‘Messy Play’ – with Ardstraw Playgroup and Little Flower Playgroup, Sion Mills

The Ardstraw and Sion Mills playgroups are partners as part of the Sharing From The Start project, taking part in shared sessions. In February this year the two visited the Bog Hall in Sion Mills for a sensory play session. Joined by parents and grandparents, the children enjoyed the shared learning with their friends.

Everyone shared in the fun ‘messy play’ experiences, e.g. feeling rice krispies on their feet, playing with dolls, sponges and water, playing with flower petals, cocoa clay with vegetables, crazy foam, feet painting, etc. A few children needed to be encouraged by an adult to take part in the experiences and thoroughly enjoyed them when they did! Children learned new language associated with these sensory activities and discussed the names of the products and what they felt on their feet like hot, cold, slimy and slippery.

Sharing From The Start is supported by the European Union’s PEACE IV Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body. Funding enables pre-schools to take part in Shared Education projects improving educational outcomes and cross-community cohesion, inclusion and diversity. A number of neighbouring pre-school partnerships have been developed throughout Northern Ireland and the Southern Border Counties.

Their shared session had a very positive impact on learning. At the hall, the children had the opportunity to mix with each other and get to know each other while promoting language development by naming different resources, children/adults/family members’ names, using language to describe how the ‘messy play’ feels. Personal, Social and Emotional development was developed by playing and interacting with peers from both groups and adults and building upon relationships, and gaining confidence. The World Around Us was progressed as children had opportunities to experiment, and free exploration of the environment, using their senses, observing changes as they took part in the ‘messy play’. The Arts was developed as children expressed their ideas, extended their creativity and developed originality of thought.

The playgroup leaders commented on how they have befitted from this partnership so much and as well as the shared sessions and getting to know each other, the parents and family members have stated that they enjoy seeing the excitement in their children when going to meet their friends again. The playgroups have really built a relationship over their involvement in the project  and have been able to telephone each other about other matters rising within preschool and advise each other not only around Sharing from the Start activities which is a great support to have. Without Sharing from the Start they would not have these opportunities, shared sessions, experiences, building friendships/support, etc.

Administered by Early Years, working in collaboration with the Fermanagh Trust and National Childhood Network, the Sharing From The Start project aims to engage almost 10,000 pre-school children in shared activities on an ongoing and sustained basis. Together these three organisations have a strong track record and over twenty years experience of working for the benefit of children and community relations.