The kindergarten children have discovered a new land…
They have traversed, explored, surveyed and mapped the labyrinth- strolling, walking, striding, marching, jumping, crawling and rolling over the rugged terrain- over hills and mountains, through valleys and ravines, forests and jungles, crunching over frosty artic tundra and wading through dewy streams.
They have unearthed important ancient archeological artifacts: coins, buttons, stones, crystals, sweet wrappers, pottery, wax and other treasures; discovered and studied native inhabitants: birds, beetles, spiders and ants and have even found evidence of a new species- the fast-food-fox.
Outside play is transformed: from running up and down, racing, shouting, screaming and chasing to play that is at once more purposeful and more imaginative, more thoughtful and more co-operative. There is more pottering too. The play feels more held, the children are relaxed and at ease here. They are settling themselves in- building dens, fairy houses and nests, staking their claim, making their mark, hanging their hats from the trees.
The labyrinth has provided a long ramble in the country, in a small urban space, offering possibilities for the type of physical play, movement and exercise that is so vital to healthy development:
‘It is important for a young child to have opportunities to say “YES” to physical challenges. By being physical the child is stimulated in her curiosity and she can discover her surroundings. By exploring the body’s challenges and possibilities the child gets to know itself. From very early on it is important for children to have opportunities to go for long walks and become inspired by their natural surroundings and experience the changing seasons. It is essential to let children crawl, jump, dance, play with mud and so on. All these things help children to develop and give them a natural confidence. Movement helps children to test and know themselves better. This way a child can meet other children in inspiration, in play and in care for each other.’
Janni Nicol, quoting Helle Heckmann, Kindling: The Journal for Steiner Waldorf Early Childhood Care and Education (UK) Autumn/Winter 2011
Adults and children view the form, scale and function of the labyrinth differently. For us it is a man-made path that we walk on festivals, a bit difficult to get round with our big feet, especially in wellies, and perhaps a nuisance to maintain. The children do not see it as an entire structure, and for them it does not have a set purpose, a correct route, a beginning or an end, or even a fixed size. It can be huge for them- or tiny, microcosm or universe. As it changes with the seasons it both sustains and shifts their interest. It is different every day- a different world every day. They do not know why it is there, or how it came about, and they don’t ask.
Perhaps inspired by the labyrinth, or by watching the school children re-shape the garden, the children have been making beautiful, intricate arrays and patterns of their own, from objects that they have found ‘lying around’ (thank you Harriet!)- twigs, pinecones, logs, hay, and of course, mud- creating sculptures that are Andy Goldsworthy-worthy.
They have also started to tunnel…
by Jacqui Armour, Kindergarten assistant.