So, what are you doing for Valentines Day? How is Valentine’s Day represented in your emergent curriculum? This blog is aimed at helping educators to ‘stop and think’ to ensure that this ‘event’ does not turn into a production line for adult driven cutesy arts and crafts that don’t mean a hoot to the child.

 Stop and think

In preparation for the inclusion of a Valentine’s topic (or any topic), firstly start from where children are at. Ask yourself:

  • Do the children have a sense of Valentine’s Day?
  • What does Valentine’s Day mean to them?
  • Which learning themes and goals within your emergent curriculum drive this topic?
  • How can you utilise Valentine’s Day as a vehicle to relay meaningful dispositions and attitudes to children?

Wasting time

Now let’s look at what NOT to do. Here are some examples of Valentine’s Day adult led craft. Let’s critique the 6 things that the Heart Wreath, Love Bug, Love Tree and the Strawberry Heart all have in common.

  1. The adult cut all the perfect heart shapes – ensuring they were the correct size.
  2. The adult chose the materials
  3. The adult cut circles for eyes and tree branches
  4. The adult directed and ensured that all pieces were stuck in the right places
  5. The adult made a keepsake gift for parents
  6. The adult wasted precious time that they cannot spare.

 

 So how can you incorporate Valentine’s Day into a meaningful broad-based emergent plan?  

Alternatively, why not use this ‘event’ as a provocation for child well-being, relationships, interactions, and positive dispositions. The wider focus has the holistic potential of enabling the child to know they are loved, how to express emotions and feelings and understanding the feelings of others.

Nurturing dispositions and attitudes such as self-image, kindness, caring, responsibility, emotions and empathy should be central to learning aims. By all means use heart shapes as provocations, but ensure children get the opportunity to convey their own interpretation of this – not yours.

Compile your emergent curriculum plan with all your children’s emerging interests and needs to the fore. For the sake of this blog, lets consider a ‘Hearts and Hugs’ topic.

In delivering an emergent curriculum, the children’s interests and support needs come first, the chosen topic is just the vehicle you deliver this through’

 

MOSAIC Emergent Planning

 

 Provocations and Loose Parts are the key to enabling the child to process meaningful engagement with the topic and take what he/she needs to make it meaningful to them. Why? Because children can choose, make decisions and self-direct their own experiences.

Use heart shaped provocations or prompts in the environment outdoors and indoors. Decorate with pictures, pipe cleaner shapes, heart wreaths, balloons, etc. Refer to these during discussions or reflections and sing songs and rhymes that bring what these objects symbolise to life for children.

Provide a variety of loose parts to enable children to choose, create and experiment. Ask them what they would like to make and what materials would they like to use. For some it will be paint, others will choose loose parts, some may paint a pebble and others still it will be a drawing in chalk outdoors.

This is one of the many advantages of using technology like MOSAIC Educator (www.mosaicearlyed.com)  to document children’s work. It doesn’t have to be a ‘product’ to send home, it can be a heart shaped finger drawing in the sand. Each creation is as valuable as the other – each one unique to the child’s level of understanding and chosen representation.

Encourage children to look for heart shaped stones outside which they can paint and decorate. Provide open ended materials to make cards and add these to your role play ‘Gift Shop’.

Make a group ‘Heart Map’ for the wall – encouraging children to draw something/one that they love on the map. This could be anything from a pet to a grandparent and everything in between! Use the map as an activity for group discussion and individual sustained shared thinking.

Get children to share their stories about their understanding of love and kindness – listen to what they have to say. Use technology in a meaningful way by recording the child’s authentic voice in a short video message for someone they care about.

 

Be a multi-coloured heart

In summary, Valentine’s Day can be much more than a series of meaningless cutesy, product driven activities.  It is an opportunity to hook children’s interests and needs to something that they may see in their community or home environment in February each year. The production of a generic card or picture will offer minimal and short lived benefit to children.

Instead, use annual events like Valentine’s Day as a topic that nurtures life-long dispositions and learning, interweaved through emergent, inquiry-based activities starting from where the child is at.  It’s always preferable to be a misshapen, multicoloured heart than a perfectly round-eyed strawberry.

 

 

 

 

About the Author:

Avril McMonagle is Founder and CEO of MOSAIC Digital Solutions for Early Education which provides a range of child centred digital products, training and quality compliance supports for early childhood services and stakeholders.  The company flagship products are the MOSAIC Educator and MOSAIC Family Apps which offer multi-modal documentation and assessment tools for professional educators. For more see www.mosaicearlyed.com; email [email protected] and follow us on social media @mosaicearlyed