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Tapestry user and regular FSF contributor, Finleysmaid, has written for us about her experience of using Tapestry to observe, record, share and support children's play.


“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation” Plato

“Oh dear have you been messing around in the mud again?” Says a parent as I pass a rather grubby mud monster back to her. I smile “You’ll have to look on Tapestry I say with a grin”
The parent nods and walks off.
The Tapestry observation goes something like this ‘Alara was playing in the mud kitchen today with her friend Emily. They were making cakes from the mud and adding herbs from the garden to create candles. “Four”, Alara said, “I’ve got 4 because that’s what I’ll be on my birthday!”’
Under my observation I had added links to the EYFS for P.S.E.D, Maths, and Understanding the World …I could have also added about six other things but time, as always, was against me. The observation had only taken me a few seconds …. I’d managed to check it and post it quickly which was great but unusual for me! I’d chosen to link only Alara in to this one as the other child’s role was more of a supporting actress!
These sorts of observations are things we see every day but how do we get parents to understand that this is not just ‘cute’ but valued and necessary?
I often start the process of explaining this to parents in very simple terms. I explain the value of play right at our first meeting when they are looking around. I outline our philosophy and explain that I can teach the children what they need, where they are, using what they are playing with as a teaching tool. So, teaching maths skills in the mud kitchen by counting candles or parking the cars in numbered garages helps children learn while they are engaged with something that interests them. The parents often listen to this with nods and smiles but most do not push me for further information.
So how do I put across the importance of my observations on Tapestry to parents? I explain that they are relevant and ‘in the moment’. It is important that the observation is made ‘there and then’ so that parents can use the information at home and also the observation needs to be quickly completed by staff so as not to interfere in the play process.
Electronic systems have certainly been the answer for us. We started using Tapestry in September this year, however we had trialled it before. The above observation about the mud kitchen had a photograph attached, although I don’t always do this. I had to add this from the ‘gallery’ as our wifi in the garden is pretty awful! The girls playing had not even noticed I was there … I did not interfere with their play and indeed it went on for some time after I had moved off. The child had as stated added four ’candles’ to her mud ‘cake’ and no reference to the ‘Two Ronnies’ was made!
The links to the EYFS explain the ‘learning’ to the parent. It shows how this girl is gaining social skills, using information from home and consolidating new information she has attained. The parent in this case ‘got’ the idea and replied to me promptly that they were doing lots of counting at home!
Tapestry has given us a whole new means to communicate with parents and carers
We can send them information from other web sites by ‘cutting and pasting’ the link, this has proven incredibly useful for our lunch club where parents are now sent regular information by us on healthy lunch box ideas. Parents who are toilet training are sent links to help sites like http://www.eric.org.uk/shop
We have been able to do group observation about story time, naming the book in case parents want to read it again at home, this is vital in our setting where so many of our parents and children have English as an additional language.
We are now engaging nearly 95% of parents in their child’s education, including hard to reach families.
Parents are much more involved in the learning and will feed back information from home. We have even had a parent post a time lapse video of her child doing a puzzle!
For children whose communication is limited, this gives the parents a visual prompt to support speech at home and provides an aid to knowing some of what the child has done that day.
We have ensured that all parents get a ‘First day’ observation, meaning they know their children are happy and settled in their play. This has been incredibly reassuring for many of our families.
Parents and carers who are not in the same home can all access the system…. we are currently working with a Mum in Germany and a Dad in Dubai!
The other brilliant thing about electronic systems of course is that it has spell check on it! Spelling has never been a strong point of mine so I am always grateful for this but the idea of being able to go back and change what you have done before ‘posting’ is also a great tool for teaching staff. Nothing is written in stone, it can be changed, deleted, re-written, added to and altered so the ‘have a go’ idea for new staff is always available, though I find most people who use a mobile phone can pick up the idea quickly.
Of course, as a manager I can also get information about the learning of the whole group and sub-sections of it, meaning I can keep an eye on the learning through play and adjust the environment to promote areas as necessary too.
In these days of political unrest in our industry we need to use every tool in the box to promote learning through play. We need to ensure that everyone is promoting the value of playing and understand what that means. Our parents could be the most valuable link in this chain so whilst we teach their children maybe we can also teach the parents.


If you would like to share how you are using Tapestry in your setting then get in touch! We'd love to hear from you! rebecca@eyfs.info


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I do believe it can be hard to do both and getting the balance right can be difficult. A lot is expected of our staff. We often have one member of staff lead the group activities, while another member carries out the observation.


We are also looking into buy tripods for our tablets so that then staff could record the whole observation, trim the video to the parts they need and then write the relevant observation. Then this frees up all members of staff to join in the activities while still capturing all the info needed

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  • 4 weeks later...

I dont think its any harder than writing an observation, perhaps in the beginning when staff were getting used to using Tapestry/tablets but not now. If you're sitting writing and/or taking photos takes you out of the activity just as much if not more.


My only problem is getting staff to realise that not everything needs to be photographed!

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