Fringe Activities

There are some materials, techniques and procedures which, allowing for a fair degree of skill on the part of the individual using them, could be used creatively. These would include cutting out and pasting, making and using papier mache, sewing, using templates. They are useful for small children but under-fives are unlikely to be able to do more than learn to handle the materials involved. It would be at a much later age that their skill and confidence would allow them to be really creative. The main value of such activities at this stage would be the input rather than the output factor – learning to use the tools, learning about materials, learning how to control the use they can make of adhesives, developing manipulative skill.

Summary some children who lack confidence, ideas and interest in brush painting need materials and activities which provide another framework within which to create.

Needs careful supervision until experience and familiarity enables children to control the mess themselves.

Taking prints is a valuable extension of this activity, particularly for older children.

Can be a foolproof way of achieving a pleasing result.

Allows a child to stand back and be critical of the result without his own ability being in question.

Adults can help children tactfully by providing interesting materials.

Making printed patterns requires control and encourages a natural discipline.

Success and interest will depend on the materials the adult supplies.

Providing the right adhesive for each stage is important.

Is attractive to children at every age and stage.

Can lead to a good deal of learning if it is properly introduced, presented and followed up.

Does not necessarily involve the use of a cooker. . 8. Providing for Pre-Learning Skills

Pre-learning skills is a clumsy term. It is a convenient rather than explicit heading under which to lump all the learning and development which must be achieved before a child is ready or able to apply himself to the more formal methods and defined tasks of ‘proper’ learning which he will encounter at sometime during his first years at school. To take the widest possible view, he will need the experience and knowledge that arises from exploring, manipulative skill, hand-eye coordination, perceptual abilities, language and communication competence, memory, concentration, being able to make judgements, being able to make a choice, knowledge of cause and effect, being able to meet frustration with reasonable equanimity on one hand and persistence on the other, and of course motivation. Thus everything that a child does, or does not do, plays some part in what he has to bring to a formal learning situation.

Many of the activities already described under other headings would fit here too. Others which have not been mentioned fit here rather than anywhere else. They include matching and fitting games, using bricks and construction sets, sorting, grading, developing and reinforcing concepts, extending language. As already suggested earlier, specific exercises are of no use unless they contain a fun element which makes them play rather than work. One can make children carry out tasks or – to be more accurate — make them go through the motions. This achieves nothing except resistance or, even worse, a sense of failure. Neither of these reactions is desirable. They can only lead to a poor attitude to learning which will persist long after the early struggle has been forgotten. This is why there has been a long tradition within nursery-school education of providing for free choice from a wide variety of activities and materials, so that each child can be considered as an individual, and of positively not doing any formal teaching of the three’ R’s. Formal teaching is at best inappropriate to this age group and is a waste of good play- r ing time. At worst it can be positively damaging. Nevertheless children of this age are’ learning’ more and faster than they ever will again. The skill of the teacher lies in making it possible for children to learn.