Scéalta – The Early Childhood Ireland Blog

< Back to Blog

An irresistible invitation to learn


Tuesday 11 December 2018

At this time of year, we can get caught up in making and doing and performances. The sentiments in this post apply all year, but this is a timely reminder of the importance of getting silly, the value of laughter and having fun!

I recently attended the Cork Autism Conference and listened with wonder and awe to the speakers, especially Gina Davies, speech and language therapist, Attention Autism Programme. Gina’s talk inspired me to go back to my playschool and discuss it with my colleague Laudine. This talk was relevant to every child, not just those with autism. If we could create an atmosphere like Gina described in our playschool, all our children would benefit in so many ways.

Here are a few of the ideas from Gina’s talk that inspired us:

  • Learning about the world should be because we want to rather than an act of compliance.
  • We want our children to develop a love of learning.
  • We want to have mutual sharing between educator and child.
  • We want to give the children an irresistible invitation to learn.
  • Boredom is very stressful – it makes children want to break the rules and misbehave.
  • We want to make the work fascinating!

So how do we do this? Well, be playful, make it worth the effort and LAUGH!

The laughter is an integral part of the model – laughter builds relationships, improves social skills, contributes to well-being and to good mental health. Gina said “When things get tough, don’t get serious – get silly”!! So now we had the theory, all we had to do was put it into practice. This was not difficult at all. After all, we had a great group of little boys and girls who just adored laughing. Gina told us that the average child laughs 200 times a day and our children were no exception.

One thing we very quickly learned was that when we, the educators, were happy and relaxed and not afraid to laugh, it became infectious and everyone was going around with a smile on their faces. One example is playing in the autumn leaves. Our playschool is out in the country with lots of big trees. Every October, the children spend many happy hours playing in the leaves. But this year was the best fun ever because not only did the children have fun but also the educators and even the parents joined in and everyone laughed together. Such a feeling of joy and happiness radiated from the children and the adults. Nobody wanted to go home – they were all having way too much fun.
We had squeals of delight and unbridled joy as everyone jumped and swam, buried each other, played monsters, made it rain leaves, played “leaf tag” – I could go on and on. Playing in the leaves was an irresistible invitation to learn.

So what did the children learn? They learned to play together, to respect each other’s space, not to be too rough or hurt anyone. They learned to recognise other children’s wishes – not everyone likes to be buried in leaves but some can’t get enough of it! They learned to run, jump, wriggle, throw, they used their arms and legs in all sorts of imaginative ways. They learned to make-believe, role-play, communicate with each other and the adults. They learned about autumn in the process and in a much more fun and meaningful way than sticking leaves on a sheet inside.

Laudine remembered another example of how the children provided their own irresistible invitation to learn. She was in the vegetable garden with some children. At this time of year, the vegetables have been harvested and the garden is just for digging in. Some boys were digging trenches, finding worms and treasure, chatting and laughing and really working up a sweat.

There was a pile of sticks by the hedge which had been used to stake the peas last summer. One boy stuck the sticks into the clay, saying “I’m making a forest”. Earlier that week we had walked to a local wood called Rahin Wood. For the next few days the children could be heard chatting and laughing about how they were planting Rahin Wood and all the fun they were having. “Don’t knock down Rahin Wood”, Laudine heard Shane laugh! These children were learning about their world because they wanted to. Their work was fascinating, they loved what they were doing and there was mutual sharing between educator and children.

Another example of this irresistible invitation to learn was gathering the THOUSANDS of apples during storm Ali. Everyone worked together while singing our autumn songs. A really easy way to learn songs amid a lot of laughing and joy, and a huge sense of achievement.

Returning briefly to what inspired me to provide these opportunities for our children. Another inspirational speaker at the autism conference, Dr. Luke Beardon, talked about how children with Autism have unbelievable senses and can experience sheer joy in processing. In his opinion, this can be mistaken for a sensory dysfunction and neurotypical people cannot have empathy with what it is like. Giving our typically developing children the opportunity to experience their world in a highly sensory and hands-on way can go a long way to help them feel this sense of joy, and in the long run learn to empathise with their peers who have autism. Observing our children at play demonstrates the truth of what Gina said – how being playful is certainly worth the effort, and this enables children to develop a love of learning for life. Learning is a process, not a result and we must value that process.

When adults are enthusiastic, involved and value the process they inspire curiosity in children and learning becomes automatic. They are given an irresistible invitation to learn.

Most important of all – we have all learned to value laughter!


