The Teddy Bear Factory
Do you remember playing with your favourite childhood toy or teddy bear?
One of the simplest ways for children to engage in play is interacting with a favourite teddy bear. This imaginative play with a teddy bear allows the child to think creatively, develop communication skills and practise social interactions, in addition to providing a feeling of comfort and safety, aiding their emotional development. Winnicott says teddys are about more than just comfort: “They lead to play which is fundamental to the development of a healthy mind”. Inspired by this type of play, I suggested a new activity to the kindergarten students called, The Teddy Bear Factory. The goal of this extended activity was to create their own teddy while applying new skills and understandings about their five senses to this task
The Teddy Bear Factory started with the students talking about their favourite teddy bear. This motivated them to share their personal knowledge, starting the creative process by thinking, reflecting and reasoning before creating their teddy bears.
I asked guiding questions to help them visualise and shape their teddy bear in their minds. After working on this mental image, the children began to draw independently. As part of this process, they were able to reflect on their original design and change it as many times as they wanted until they achieved their desired vision. As Paulo Freire said, "Learning is a process where knowledge is presented to us, then shaped through understanding, discussion and reflection."
Sense of Sight
As this unit focused on exploring our five senses, the next step of this project was to experiment with sight and the colours that we can see and enjoy. I made extra copies of their final drawings so they could experiment with a wide range of designs using different colour patterns. The students were also encouraged to experiment with colours they hadn't tried before that were not their favourites. This part of the process helped them to open their mind to a range of creative options, leading them to a satisfying personal colour palette.
Through their feedback, I learned that although they loved to use their favourite colours, they were also excited to share when they used colours that deviate from their normal selection. They were risk-takers when they used colours that they never used before, and they enjoyed experimenting with different possibilities. The children learned that there was more than one way of doing things. The act of designing and adding colours to their teddy bear plan encouraged their imagination as they also began to give personalities to their teddies.
Sense of Touch
From the colours selected in the children's drawings, I gathered a wide range of cloth scraps with different textures that the students could experiment with. Some were velvety, shiny, rough, soft, and so on. The students used their senses to choose materials continuing the design process. First, they looked for the material in the colours they had on their design. Then they touched different textures of cloth to find the perfect personal ones for their teddy. They were all curious to touch, explore and compare different textures from the materials that would add unique characteristics to their teddy.
Sense of Smell
In this stage, the children chose a distinctive smell for their teddy. This started with a discussion of the students’’ favourite and least favourite smells. The discussions gave space for a relaxed conversation where they laughed and made interesting comparisons. They all made personal discoveries; some students liked the smell of flowers and some didn’t, others liked the smell of egg and some enjoyed the smell of durian. From this discussion, I found some essential oils for them to choose from and add a few drops inside their teddies.
Sense of Hearing
To help the students inquire into sound, I presented them with different materials that produced sounds that they could use on their teddy bears. After interacting with the materials, some students chose the sounds that would add characteristics to their teddy,while others chose to have a ‘silent’ teddy. One student chose to stuff her bunny’s ears with a crinkly plastic material that created sound, giving the teddy the power of “being a good listener”. Other students chose to experiment with other sounds, by using the crunchy sound of rice on their teddy’s feet or jingle bells in the teddy’s arms.
Sense of Taste and a world of imaginative play
The project was celebrated with a Teddy Bear Picnic, where students were able to appreciate their sense of taste and enjoy playtime with their special teddy. This activity gave room for extended imaginative play and allowed the students to introduce their new teddy to the rest of the group. It encouraged collaboration and conversation while they shared their teddies' names and interests. Later, the kids introduced their teddys to the school community, also sharing a booklet with information and pictures about each step they took to make their cuddly best friend and all the learning experiences they had and creative choices they made
Coming back to the classroom gave us all a feeling that the project had come to an end, but it also represented the start of a new play adventure as the students began to play with one another, taking turns and sharing their teddies. A new learning experience had just begun, giving room for them to communicate, enjoy make-believe play, and develop their social-emotional interactions. “It is playing and just playing that the individual child or adult is able to be creative and use the whole personality, and it is only by being creative that the individual discovers himself.”― Donald Woods Winnicott, Playing and Reality
My role as a teacher in this process was to observe and identify the type of play the children were enjoying the most, then, extend this play in a way that would be connected to the five senses unit, offering opportunities for them to learn throughout the process. It was important to listen and support them in the development of their ideas. They were offered ongoing reflections during the process, and were free to explore their creativity in different directions. As Loris Malaguzzi wrote in his book, The Hundred Languages of Children; "Creativity seems to emerge from multiple experiences, coupled with a well-supported development of personal resources, including a sense of freedom to venture beyond the known."
The final product of The Teddy Bear Factory play was meaningful and reflected well their potential to construct their knowledge. As Jean Piaget says, “Children should be able to do their own experimenting and their own research. Teachers, of course, can guide them by providing appropriate materials, but the essential thing is that in order for a child to understand something, he must construct it himself, he must reinvent it. Every time we teach a child something, we keep him from inventing it himself. On the other hand that which we allow him to discover by himself will remain with him visibly for the rest of his life.” - Jean Piaget, Play and Development: A Symposium
In education, we talk a lot about students as agentic learners, and this project gave them voice, choice, and ownership of their learning. In the end, no teddy bear looked the same and they all had different personalities. Through this experience, the children were able to explore the five senses and use them to make choices to create their teddy bear.
Play-based learning is at the heart of our early childhood education philosophy at Chatsworth International School. Chatsworth is distinguished by its play-based kindergarten curriculum, which emphasises what students learn and how they learn it. Here, both child-initiated and teacher-supported learning are included in our play-based approach. Our teachers can help foster a love of learning in young children that will carry throughout their education.
To find out more, feel free to contact us, visit our campus and enrol your child into Chatsworth to see what our international school has to offer. Learn more about how play-based learning inspires our youngest learners today.
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