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Blog 3 – Lucy Davey, Educator, Farmyard Miniworld, (Ballintogher Playschool)

Lucy Davey

Lucy Davey is a qualified Mental Health Nurse, Play Therapist and Early Years Educator, she owns and manages, Farmyard Miniworld (Ballintogher Playschool), a small, independent, Playschool, located in the semi-rural county Sligo village of Ballintogher.

Surrounded by picturesque landscape, including mountains, farmed and natural spaces, modern and ancient structures, Ballintogher is the perfect location for children to grow and play.

Lucy has an abiding commitment towards truly free play and her practice emphasises the benefits accrued by children, and their adults, of time spent outdoors and in the company of nature.

In her blog series, Lucy discusses her experience of being part of the Arts in Early Learning and Care (ELC) and School Age Childcare (SAC) Pilot. Ballintogher Playschool was one of nine early years settings who participated in this national pilot scheme, working in collaboration with Kids’ Own Publishing and artists Maree Hensey and Naomi Draper. The pilot took place between May to December 2023 and supported professional artists and early years educators working together to explore the Draft Principles for Engaging with the Arts in Early Learning and Care (DCEDIY 2023).

The Family’s Experience

Towards the end of our playschool year 2023 we had the pleasure of welcoming welcoming Kids’ Own associate artists Maree Hensey and Naomi Draper into our playspace, as our playschool took part in the Arts in Early Learning and Care (ELC) and School Age Childcare (SAC) Pilot. Embarking on a journey of creativity and learning together, we put the child’s experience at the centre.

We have a natural diversity of families and family backgrounds represented at playschool and we place a high value on the richness of the different cultural backgrounds that are represented within the group, both adults and children – we are a community made up of many different parts.

When we introduced the idea of visiting artists to the families there was a general sense of interest and curiosity with parents making comments such as “What is going to be expected of my childHow will they interact with my childI don’t like art, I was never any good at schoolWill my child’s ability be judgedWhat type of art will be involved?”.

Some parents are artists themselves and were naturally excited and impressed by the idea. One hundred percent of families gave their consent for their child to take part in the art project.

It soon became evident that a great number of parents had fixed ideas about what both ‘Art’ and ‘Artists’ were and some parents talked about their expectations e.g. “It will be lots of colouringThere will be careful painting”.

As the weeks rolled by and the project unfolded I am sure that comments from children at home added detail to parents’ interpretation of what was happening with the artists at playschool.

One of the favourite links between families and playschool was the gallery which we opened after one session, where parents were invited to view and experience the group’s work. This presented a wonderful opportunity for parents to interact with the artists and to get to know them, as well as to appreciate the work the children were doing.

We have very strong, positive bonds with the families who use our service, we value parental input and encourage open communication between parents and the service providers.

The arts project was very much a shared experience where a recognition and value was placed upon the contribution made by families towards the overall development of the child both within and outside of the setting. The introduction of the community artists into our space strengthened the link between our service provision and the local community – the project formed a conduit for interaction and involvement.



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