The Magic of Ros Bayley’s Beat Babies

An e-mail from Lawrence Educational today reminded me that this draft post has been languishing in my “to do” pile for some time (ever since the sad passing of the great Ros Bayley, in fact).

The e-mail concerned the release of the last “Ros Bayley” Beat Baby and read:

BEATBABYEMAIL

The Beat Baby range has been close to my heart and ever-present in my practice for several years, so it is with happiness that I present my own Beat Baby:

BEAT BABY

Complete with pocket for storing notes/snacks and a magnetic tail for “hanging about” or curling up in to a ball.

_____________________________

“Good teaching is one-fourth preparation and three-fourths pure theatre.”

Gail Godwin

As far as I am aware, the “Take Home Beat Baby” is the only one to sport sparkly fur. I chose this particular style to reflect the way in which I wished to introduce the Beat Baby to the group of children I taught at the time: an emergency landing in the garden. Carefully prepped in a papier-mache shuttle complete with parachute, I threw the Beat Baby into the garden whilst the children were occupied having a story and another practitioner pretended to be taken aback by “something” happening in the garden (this amused passersby and parents arriving early, what is early years without a sense of fun and magic?!). The children rushed out to view the strange object whilst I ran around the setting and in through the back door, awaiting the moment that the children would come to fetch me (and the stepladder) to retrieve the creature. Sure enough, they came running with the same enthusiasm they intone when they spot that Father Christmas has arrived during snack and I became an emotional chameleon reflecting their surprise, awe, excitement and concern (“what could be in there…?”). Carefully, the UFO was lifted from the tree and the shuttle taken inside for inspection (after I had assured the children that “no, it’s not a bitey alien”).

My Beat Baby is a bit of an unknown quantity, with no name (a la The Good, The Bad and The Ugly – perhaps!) and no particular gender. This was not immediately intentional but once I had seen the positive way the children related to and identified with this inanimate, fluffy toy I realised that those details were unimportant – what mattered to the children was that the Beat Baby was “adopted” by me  and therefore a part of school life. This meant that the children who disliked the soft teddy bears in the reading area (“they’re girl bears… for girls!”) saw Beat Baby as different to the other soft toys, providing a sense of emotional engagement with the activities.

This sense of theatre, ambiguity and excitement was vital in establishing a sense of wonder around the resource. We established Beat Baby as an “alien tourist” of sorts, with the children acting as its expert guides in everything from snack time to the local beach. We found that children’s communication skills and self-esteem were greatly improved through caring for Beat Baby and centred music and movement sessions around Beat Baby’s “sleep schedule”.*

The setting was so enamoured by the Beat Baby that we purchased Beat Babies for each member of staff as a professional present (linked by favourite colours, of course!) to support the special activities favoured by each staff member (music, dance, drama, cookery, singing, gardening, etc.) giving each of their Beat Babies particular personalities (including likes and dislikes).

Then I focused upon parental partnerships and home links using Beat Babies that could go home with children (at this stage, we had run out of Beat Baby beds in the setting!). These Beat Babies had their own individual bags (photograph to follow) full of items that they would need for an adventure, the recipe for Silly Soup (L&S) and a manual (to prevent Gremlins-style problems):

BEATBABYBOOK1BEATBABYBOOK@

This is by no means an exhaustive account of all the activities we involve our Beat Babies in, nor does it include the list of children that have been delighted, comforted and enthused by them. Instead, it is a simple anecdote which I would like to end by humbly thanking Ros Bayley’s most versatile brain-child: you have supported generations of practitioners in reaching children who couldn’t be reached, you have been launched from parachutes and have joined families on adventures (from flying Cessnas to walking the dog), you have encouraged children to use their voices and you reflect the diversity of our early years settings in your myriad colours, shapes and sizes.

Perhaps there will be a follow-up post, detailing the different ways in which a Beat Baby can be utilised within an early years setting, but I think first I’ll order myself an “Outdoor Beat Baby” and find a way to integrate him theatrically into our Forest Schools sessions…

Beat Babies and Ros Bayley’s resources can be found at: http://www.lawrenceeducational.com

*Note to all new Beat Baby owners: your Beat Baby may be quite sleepy and require special songs to wake up or go to sleep.

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About Kate Oakley
Senior Early Years Practitioner from the East of England.

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