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  • Writer's pictureGina Parker (Mullarkey)

Philosophy for Children in the EYFS

I first met Dulcinea Norton- Morris back in June 2017 when I visited the lovely St Leonards C of E Primary School, Padiham near Burnley to deliver a SAPERE Philosophy for Children (P4C) Level 1 training to the staff team. The school is now a silver award school in P4C and are also, with support from Dulcie, starting on their linked journey in Dialogue Works Thinking Moves. Dulcie has also written a wonderful book 'Beautiful Thinking: A Philosophical Approach to Parenting and Teaching from birth to 5' which I also contributed a short chapter to. I am really pleased that Dulcie has agreed to write a guest blog sharing her passion for teaching P4C in the EYFS, including examples of her favourite P4C activities for this age group.

Babies are born thinking and wondering. That thinking and wondering grows very big, very quickly. The more we learn the more we realise we don’t know and that is no less true of children from birth to five. We all know how much children ask ‘why?’ to distraction, but children learn to wonder why much younger than the age they learn to ask it. They wonder ‘what’, ‘why’ and all of those other questions from birth, though they may not have the words for them yet.

Philosophising is not just for university students and aging professors (though they are typically great at it). It is for everyone and no-one more so than the little humans who still have an eye and ear for the miraculous and an open mind. I truly love the potential of P4C and metacognition approaches in Early Years.

I teach in the preschool class of a primary school and am a Level 2B trained SAPERE facilitator and a DialogueWorks and Thinking Moves practitioner. Thinking Moves is a set of metacognition skills that run from A – Z and sit perfectly within the classroom, and within a P4C approach. I weave these Thinking Moves into my daily practice and my P4C sessions.

So here are two of my favourite P4C activities? I have seen and read so many fun activities and cannot claim all of these as my ideas (Can any of us now?) I have also identified the linked ‘Thinking moves’.

Would a Worm Make a Good Pet?

You can do this with any animal. I chose a worm because of the learning we were doing at the time. It is a key prerequisite to learn a little bit about the animal you have chosen so the children had to think BACK. I then showed the children pictures of a worm in different costumes (builder, teacher, gardener and pet). One by one we discussed the ideas. Would a worm make a good gardener? Why? Why not? There were many different Thinking Moves in this activity but two main ones were WEIGH-UP and JUSTIFY. At the end of the activity we made a concept line with ‘Best’ at one end and ‘Worst’ at the other then put the different wormy career options in order. This was a great activity for the 4C element – Creative.

What is 4?

I think that P4C is a great way to build a deeper conceptual understanding of maths. This took place as a circle time discussion and we tried to think of as many different things as possible that were 4. There was some adult prompting needed to take the activity in different directions but the children soon got the hang of things and spent the rest of the day looking for 4s. 4 was a number, a Numicon shape, 1+3, one less than five, the number after three, a square, a four leafed clover, a house number (“my home”), the age of most of the children (“my number”), it was 4 fingers, 4 dots, the number of legs on a toy cow, the number of bangs heard outdoors, the list could go on and on and resulted in a much deeper understanding of “What is 4?” Again there were many different Thinking Moves used here, with the main ones being LISTEN/LOOK, SIZE and GROUP. This activity is transferable to any number, shape, letter or even concept (What is ‘kind’? What is a circle? What is a cat? and so on) and is great for the 4Cs elements of Critical, Creative and Collaborative.

P4C in an Early Years classroom can sometimes be tricky to get the hang of initially but I have found the easiest way to do it for me has been to plan the activities or enhanced provision that I would normally plan and then see which of those things could easily be done as a P4C session. Whether you are an experienced facilitator or a complete newbie have fun and I wish you luck on your journey (because, as we all know by now, philosophising is an exciting but never ending journey).

Dulcinea Norton-Morris is the author of the book Beautiful Thinking and of the blog Magical Mess of the EYFS. She can be found on her Facebook Page, Magical Mess of the EYFS and on Twitter @DulcineaEYFS

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