My nursery recently took part in the NDNA's 'Healthy Body Happy Me' week, where the children were able to access a huge range of activities that were linked to a healthy lifestyle. As part of these activities, the children were able to take part in many outdoor experiences: one of which included toasting marshmallows over a camp fire!
This was a very popular activity with the children who immediately took it into their free play and began building their own pretend camp fires out of sticks, leaves and anything else that they could get their hands on!
Now in my nursery, we have covered the usual 'people who help us' angle of learning about fire and fire-fighters so we decided that, in keeping with the children's interests, and to allow us link in with the curriculum for excellence, we would have a fire safety week!
Some of the my favourite activities included:
- Building a fantastic fire engine that the children can climb in and out of.
- Creating our own small world 'burning town' out of cardboard boxes and fire coloured tissue paper - complete with paper characters and a Fireman Sam to rescue them.
- Mark making and practising writing related words such as 'emergency' and '999'.
- Going on a hunt around the nursery to discover our smoke detectors.
- Continuing this learning at home as we took a picture or noted down where our smoke detectors can be found.
- Many discussions about how to keep ourselves and others safe in an emergency.
- Reading many fire-fighter stories.
- Painting a life sized Fire fighter and discussing his uniform, why he wears it and what materials it may be made from.
Now, all of this adult lead learning is great, but it's impossible to know how much of it is sinking in and being processed. That is, until you observe their free play, which is exactly what I did...
The children were outside in the garden. They had worked hard to build a den and furnished it with tables, chairs and a tea set. The girls set about having their tea party while one boy was busy sweeping the floor ("I'm the cleaning man"), and another boy used a toy hammer to 'fix' each side of the den.
Suddenly one of the children started making a horrible screaching sound! I wondered what on earth was going on and was about to intervene (thank goodness I didn't) when I heard another child call "That's the smoke alarm! Everyone go outside!"
Each child hurried out of their den and stood outside. One little girl held her hand to her ear and said "999! Fireman come fast, there's a fire!" and I heard a voice from the other side of the decking (another boy who was involved in the game) call "I'll be there soon!"
The children waited patiently until the boy who was previously the 'cleaning man' decided to go inside. The children all called "No, no! It's on fire!" but the boy said confidently "It's ok, I've got my special jacket on! I can put away the fire." He then proceeded to use his broom as if it were a hose and waved it around the den. He was joined by the other little boy from across the decking (who was also pretending to be a fireman), and had brought a bucket full of leaves which he told us was the water.
When the boys had finished they said to their friends "It's all done now" and everyone went back inside and continued to play.
What fantastic evidence that they children know and understand what to do in the event of a fire! They also show that they understand the role of the fire fighter and how a fire fighter can help to put out the fire.
They used the new language that we had introduced (i.e. smoke alarm) and not only that but there was also wonderful imaginative skills, resourcefulness and interactions between children!
This observation reminded me that the children are never JUST playing! They are always deepening their understanding, exploring new situations, practising new skills and working out what comes next.
How lucky we are to be a part of this process!