Playing with Lego to Spark a Story

By June O'Sullivan

| 19 December 2018

If you are willing to be led by children's curiosity, then you find yourself wandering down many new learning paths. My 12-year-old nephew shifted my knowledge of Lego onto a new plane last week when he introduced me to the Lego Story. I discovered (what I should have known) that Lego is Latin for the words "ability to play well". What a brilliant strapline for a toy company which created a play system that allows children to meld their ability and imagination into their own fantasy world.

Recently, we were delighted to meet professor Paul Ramchandani who chaired our Margaret Horn debate. He has a wonderful job title - professor of play sponsored by the Lego Foundation.

I think my nephew was rather taken by the possibility that this could be a job and readily agreed to help me explore how we might use Lego to prompt new stories. We devised story spark where we could use a scenario made from Lego to support the children's play. I suspect our Soho nursery will make a film and star David from Weir Link Nursery who already makes fantastic teaching resources using the Lego people.

The Lego word describing the ability to play well requires staff to understand the science of play. During recent training sessions, I was surprised by how few recently qualified staff had learned the basics about the science of play. Their knowledge was lacking from the basic stages of play to the seminal works of Janet Moyles.

Sadly, I am no longer shocked about what students are not being taught. It is sad for them so as an employer I am refreshing their knowledge of pedagogy which includes how children learn and how we teach, and the science of play is key.

I may be old fashioned, but I think to be a good teacher you need to know stuff, so you can apply it to practice. Knowing one without the other is like separating the ying from the yang.

It's also crucial that staff can push back at policies that are crushing young children by demanding school readiness far too early. Being able to articulate how we all need to help children play well if they are to learn well can only happen if staff are knowledgeable and confident.

Read Guy Claxton's book Educating Ruby for some an insight into this.

June O'Sullivan is chief executive of London Early Years Foundation. This blog first appeared on the LEYF website

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