Caitriona Cooney, Happy Days, Kinnegad

0 comments Comments

Leave a Reply

Please Log In to comment:

Mental Health(3) listen(1) Creative(1) Nonverbal(1) Workplace Relations(3) Giraffe(2) Leargas(1) ECCE(6) PIP(1) Dr Mary O'Kane(1) Awards 2018(3) Glitter(2) Siolta blog(2) Equality & Inclusion Guidelines Training(1) toddlers(3) Mud kitchens(1) Time(1) Favouritism(1) Norway(2) Funding(1) Yoga(1) dining experiences(1) Early Years(1) Childcare(2) Home Corner(1) Facebook(1) Irish Childhood Bereavement Network(1) Minister Katherine Zappone(1) National Awards 2018(2) story time(1) Death(1) community(5) Nuturing interactions(1) UNCRC(1) relationships(12) National Holiday(1) Nutrition(1) Cognitive development(1) Flowers(1) Competent(1) National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education(1) Early Years Educators(1) Aldo Fortunati(4) San Minia(1) Inspirational(2) budget(1) ERASMUS+(3) Lego(2) ReCreate(2) Shapes(1) Thinking(1) Inter-generational(1) IGL(1) Awards 2019(1) outdoor play(6) Online(1) Twitter(1) Training(2) Albert Einstein(1) Maternity Leave(1) Patterns(1) Primary School(2) General Data Protection Regulation(1) research(5) Self Help Skills(1) Sustainability(3) Growing up in Ireland(3) Wonder(1) Self-regulation(1) Blocks(1) Social Skills(1) San Miniato(4) Seas Suas(1) Maths Week Ireland(1) Irish Early Years Research & Practice Seminar 2018(1) Engineering(2) Vivian Gussin Paley(1) Sculptures(1) Ceremony(1) Fabric(1) Awards(2) Quality(3) Malaguzzi(1) Pobal sector profile(1) AIM(2) Valentine's Day(3) Maths(4) National Awards 2019(1) Empathy(1) worries(1) planning(1) Visual Impairment(1) Policy(2) curiosity(3) Through the looking glass(1) EM Standing(1) Health(1) Performance Management(1) Running(1) Masterclass(2) Department of Children and Youth Affairs(2) Brain(1) Reggio Children Network(1) Games(1) conversations(1) Magic(1) NAEYC(1) Communications(1) educating(1) Japan(1) Scéalta Blog(78) Challenges(1) Obesity(1) Universal Design(2) Children's Rights(1) Builders(1) Educator of the Year Award(3) Routines(1) Childcare Barometer 2018(1) Teamwork(1) Relaxation(1) Plastic(1) Names(1) Administrative Burden(1) St. Patrick's Day(1) Drawing(2) Motor neuron disease(1) Breathing(2) child-centred approach(1) Degree(1) documentation(2) Adoption(1) Decisions(1) Mathematicians(1) Craft(1) Vertical grouping(1) Magda Gerber(1) Learning Stories(7) MECPI(1) Titles(1) Halloween(2) Communicating(1) Child mental health(1) Family(1) Gardening(1) grandchild(1) National Bereaved Children's Awareness Week(1) ICBN(1) Professionalisation(4) Vietnam(1) Iraq(1) Academic Skills(1) Mindfulness(2) Stress(2) Environment(2) outdoor space(3) Maynooth(1) Shoes(1) Visitors(1) Exploring(1) Traffic Lights(1) Minister for Children and Youth Affairs(1) baby room(1) Learning Story Awards(1) Queues(1) AsIAm(1) Snack Time(1) Celebrate(1) Reggio Emilia(1) scéalta(25) Our Little Seed(1) Traditions(2) Window(1) Story(1) books(4) Music(3) Recycle(1) Santa(2) Orla Kenny(1) Gratitude(1) Easter(1) Inclusion(3) Growing up Outdoors(1) interacting(2) Potential(1) environments(1) Pobal(1) Special Needs Assistants(1) Laugh(1) Christmas Creativity(2) Scents(1) Culture(2) Academics(1) Learning Stories Award(3) Exploring and Thinking(1) pets(1) Rituals(1) National Pyjama Day(1) Decision Making(1) Wilenski(1) Interaction(1) Educator Award - Leader in Practice(1) Upcycling(1) Identity and Belonging(3) animals(2) Inspired Practice Award(5) Behaviour(3) reading(4) Self-Esteem(1) preschool(2) Snacks(1) Arts(1) Annual Conference 2019(1) Workforce(1) Frustrations(1) Map(1) Affordability(1) Kilkenny(1) Community involvement(1) Trick or treat(1) experience(1) transitions(9) Engineers Week(2) Dr. Emer Ring(1) Treasure(1) Independence(1) Aistear(103) Family