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Help them to find faeries in garden

Play takes its lead from imagination of the travellers. Nicola Porter reports

Young children should be taught to look for faeries at the bottom of the garden, according to advisers on the pilot foundation phase.

A team of experts from Scotland has been asked to come up with novel ways of teaching the new play-led curriculum in Wales - and has devised a theme based on faeries, scaries, superheroes and space. Welsh primary heads will be able to use the fairy-tale approach of Experiential Play, a Glasgow-based childcare training provider, in 2007.

The company's own researchfound that traveller children were more inventive because they have more freedom to roam.

Speaking to delegates at last week's Wales education show in Cardiff, managing director Alice Sharp said: "We have to compete with Buzz Lightyear and Harry Potter so we've got to be one step ahead to win our young people."

She said brightly-coloured props and gimmicks should be used to keep the children captivated by the new foundation curriculum. Useful items include old keys, bright clothes or old potato peelings. One scenario could be to have a faerie rescued from a naughty giant by Harry Potter.

Miss Sharp said: "The children should be allowed to explore more. I was with a little boy who wanted to make a snail trail. I wasn't sure how he could do it, so I went to the kitchen and got some glycerine - it was perfect.

"The only thing I would say is to warn the children of any hidden dangers to avoid accidents."

However, some members of the audience were a little sceptical after seeing a play-based exercise involving dozens of pumpkins.

One said: "All those pumpkins would cause chaos."

The Experiential Play team started training childminders and nursery workers in Wales last week. Pilots of the foundation phase have been running in 41 schools and nurseries in Wales for 18 months, with a national roll-out expected in 2008.

Latest research (TES Cymru (May 19, education show preview) suggests young children achieve much more in less formal settings. A study carried out by the University of Glamorgan, involving 150 children of nursery and reception age, found puzzles and building block tasks were completed more quickly during play sessions.

* nicola.porter@tes.co.uk

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