When I started work again today, I was reminded of Judit Szathmary’s latest posting, about the joy of team work when it works.
One of the things that I find most inspiring about this work is that, although we go in with lots of material prepared for the children to work with, we are always distracted from this and led on to new things by the children’s own ideas and words. The nicest thing is that my colleague is as spontaneous as I am. She goes with the flow and we all go with her. We end up with some wonderful stories and some gorgeous art work, and some great successes. Most of all there is tons of fun and laughter.
There is nearly always one child in the group with a passion for toys, one who brings a different “favourite” to show us every day. Sometimes children arrive with the toy hidden somewhere about their clothing so we have to search for it, sometimes it is grasped tightly in a small hand.
I have worked with conductors who insist that personal toys stay safe and sound in the owner's rucksack. I don’t do this as we get so much fun out of these toys and the children are thrilled when the toys get names and life-histories, and sometimes the toys end up finding new friends in other children’s toys.
We use these toys, on and off, all day long it helps to get the children communicating with each other. It all helps to make the day enjoyable for everyone.
When we need a break from them the toys get on with their lives. They go shopping, have a sleep, go to school or on holiday. When they return they get to tell us all about their purchases, their dreams, what they have learnt or their adventures.
One day I changed. I learnt. Now I tell stories
I used to think think I was not very good at story-telling but that changed. Two things happened. I started writing and I also started to work with littlies. I also work with a colleague who is absolutely brilliant at the spontaneous creation of stories and play. I have learnt so much from her.
I have got so good at this now that I can do it even when I work alone! Dr Hári would have a word for this, probably "orthofunction"!
Was it a working holiday? No, it was a complete rest, but…
As I have described, I have been on holiday. It was a holiday so different to those I am used to. In some ways I did nothing, I didn't even have a book with me to read, but I nevertheless spent the week learning. I learnt so much and I also got to put my new-found, story-telling skill into practice.
One afternoon after Kindergarten I had remained in the car with the children while my friend went to print some photographs. The photo-job was one that needed one-hundred-percent concentration, not just the bit left over while watching over two children in a shop.
I offered the children to tell them one of the many stories that I keep in my head. I actually don’t have many complete stories permanently in my head, they appear only at the moment that I begin to tell them. To start them I need just a few words from my audience. I suppose that it works in much the same way as improvised theatre.
This time my starting point came from my little friend in the car. It was the name of a tiny, blue, bouncing creature. This turned out to be a Böbbel, a friend of children, with mini feet.
We went on to discover that, despite having tiny feet and hands, Böbbels can bounce as high as a car, they sometimes live in a bakery, and often go home with children hidden in the Brezen that they have bought. There can be up to three Böbbels in one Breze!
We learnt that late one evening, having gone home with the children in their bread, one of these Böbbels bounced into a dustbin. Despite his greatest efforts he just could not bounce back out again because the heavy lid had closed behind him. Nobody heard the calls for help so here the Böbbel remained all night, wrapped up as cosily as he could get in a relatively clean paper napkin. Of course he was rescued early the next morning when the first breakfast banana-skin fell on his head. He was soon able to bounce out, really stinky, and in need of a bath, but full of life.
Böbbel was a hit
That is not surprising when the story came from my little friend and I just added the words in between.
I succeeded in holding the fort in the car for long enough for Mum to get her photos printed. The story was a hit, though unfortunately Mum was in the bad books for quite a while after for not letting Littlie go with her.
The Böbbels got really angry on the journey home but outwardly not the Littlie! Mum told Littlie that the Böbbels had gone away to play on a cloud until all was peaceful and it was time to come back to play with him again. Soon all was OK with the world, both ours and the Böbbel’s.
Not only was the story a success in the car it led to a few nice, quiet moments back home. At these moments when as I sat with my crayons and paper in front of me, I would feel a littlie with a cosy orange cushion squeezing on to my lap so that he could watch as I drew the pictures to go with his stories.
The wiggly lines, caused by the wriggly child on my lap, remain in the pictures, to remind me of those cosy moments. The car on the window-sill and the trucks on the clouds are special requests from the new-found friend sitting on my lap.
I plan a book of Böbbels for my little friend’s next birthday with text in English (from me) and German (from his Mum)!
I have no idea how I will do this technically, but first things first. In the photographs at the top of this posting you will see the first attempts at the illustrations.
Breze/Brezen – a small twisted piece of bread that you often see gripped tightly in a baby’s fist. They are most common in Bavaria where the best tasting Brezen are to be found!