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Free Choice? Hows it done?


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Okay, let me compose myself....arrrraaaagggghhh!... thats better! sorry, just had a visit re our Quality Review. Not too bad, little niggles and updates re policies and PLANNING!!! but our 'Advisor' was mostly happy :):)

We run a free flow, child initiated, happy clappy group over flowing with supported child interest activities...in fact we provide so many interests that it takes an age to get it all out and provide, what we thought was a pretty good effort at an ' enabling environment' indoors and out! ( pack away setting).

But whoaa..... Advisor said, looking around. 'No free choice then?'. Totally know what she is getting at. .........no apart from asking 'can I have a pushchair out' etc the children do not have free access to all in sundry in the cupboard! We are pretty poor and have never had sufficient funds to buy lovely roll in roll out drawers and storage, but we have lots of lovely resources that are brought out to support childrens interests and Plods and yes, are swopped during the session if interests/playability has waned. How do other packaway settings provide 'free choice' without having

a) 25 voices saying 'I want...' or. B) a box of jigsaws being up ended by a casual two year old just passing by........:/. Advisor coming back in a couple of weeks so want to make an effort to action 'free choice'.

Thanks for your thoughts

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A few years ago we were where you are now and we did make the change. Shortly afterwards we were told that we had too much stuff available so before you start know you might not be able to please everyone all the time!

 

We started with one area. We didn't have a lot of money either so it was a case of thinking creatively with a variety of storage units. By working to develop just one area first we could get our heads round how it worked and didn't work for our setting, before jumping in with two feet. At the start of the year we needed to limit the quantity of choices or the quantity of the resources within each choice, and then retrain our children to choose and replace before choosing again. So for eg in construction (my egs always seem to be construction :rolleyes: ) in Sept we wuld have a box of wooden bricks and a box of Duplo alongside our large blocks. Gradually we would add in stickle bricks and mobilo and lego, usually prompted by an interest of a child. In the small world we might have a small box of animals, a small box pf people, and a small box of a few other items. As we observed which were most popular we would add in more animals, for eg, and then increase the amount of each item as interests grew. And we never stopped assessing if we needed to pull some things back and start again.

 

It took time and effort initially but I would argue it was easier on us all in the long run, but be prepared to have to do lots of training of children (and staff :ph34r: )!

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I have a MAJOR problem with all of this. With vast quantities of resources (as many of us have) it is nigh on impossibel to allow every child absolutely free choice. More to the point, nor do I think it is necessary. As long as the provision is well thought out and includes lots of choices (not totally unlimited resources) then why do we NEED to allow children to have whatever they want when ever they want it? Surely we as effective practitioers can make the balance between limited choice and free choice?

 

Ducks and runs for cover.

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Okay, let me compose myself....arrrraaaagggghhh!... thats better! sorry, just had a visit re our Quality Review. Not too bad, little niggles and updates re policies and PLANNING!!! but our 'Advisor' was mostly happy :):)

We run a free flow, child initiated, happy clappy group over flowing with supported child interest activities...in fact we provide so many interests that it takes an age to get it all out and provide, what we thought was a pretty good effort at an ' enabling environment' indoors and out! ( pack away setting).

But whoaa..... Advisor said, looking around. 'No free choice then?'. Totally know what she is getting at. .........no apart from asking 'can I have a pushchair out' etc the children do not have free access to all in sundry in the cupboard! We are pretty poor and have never had sufficient funds to buy lovely roll in roll out drawers and storage, but we have lots of lovely resources that are brought out to support childrens interests and Plods and yes, are swopped during the session if interests/playability has waned. How do other packaway settings provide 'free choice' without having

a) 25 voices saying 'I want...' or. B) a box of jigsaws being up ended by a casual two year old just passing by........:/. Advisor coming back in a couple of weeks so want to make an effort to action 'free choice'.

Thanks for your thoughts

 

We have been told exactly the same! We are a packaway setting too and could never afford to buy drawers for all our resources. Our advisor did mention having a choosing board with photos of all equipment and children can stick on the board what they would like out the following day/week. I'm not sure how this would work in practice with lots of children wanting different things out!

