And ‘sew’ it begins…

Project author:

Project summary:

A practical project using Froebelian Principles to inspire the development of sewing within an early years classroom.

Introduction

A practical project based on Froebelian principles, national guidance and pedagogical research – in order to promote curiosity, creativity and challenge through sewing, for young children.

Threading and beadwork can be seen as one of Froebel’s occupations based upon the point. Sewing is seen as one of Froebel’s line based occupations, which also includes threading, weaving, knitting, interlacing and embroidery.

My purpose in undertaking this project was to explore the impact such an occupation could have on fine motor skills, creativity, engagement and development of language. The project introduced threading, lacing and sewing as part of the continuous provision in the classroom.

Context

This project was implemented in a small Primary 1 class of 13 children aged 5-6 years old. The class configuration consisted of nine boys (69%) and four girls (31%).Within the classroom, the majority of the children consistently accessed block play and role play areas throughout the day, and tended to engage in either associative or cooperative play within same sex groupings. It has been observed that this play is habitual for the majority of the class, they very rarely adapt their play, or social groupings. It was identified that, as a whole, the children had poor pencil control and fine motor skills. Four children were identified as a focus group for the project, although resources and experiences were open and available to all children

The school catchment is described nationally as within the 20% most deprived areas in Scotland with 97% of intake within deciles 1-4 and 64% of intake from deciles 1 and 2 (SIMD, 2020).

A survey of parents/carers within ELC and Primary 1 was conducted. Of 91 surveys sent out, 37 were completed. The results concluded that 27% of parents/carers cannot hand sew. It was deemed important to be able to offer these experiences within school, equipping the children with this important skill, a skill for life, learning and work.

Methodology

The project began with a pre-assessment of four children’s fine motor skills and handwriting. It was concluded that the children lacked the hand strength and pressure required for handwriting. Letter formation was very poor, and in some cases, illegible. The children had immature pencil grip for their age, using wrist movements, rather than finger movements to draw and write. An area was set up during ‘Soft Start’ and was open and available to all children throughout this session. It was imperative to provide the children with developmentally appropriate resources, and to provide an element of personalisation and choice. Although in Scotland we strive to provide more child-initiated play opportunities, it is also important to have an element of intentional planning, to ensure that children continue to make progress in their learning, to guide them and provide ‘teachable moments.’

Threading activities were initially offered within the provocation. The children had the freedom to choose how to use these resources. Pipe cleaners, laces, foam shapes, cotton reels and beads were provided to allow children to further develop this skill. All children were able to thread large and small beads onto laces and pipe cleaners independently.

Pre-made foam lacing shapes, plastic lacing shapes and laces were provided in this provocation. It was noted that the children did not tend to follow the typical lacing ‘pattern’ expected when using these resources. In order to support the children in following a pattern, and being more thoughtful when lacing, cardboard lacing boards were provided, with the child’s first initial punched out. This allowed the children to follow the pattern of the holes, to create their initial.

Wooden embroidery hoops and hessian were introduced within the next provocation. Plastic needles, and wool were used to effectively support the children in threading the needle, and to sew using the larger holes within the hessian. The children were initially assisted in threading the needle, and then supported with the technique of sewing, using a running stitch, to enable them to develop this emerging skill.

“Each occupation offers children different challenges, and children learn to generate their own problems and to solve them, to be imaginative and creative, physically and mindfully skilled.” (Bruce, 2012)

Bruce, T. (2012) Early Childhood Practice: Froebel Today. London: Sage Publications Ltd.

Findings

Many benefits were observed throughout this project, including the improvement and development of children’s focus and concentration; co-operative play and language.

Focus and concentration

Throughout the project it was noted that the children were able to focus on these activities for a sustained period of time, up to 20/25 minutes in some cases. The class teacher had previously stated that during Soft Start, the children tended to flit between activities, not really able to settle, with most activities not often holding their attention for longer than 10 minutes. During this project, some children were keen to carry their play onto the next day, ensuring their resources were kept for them in a safe place. This demonstrates a sense of pride, a continuation of learning over multiple days, not simply an experience which ends with the school bell.

