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Sunday 5 September 2010

Oh to be a seven year old in a world of pink and princesses

What a lovely mess

The excitement of first real friends for little ones

The first school year came to a very successful end for the children from our afternoon group and with it came for those children that lovely feeling of having made some real friends at last. Now as school holidays draw to a close, as well as there being that chill in the morning air there is that anticipation and the excitement of seeing those friends again when term begins.

That is the new world that Princess Littlie and Jolly Professor have joined with their peers, and they love every minute of it.

The importance of dreams

One day last week I was working with Princess Littlie and despite the joy that she has in her new school and friends, she was actually dreaming of being somewhere and someone else. She was dreaming not of meeting her school friends again, but of being a real princess! Perhaps she was dreaming that all her new friends were princes and princesses too, but she did not tell me that much about her fantasy world!

I think Littlie thought that I could read her mind as she agreed with me when I asked about her day dreams and went on to tell me that the princess she was building with me was to have the same name as herself, and the same colour hair and eyes as she has. She would make a pink dress for the princess to wear just like the dress that Mum had bought for her in Disneyworld!

“Yes”, she told me she was dreaming of life as a real princess. “No more logopedics, no more afternoons of “Petö”". Just days filled with pretty pink dresses, gorgeous floaty hair, and magic.

She wished for some time when hands do as they are told, time when she did not ask why and how we need to learn this and that, and why there is the need to use both hands to sew! Just a little bit of time when being too small and too wobbly and dis-coordinated did not prevent her independence. She wished for time when everything is pink and magical, in the world that seven-year-olds dream of!

I cannot magic away the speech problems or the movements that do not always allow independent activity, but I can make our holiday time “Petö” a bit more Butlin’s Holiday Campish!

I can make it a bit pinker, I can make it lots of fun. I can introduce lots of new things. We can play in a make-believe world of whatever takes a seven-year-old’s fancy.

And you know it was not only the make-believe world of princesses that was magical: it was those two days of independence when Littlie walked between home and “Petö” alone:

Not summer camps but a jolly Butlin’s Holiday Camp style atmosphere

Our new school children, who were until 2009 our Kindergarten children, have successfully brought their first year of school to a close. School was out for summer but they still wanted a Petö project for the holidays!

There was no survival-style camp for them, that was not what they and they families wanted, with other holidays organised with parents, siblings and grandparents. They need a break from their daily “Petö” as much as they do from school. Two of them chose to take up my offer of not exactly a summer-camp but a chance to do something a bit more adventurous, or a bit different from usual. They could come to me whenever they wished when they were not away with their families at the seaside or on a farm.

They knew that we would have time to make messy and really sticky models, to play games, read English books, run and walk, ride bikes and just to explore their capacities in many different situations. Simply - we had more time for a lot more fun, time to experience good team work, and time to share many new ideas.

Two of them took up the offer

The children’s family holidays and their times spent at home did not coincide with each other so they both spent a week with me on their own. Both children, although they are tremendous friends, were actually happy with how things turned out. Both loved it, we all worked hard and we all moved forwards in leaps and bounds, learning tons of new things from each other. They both said how much they enjoyed working alone with me for a few days.

The pirate and the princess

The Jolly Professor was with me for a week at the very beginning of the holidays. He had told his mum that he needed to come because he wanted to build his walk-in pirate cupboard that would take exactly four days to do. He was right. You can read about him here:

Then there was the Princess Littlie who was with me last week. It was Princess Littlie who had her day of independence last Thursday! The same littlie who dreams of pink and princesses.

Princess Littlie took one look at the Jolly Prof’s pirate and asked “What is that?” Before I could reply she had made it very clear that she would spend her week making a Princess!

I know how long such things take and a life-size princess would be just impossible in five days, so I suggested a smaller scale than the pirate. It now stands about thirty inches tall.

As the Jolly Prof. had given me a few weeks' warning about his planned project I had been given some time to gather all the ingredients! When I had asked Princess at the same time what she would like to do during the holiday she did not really know, so I had planned some other creative work for us.

I was quite taken by surprise when this littlie had taken just one look at the pirate and decided that she would have a messy paper-mâché week too. Luckily, there were still materials left over from the pirate project and, as she knew from the start that I would do my utmost to fulfil her wishes, I waved my wand and magic’d all we needed, chicken wire, the wire cutters and leather gloves from the cellar. We did the project I had planned for a couple of days before embarking on the papier-mâché work.

Our Princess

This is the first child who has done paper mâché with me who has been up to her arms and knees and next in wall-paper past. Most of them put up with it for a short time then want to wash the stickiness away. Not this little girl. She was right in there, getting stuck in, stirring and ripping, then pasting and sticking. She motivated me I motivated her and we worked fast and got finished in time.

What a mess!

One of the nicest moments of the whole project was when she indicated right at the end that she thought that she needed a bucket of water to clean herself up in, which she did all alone while I de-glued myself and the floor. Then I turned around to see her spotlessly clean giving her sticky princess one last hug!

Discoveries, observations and planning ahead

When we discussed it at the end of the week it was amazing to discover how much we had learnt. Not only during this week but over the past year, and to see how much we had to show for our fifteen hours together.

I am always surprised, but I suppose should not be after all these years of practice, how a week of doing fun things together really does show us how independent our children have become. I can observe so much during these activities that shows me what the children have learnt over a longer period of time and how they are bursting with their own ideas, activity and wishes. It was wonderful to see the joy that it brought to these children as they saw the results of the year of hard work in all aspects of their lives.

I also use the observations that I made during this Butlin’s holiday-camp-style week to start planning for next year. I begin to plan projects for all the children in the group, for the next steps in their developmental processes, within the Petö session, at home and at school.

The “Everything that Mummy should know” list

Little Princess's very long list of achievements, both long term and recent, included:

A princess with her arms positioned, as requested in the nick-of-time before she dried out, just exactly right for a big hug!

A few English words and some painted underwear (to be featured in a later posting)

Many steps taken without a rolator

Three walks between home and Petö with a rolator but with no one else nearby.

Washing alone.

Learning how paper mâché works

Lots of singing and talking, learning how to get someone’s attention with a loud word, and not by stamping feet on a box, and discovering that the other children understand if time is taken to get their attention.

Sewing a bag using two hands, after insisting it was not possible!

Painting with head held in the middle, not always resting it on an arm.

Holding a big, slippery, heavy, glue-filled paintbrush, in tiny athetoid hands.

Sitting on the floor threading a necklace with both hands.

Standing up against the wall, lifting one foot at a time while splints are put on by someone else.

Conquering a fear of water, jumping in the pool and swimming four metres with a swim noodle (a very long narrow tube of floaty material)

The list was long and Littlie was delighted with it, as I expect were Mum, Dad, brother, grandmas and grand-dads, all of whom play an important role in the life of a seven-year-old princess.

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