds and bird watching. The children have also been exploring colour and texture at a craft table, creating colourful birds with real feathers! At this activity Rachel has encouraged the children to develop their understanding of their world alongside as they developed their language skills by asking questions such as “What do you see?” and “What colours do you see?”
Nature exploration can help develop curiosity, wonder and enthusiasm. The aim is for children to develop positive attitudes towards the environment, natural life and our planet!
The children at playgroups this week enjoyed a variety of sensory activities, ranging from sand and rice play to water and jelly play to finger painting and playdough. They were able to explore and have hands-on fun with their parents and friends.