Give a child a typewriter and they will create worlds

I had a wonderful conversation with my grandparents a few months ago, about the types of things I liked to play with as a child. We chatted about paint, paper, notebooks and huge canvases (plentiful in a house full of artists and teachers) before moving on to things children find in the garden and the beliefs children have (fairies, mythical creatures, etc…); as a professional the conversation gave me the opportunity to consider whether the resources within my setting instigated the sort of quality play I wanted children to experience. One of the items I remember very vividly from my childhood was an old typewriter. My grandfather had an electronic typewriter for his work and I remember watching it in absolute wonder (being a bookworm I adored the idea of creating a book as much as I enjoyed reading them). In response to my interest (and to save the electronic typewriter from the over-zealous toddler, I suspect) my grandmother found a typewriter complete with black and red ribbon and reams upon reams of computer paper for me. Upon recollection, my mother states that the typewriter hardly went a day without being used for creating stories, invitations, bills, menus, newspapers, lists, messages (at one stage my sister and I became preoccupied with telegraphs) and other written communications.

In the setting…
A few weeks ago, my grandmother informed me that she had bought an old typewriter (with black and red ribbons, no less!) for me, at auction for the princely sum of £3. Since installing the typewriter (after a grand unboxing) at a table with a variety of different types of paper and stationery items, I’ve been able to observe literary behaviours unseen in some children using the computer or normal mark making table/tools within the setting. Children who thus far had no interest in writing have spent upwards of ten minutes carefully tapping away (bearing in mind that they are 2-5 year olds!) and children who previously wrote their names and various letters upon hand-written notes have been writing stories and messages. With the help of a practitioner, children have been requesting assistance in typing such words as “crocodile” and “monster” alongside favourite nouns such as “mummy” and “daddy”. Practitioners and parents/carers alike have had a go at typing, providing excellent role models and illustrating the enjoyment that can be had from expressing yourself upon paper (even if it is just to say “cheese sausages milk” – child’s snack time wishlist!)
The typewriter has also reinforced mark-making with pens, pencils and chalks as children patiently wait for “the ding” to tell them it’s someone else’s turn (a fantastic built-in turn-taking mechanism!) and name recognition has improved dramatically as children search for their name on a “turn-taking” list and urge practitioners to cross names out as children take their turn.
Although it has only been a few weeks, interest hasn’t waned and the children’s enthusiasm for reading (and creating things to read) has spread across all the areas of provision. As a setting that focuses mainly upon child-initiated learning, this addition of a springboard item has set off an explosion of fantastic ideas that I cannot wait to follow up (and possibly blog about)!

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

One Response to Give a child a typewriter and they will create worlds

  1. onlypriscilla says:

    Reblogged this on FasTracKids Kuwait and commented:
    Here’s an article from someone who sees the potential in small children!

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