You remember I’ve mentioned Elizabeth Jarman before from Communication Friendly Spaces? I’ve followed her for a good while on Facebook. She is a consultant who works with Nurseries, schools and other childcare settings to create optimum conditions for learning. And I WISH she’d been working with my daughter’s school when she went because BOY! does she understand kids!! Especially kids like my Elizabeth who is on the spectrum.
I emailed Elizabeth Jarman (or EJ to differentiate her from my Elizabeth!) a couple of months ago with a link to my blog (I don’t like spamming the blog address on people’s Facebook walls, just my own!) to see what she thought of the garden since I’ve been working on it because I really respect her opinion. Anyway, she offered me a free place on one of her practitioner courses and when I said I couldn’t make it due to breastfeeding commitments she said she would come over personally and see us. 🙂
Well she spent a couple of hours with us and asked me lots of questions about the children and our home education style. She met the children and had a good look at the garden and the spaces in our home before coming up with some really fantastic ideas I hadn’t thought of. The spaces in our home have to work really hard for example our living room (which used to be a room for chilling out and watching TV in when the kids were in school) is now a learning room, a play room, a TV room, a room where we do yoga, play xbox, make hide-outs, have music lessons… and every room has to work just as hard! We have to use the space and be able to put away in-between activities so we have to be very organised plus the children need to be able to change the space themselves to suit their plans because I can’t do EVERYTHING! 🙂
She gave me a couple of really helpful books and a lovely bag of goodies with items to make tents and hide-outs inside…I’ll tell you about those in my next post because the children have stolen the contents of the bag so I need everything back then I can take pictures to show you! 🙂
I will tell you her ideas now and then I’ll expand on them as I do them so that you can see them with pictures as I tick them off the list!
1) She said I could make more use of the front garden, which gets the sun…I’ve been given some stepping stones from a Freegler which EJ said would be good in the front garden and she also suggested I utilise some logs to make a shady picnic area under one of the trees. So watch this space!
2) I mentioned that I was thinking of getting some hens and she commented that these would be very educational…I used this to convince Paul to let us get them and he said yes!
3) I told her about my water wall idea and she commented that for my age of children it would be better to offer the children the resources to make their own water play by giving them lengths of drainpipe and guttering and letting them get on with it rather than fixing them so that they can’t be moved. I really like this plan because it also makes use of the embankments. I also like the idea that it’s less prescriptive and allows them to change it each time so that they are less likely to get bored. I mentioned I was thinking of making some ramps for cars and she said the guttering would double up for this.
4) She also suggested a water feature (one of those which reuses water) to create a peaceful area
5) Imogen has requested that we plant some soft bushes at the bottom of the slide so that she can slide between and through them at the bottom and when I told EJ she came up with a brilliant suggestion that I could utilise a willow structure to protect the children from the plants and we could encourage the plants to grow over it, creating a tunnel. When I mentioned this to Imogen she was thrilled with the idea! I am not allowed to put any fencing up around the front garden (it’s to do with the contract we signed when we bought the property) but I’m thinking I could make use of some willow structures out there as well to create a little bit of a more secluded area because it is quite open to the rest of the cul-de-sac and whilst I don’t want to block off the street (the kids play happily with the neighbours children) it would be nice to make it a little bit more enclosed.
6) I explained to EJ that my Elizabeth liked to be alone and to find private spaces for herself and one of her suggestions was to provide the children with tyres. I had thought of utilising tyres in the garden for them to climb on, perhaps burying them in the ground and leaving part exposed for climbing etc but EJ’s idea was totally different: she explained that a tyre makes a fantastic space for one child. They can put a blanket or cushion inside and there physically isn’t enough space for another person which means that they are buffeted from ‘others’ and can find peace in their own protected space. I thought this was brilliant, I think all the children would appreciate this especially if I hid them in-between the bushes for added private space!
7) I bought a second hand climbing frame a couple of months ago which is a really excellent structure and in the resource bag there is an absolutely HUGE piece of black net fabric and some clamps to fix it with so I am going to make that available so that the children can cover that and get inside.
8) EJ suggested providing some more natural objects such as shells, big rocks, pebbles, cones etc for the children to collect and play with so I am going to see if I can source some and will leave them in the front garden to add to the sensory play there.
All in all I am really grateful for Elizabeth’s time, I feel lucky that she came over to see us as I can tell our space is going to really benefit from her ideas.
I will take some pictures of the resources she gave us so that you can see how we are utilising them and the effect they have upon the children and the spaces in and around our home.