 

Will be watching this thread with interest! :1b

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We also have this problem with free choice. Our storage is not accessible to children and we do not have space to store trollies. We spent ages photographing resources all laid out and produced a book with pictures and a set of cards for all these resources. Children were asked routinely what they would like to have out but after trialling it with our older childen (preschool year) for all of last year we have abandoned it this year. We found that they were all keen to choose but rarely played with the resources when we got them out. Some resources were never chosen and yet if we brought it out unasked they all wanted to play with it. We have gone back to a revolving list changed gradually over the weeks so that all stuff is seen by all children (some only attend 2 or 3 sessions.) Of course when specific interests evolve we change the planning retrospectively and support and extend as required.

We have to work with the restrictions of our building. Would love more space! We have a max of 18 children per session but have over 40 on roll - increasing as the year goes on.

korkycat

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We also have this problem with free choice. Our storage is not accessible to children and we do not have space to store trollies. We spent ages photographing resources all laid out and produced a book with pictures and a set of cards for all these resources. Children were asked routinely what they would like to have out but after trialling it with our older childen (preschool year) for all of last year we have abandoned it this year. We found that they were all keen to choose but rarely played with the resources when we got them out. Some resources were never chosen and yet if we brought it out unasked they all wanted to play with it. We have gone back to a revolving list changed gradually over the weeks so that all stuff is seen by all children (some only attend 2 or 3 sessions.) Of course when specific interests evolve we change the planning retrospectively and support and extend as required.

We have to work with the restrictions of our building. Would love more space! We have a max of 18 children per session but have over 40 on roll - increasing as the year goes on.

korkycat

 

We work exactly the same as above, resources on a rota..if something is particularly popular we will get out the next day, but 9 times out of 10 they aren't as popular, or the children who were playing with them aren't in.

 

Anything that a child requests and that we can't do straight away, we write on a piece of A4 paper which is blu tacked on the inside of the shed door (where are resources are kept), for next time that child is in - I put this sheet in the planning folder as 'evidence'

 

Our Ofsted inspector was happy with it last year! although having a chat with her she had once worked in a packaway setting herself so she said she appreciated all the hard work that we put in each morning to get set up...probably will get the opposite next time xD

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Great, thanks so much cos everything everyone has said here is EXACTLY what we do or think NOW! Like thumperabbit says, its hardwork and it would be nice if more inspectors or Advisors appreciated what we achieve.....making silk purses out of sows ears! And all on a penance..

Magic!

Gosh, these people do bring you down dont they?

 

Thankyou my self esteem and morale has been restored and I shall pass your comments on to my very teed off staff tomorrow!

 

ps think we probably had same Advisor kic106 as Im Leicester too......and the photo book was a follow up suggestion......probably .when she saw the steam evaporating from my ears! : )

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...we have certain things out all the time and a fully stocked cupboard...requests can be and are made daily and together we pack something away to make room....

We have actually reduced the quantities of what is available while maintaining all the key resources so instead of 12 puzzles on the shelf we'll have three or four - a selection with different grades of challenge, we'll have a small basket of cars / animals / figures where we once had a box full and twice the size...found children play so much better this way. Before they would just tip everything up to find something (or just tip it up for no reason)..now they can see exactly what they want so no need...

 

Less is more I say

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We've noticed 'more is less' and have started putting smaller amount of things out.

 

Small tub of duplo, stickle bricks etc, then if we see children really engaging with it- we get the rest out, or plan to have it all out on their next sessions.

 

We are pack-away and have adapted some pretty cheap plastic storage units from argos ( £20-30ish) adding a wooden base + four wheels from screwfit £5. Not the most beautiful I admit....... but they do the job.

 

x

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Great, thanks so much cos everything everyone has said here is EXACTLY what we do or think NOW! Like thumperabbit says, its hardwork and it would be nice if more inspectors or Advisors appreciated what we achieve.....making silk purses out of sows ears! And all on a pittance.

Magic!

Gosh, these people do bring you down dont they?

 

Thankyou my self esteem and morale has been restored and I shall pass your comments on to my very teed off staff tomorrow!

 

ps think we probably had same Advisor kic106 as Im Leicester too......and the photo book was a follow up suggestion......probably .when she saw the steam evaporating from my ears! : )

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We used to put a selection of things out and change these on a daily basis but if a child asked for a specific item we would get it off the shelf. Given that sometimes we had quite a lot out we would often say we needed to tidy up/put something away to accommodate room for the new thing and this was often a good 'problem solving' exercise as children negotiated with each other how they could all play with the things they wanted while leaving enough space on the floor to actually sit :D

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