wall(1) play(29) Montessori & Early Childhood Professionals Ireland(1) mushrooms(1) Policy and Implementation Panel(1) Exercise(1) Research Seminar(1) Xbox(1) Care-giving routines(1) Wesco(1) Oireachtas(1) Early Learning and Care(1) Interests(1) routine(2) Wrapping paper(1) Afghanistan(1) Montessori(2) trust(2) Playdough(1) Italy(1) Rising to the Challenge(2) College(1) risk assessment(1) Engineering Ireland(1) Access and Inclusion Model(2) Síolta(98) Tuscan Approach(2) Aistear Siolta Practice Guide(1) Limerick(1) Employee(1) Exit interview(1) Trade union(1) Mixed age groups(2) Síolta Quality Assurance programme(1) under 3's(3) risky play(2) overhear(1) LINC Award for Leadership in Inclusion(1) First 5 strategy(1) babies(6) Prexit(1) Light table(1) Early Childhood Ireland’s National Early Childhood Research Conference 2019(1) Fantasy play(1) Care routines(1) Winter(1) Autism(3) Syria(1) CPD(1) Playschool(1) Childhood(1) Biting(1) Emergent Curriculum(1) early childhood educator(1) Impact(1) Feeding(1) ECEC(1) University(1) Sustainable(1) learning(15) Buddies(1) Jillian van Turnhout(1) Settling in(2) Deirdre Rogers(1) NCCA(2) Thank you(1) Advocacy(1) Cork(1) Frosty the Snowman(1) STEM(2) TOY Programme(1) Spiders(1) Treasure Chest(1) Photographs(1) UD(1) Síolta QAP(1) Change(1) Penguins(1) Bereavement(1) Irish(1) United Nations(1) Consent(1) Snakes(1) Event Guide(1) Loss(1) Mark Twain(1) education(2) INTO(1) Trigonometry(1) Partnership with Families Innovation Award(1) GDPR(1) Eritrea(1) eating(1) Horizon 2020(1) journey(1) Children's Research Network(1) DCYA(4) Arithmetic(1) Belonging(3) UN(1) outdoors(3) Touch(1) Magnavacchi(1) Grief(1) Early Childhood Care and Education(1) Smiles(1) Painting(1) communication(4) Love(2) Exclusion(1) Laughter(1) dogs(1) Educator - Leader in Practice Award(1) Book Club(2) Budget 2018(1) Celebrations(4) Learning Story(1) stories(2) emotions(2) science week(2) Cork Institute of Technology(1) Positivity(1) Annual Conference 2017(2) science(3) bonds(1) Toby Bears Camping Trip(1) Little Buddies(1) Together Old and Young Programme(1) MA(1) Confident(1) Interactions(1) play stories(1) friendships(1) EECERA 2016(1) ears(1) feisty(1) Technology(2) listening(1) RIE philosphy(1) Wendy Lee(2) memories(1) Graduation(1) Early Childhood Ireland National Awards(1) Mayo(1) Performing(1) Ariana Pucci(1) Imagination(3) Well-Being(6) Body Language(1) Sport(1) Trade Unions(1) maternity health(1) Qualifications(1) Maths Week(1) Pen green(1) Mo Scéal(1) refugees(1) Diversity(1) Maynooth University(1) Supernanny(1) Learning journals(1) Anxiety(2) blog(28) Kerry(1) dublin(2) development(8) Socioemotional development(1) curriculum(5) Jenga(1) Storytelling(2) Appreciation(1) christmas(8) Creativity(4) First 5(1) The Jelly King(1) Meal time(1) Line-ups(1) emotional environment(1) Mealtimes(1) Workplace well-being(1) Investment(1) National Council for Curriculum and Assessment(1) Recycling(2) Maria Montessori(1) Margy Whalley(1) Weather(1) Inter-generational learning(1) risk(2) Arlene Forster(1) Role play(1) supportive environments(1) Buddy Bench(1) dining(1) meals(3) Leprechauns(1) Dance(1) Sequins(1) UN Sustainable Development Goals(1) Valerie Gaynor(1) SPICE Framework(1) Party(1) Meet the Members(1) Capable(1) Sweets(1) Reggio(1) Certificate(1) Research Conference 2019(1) Mantra(1) respect(4) Art(6) food(1) Sociodramatic play(1) CIT(1) Thanks(1) Graduate(1) educarer(1) Early Learning and Care Centres(1) social media(1) Mount Everest(1) Children(1) role playing(1) Design(1) Educators(1) early years research(1) Time Out(1) Budget 2019(2) The Lullaby Book(1) parents(5) Identity(4) linc(1) Kids Own(1) Plants(1)


Site maintained and developed by Cloud Nine