Woodwork With Families

Research practitioner:

Senior practitioner:

Project summary:

A practical project within the early years setting to introduce woodwork to children and their families.

Adult and child working with wood

Introduction

The rational for this project was:

  • To introduce a new skill to both children and their families.
  • Allow the children to work alongside their parent/carer.
  • To build everyone’s confidence when using real tools.

Through our continued research around the Froebelian approach, it was clear that our setting was missing woodwork opportunities. We wanted to introduce this experience with the children and their families through workshop opportunities, so parents could be put at ease and less anxious with their children using real tool to be creative.

Context

As a small staff team, we are very fortunate to have four members of staff who have completed the Froebel in Childhood Practice course previously and we continue to extend the Froebelian opportunities within the setting. All staff participated in the Pete Moorhouse training in November 2022, along with three of our families. After the training, I was very enthusiastic about being able to deliver this to our children and loved the idea of working with the parents to do this. Having the parents work alongside their child as they explore this first-hand experience, is a great way of continuing to get our families involved in our setting, their child’s learning and continue to familiarise them with the Froebelian approach. Woodwork with children can be a very scary process for parents and can make them feel uneasy however through these workshops, they will be able to see the benefits first-hand and allow them to be more at ease. I will be building my confidence and knowledge, which I will in turn be able to share with my team.

Through woodwork, “all areas of a child’s learning can be integrated into one meaningful activity, a key Froebelian concept.” Tovey 2017:57.

Before carrying out this research project, I gave parents a questionnaire to fill out for me to see what parents thought of woodwork in nurseries before taking part. During this research, I had informal interviews with the parent, observed them and the children during the workshops and spoke to the children once the workshop was done. I got great feedback from both parents and children that participated in these workshops and sent out questionnaires to parents of children who had participated to get their views on woodwork as an experience within the nursery.

I plan to feed back the findings from the workshops and questionnaires to staff, families and children through, leaflets, PowerPoint and the online learning journals.

Ethics

During this project, I had to make sure that I got consent from all involved. I gave the parents consent forms for them to let me know if they were happy to be observed, photographed and interviewed, during my research. I also had to get their permission to then share my findings with Edinburgh University, the rest of my team, our families and possibly with colleagues within Falkirk Council. Parents also gave me consent for their child to take part and I made sure to ask the children before each workshop if they wanted to take part, so that it was their choice. If children did not want to participate within these workshops it was absolutely fine as both the children and parents were informed that they could withdraw from the research at any time.

“To learn a thing in life and through doing is much more developing, cultivating and strengthening than to learn it merely through the verbal communication of ideas.”

Froebel 1885: 279

Findings

Through introducing woodwork to our setting, it was clear that parents were excited about the experience however some were a little apprehensive about using the real tools in the early years setting. One parent said, ‘I feel it really depends on the child, the supervision available and what tools. If it is 1:1 supervision, I would feel comfortable with this as long as my child was fully aware to concentrate.” Whereas another parent said, “Children need to use real life tools to learn properly. Miming and role play can only do so much. Risk assessment and safety is a huge thing children must learn.”  I knew that when introducing woodwork, I had to make sure that the children and parents were fully aware of how they can be safe and use the tools properly. I made a ‘safety-first’ poster and ‘tool talks’ to have in the woodwork shed, so what we referred to this before starting each workshop so that everyone knew exactly how we were going to be safe and use the tools.

When taking part in the workshops parents worked alongside their child, 1:1 with myself overseeing the experiences and there for support throughout. When observing the parents working with their child it became clear that the parents with the training stood back and allowed their child to explore the tools on their own. Whereas the parents that had not had the training were more involved and help their child use the tools properly and gave more encouragement. Alongside parents working with their own children, there was several opportunities through the nursery days for other children to have a go with myself supporting them in a 1:2 ratio. The children who participated without their grown up still thoroughly enjoyed the experience and made some fantastic creations, however it was evident that this experience would have been more beneficial on a 1:1 ratio, with this being their first time in the woodwork shed.

After undertaking these workshop experiences, I feel that children, parents and myself have developed confidence when using tools, gained new knowledge and overall learned to take risks and risk assess in a safe environment. Feedback from the parents after the workshops was amazing, one parent said, “’I am at ease with my child using real tools with supervision after the workshop. I have enjoyed being able to spend time in my child’s nursery environment, seeing the pride they have in their efforts and the sense of belonging they feel.” Another parent said, “Yes I would love to take part in more experiences like this to share in the joy and learning with my child. I think my child is learning a plethora of knowledge, skills and attitudes including; confidence, creativity, planning, spatial awareness, motor skills, hand/eye coordination, sensory processing, staying safe, self-esteem, pride, concentration, self-awareness, respect for tools etc. It is most definitely a worthwhile experience for all of the reasons above!”

Conclusion

To conclude, it was clear that through these workshops parents valued the time they spent with their child within the setting and exploring this real-life experience. Myself and the rest of the staff are pleased that this research was so successful and we look forward to continuing to provide these workshops. As we continue to carry out these workshops and explore the area within the continued provision, it will allow us to embed this and have our parents involved in their child’s learning.