Co-operative Play

It was previously stated that, historically, the children were habitual in their play, playing with familiar resources, in consistent same sex groupings. However, it was observed that as the project progressed, and the children grew in confidence, they began to play co-operatively, within new pairings and groupings. The children helped each other to thread the needle, worked together on new creations and complemented each other’s creativity and ideas.

Language

It was observed that children’s language developed as they discussed their creations with each other and the educator. Some of this language detailed techniques used, symbolism, mathematical language, as well as general conversation. Some examples are provided below:

Technique

Child C: “Look, I did that to stop them falling off.”

Child M: “It’s like threading (while threading the needle).”

Symbolism

Child C: “I really like this because I like what I’m making”, “It looks like a bracelet”, “It looks like a skipping rope.”

Child E: “It’s like making waves and mountains.”

Child S: “It’s like putting ink into something.”

Mathematical language

Child C: “I found a circle.”

Child E: “I found a star.”

Child P: “Look, matching!”, “Sparkly purple!”, “It’s going to be the most beautiful bracelet of my entire life.”

Child R: “I’m trying to make a pattern of big ones and wee ones (stitches).”

Child S: “I am going all the way round the outside.”

Conclusion

In order for this project to be successful, and a worthwhile experience for the learners, Froebelian principles were incorporated throughout. The project recognised children as curious, independent, creative young learners, and sought to ensure they were given the appropriate tools and a nurturing environment to challenge themselves, take risks and express themselves and their ideas.

As a result, the children have not only developed a new skill, but have also increased their focus and concentration, expanded their use of language around sewing, symbolism and mathematical concepts, and fostered new and cooperative friendships with their peers.

Although this project is in its infancy, there is a clear plan to ensure that the project is sustainable and will survive the test of time. Opportunities for staff training, family learning and further development of skills have been identified, which will allow this project to gain momentum and become part of continuous provision throughout the setting.

It is important to note that projects of this kind will help to ensure that a skill such as sewing does not become a lost art. Allowing children to build upon their self-efficacy in hands-on experiences will allow them to become confident, resilient learners who take risks and express their ideas in creative ways.

Research implications

To be completed

Practitioner enquiry

To be completed

Leadership learning

To be completed

Author and role

To be completed

Comments from other network members

What did you appreciate about this research? What forward-looking questions did it raise for you?

  1. Simon Bateson
    Simon Bateson
    09 Mar 2022 at 2:28 pm

    Thanks Paula – I really enjoyed reading this. It sounds like some really holistic learning experiences have been created by the children through these provocations. It was particularly interesting to note how the children slowed down and their concentration increased with this opportunity. I wonder if you have noticed this extending in other ways with particular children? I wonder if there was further parental engagement, after your survey? And what have you done since, or would like to do, to further embed these opportunities in your setting? Thanks so much for sharing this.


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  2. Clare Langley
    Clare Langley
    15 May 2022 at 6:08 am

    This was a great read. I love the title! It is scary to think of sewing becoming a lost art, not only for all the skills and positive reasons you have given but this has also made me think about a link sustainability and changing our throw away culture.


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  3. Donna Green
    Donna Green
    16 May 2022 at 3:01 pm

    Fantastic Paula, so proud to see your fantastic “And ‘sew’ it begins…” Froebel Project being shared wider. Loved how you used deep observation and listening to the children to support your thinking whilst Froebelian Principles were incorporated throughout to underpin and guide in practice.


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  4. Jacqueline Myles
    Jacqueline Myles
    30 May 2022 at 3:51 pm

    This was such a lovely read, we have carried out some sewing with our establishment and this project has really given me some new ideas to try with the children.
    I loved your comment of sewing not becoming a lost art, I really hope it doesn’t. I have taught both my sons (13 & 10) to sew and hopefully this type of project will help to inspire both children and staff within my nursery.


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