Moving forward, I feel that we need to be more organised with our resources e.g. having a large supply of soft wood and ‘tool talks’ ready, to then move forward with new tools once the children are ready. By doing this we will be more prepared and will be able to carry out the experience at any time with in our nursery day. I would also like to continue having the workshops with the parents, as it was evident that working alongside their child, they were more confident with their child taking part in this experience. I would also like to get the rest of my team involved so that I can help them to build their confidence and knowledge.

Research implications

This project was inspired by a professional learning opportunity on woodwork delivered by Pete Moorhouse. The findings from the project show, that excellent training, supported by access to high quality resources and enough time to plan can result in excellent outcomes for children. The key factors that made this project so impactful were:

  • All practitioners in the team took part in the training.
  • Families and local child minders joined practitioners on the training event.
  • Time was given for careful planning of quality resources and a plan was developed to take time to introduce this experience in a slow and unrushed way.
  • Introducing woodwork to children was done with families.

Having all practitioners involved, ensured a shared understanding of the skills involved in supporting woodwork. This meant that the researcher was able to involve all practitioners in the project, in a meaningful way. In the longer term this will make the training more sustainable. Having families involved in the initial training was new to us and is definitely something we would repeat. The research showed that this gave families a full understanding of the benefits of giving young children woodwork experiences. The findings show that the training gave families the confidence to step back and allow children to try things for themselves, in a way that would be impossible to imagine if the training had not taken place. Initially parents were anxious about their children using real tools but quickly began to see the safety measures in place were more than adequate to keep children safe. There was a real benefit in having families who had access the training talk to families who hadn’t. The families’ enthusiasm for the project was contagious and definitely help put our wider group of families at ease. Our research tells us that parents find that being with their children in nursery is the best way for them to understand what their child is learning. Findings from the research show that parents will have a better understanding of our approach by seeing learning through the eyes of their child. Implications for resourcing will be mainly around time. We will prioritise staff time to ensure we can support children and families. Moving forward we will continue the approach of introducing children to woodwork alongside their families. Support and guidance provided within our Froebel Network has been invaluable in supporting staff with any challenges and to share practice. This project has resulted in a real enthusiasm amongst staff, children and families and we look forward to developing this with our families, our cluster colleagues and across our Froebel Network.

Practitioner enquiry

I feel the value of this practitioner Inquiry has been a positive one for everyone involved. It has helped build personal and professional skills, knowledge, in-depth thinking and forward planning .It has helped build positive relationships within the staff team and very notably with our families. Working through the project has empowered everyone in our staff team, who have all developed new confidences through learning new skills. Moving forward we plan to incorporate practitioner inquiry research into our self-evaluation. Using this valuable approach encourages staff to think critically and creatively, building positive relationships and communication with families. Helps staff feel included and positive. Working in partnership with our enhanced provision team also, we will take this forward.

Leadership learning

Participating in this research approach as a leader has given me the opportunity to further develop my understanding of the different processes and approaches staff may take when doing any kind of research. It has allowed me to reflect on my own practice and leadership skills so I can ensure that I support the staff, by having a whole team approach. I feel I have gained a lot from this programme. I personally enjoyed the opportunity to have discussions with colleagues from all over Scotland. Getting to share practice, ask questions and support each other through this, I found the most beneficial.

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. Donna Green
    Donna Green
    30 May 2023 at 8:17 pm

    Wonderful Ashleigh. Really good to see how children and families learning together where the researcher (yourself) was able to share and transfer your new learning along with families who attended and were inspired by the Pete Moorhouse masterclass/community woodwork workshop.
    I really look forward to seeing how this project continues to evolve and become robustly implemented. Lovely way to document your inquiry. Well done.


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  2. Yvonne Wright
    Yvonne Wright
    30 May 2023 at 8:54 pm

    Woodwork with families is a great idea, I agree some parents do find using real tools a bit daunting, so its important to show them how well the children do use them and how we are offering them the freedom to explore tools with a level of guidance. Thanks for sharing you project 🙂


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  3. Kelly Cameron
    Kelly Cameron
    06 Jun 2023 at 12:08 pm

    I love that you have done this alongside families, encouraging the families to be part of their children’s learning and support them to understand the benefit of woodwork and use of real tools within the setting.


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  4. Tammy Henderson
    Tammy Henderson
    08 Jun 2023 at 2:15 pm

    This was very interesting to read. I have many parents who appear concerned when they find out that children are using real tools in nursery; to help calm their anxieties we have presented PowerPoints at information days, sent out photos, literature etc to help them understand why and how we can do this safely however from reading this amazing piece of work I feel that parents being able to see first hand how this is implemented safely they would better understand how woodwork in early years benefits their children.


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  5. Amanda Letarte
    Amanda Letarte
    11 Jun 2023 at 9:00 pm

    I really enjoyed reading your project Ashleigh. One of my team is keen to take woodwork forward in our setting as they have a keen interest in it and the information and ideas from your project will help me to support this to happen. I had not heard of Pete Moorhouse, but I have now looked him up and read about his workshops. I think having the parents involved is a great way to allay fears but also create a community approach. Thank you for sharing.


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  6. Kellie-Anne Fairbairn
    Kellie-Anne Fairbairn
    13 Jun 2023 at 7:47 am

    I was very interested to read about your project as our setting is in the process of re establishing the woodwork area again. The involvement you had from the families was super and i take inspiration from your project


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