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Blog 4 – 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).


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.

Upon reflection a number of points of interest are highlighted for me. Firstly, what a privilege it is to be able to work with such an enthusiastic, empowered and autonomous group. The ability of the group both children and adults to adapt to and embrace new learning opportunities is evidence of the hard work, perseverance and resilience present in the group individually and as a whole.

Secondly, how exposure to new approaches and ways of doing things can energise practitioners – we saw an enhanced enthusiasm for viewing creativity as a process rather than a product in practitioners, parents, families and the children themselves. Some children (and, more particularly, adults) can tend to view the product as being more important than the process. This arts project helped to challenge this idea and resulted in a more balanced approach towards the process of making art.

Thirdly, the presence of new adults within the setting sparked conversation and directed interactions in new ways, giving Early Years Practitioners opportunities to model pro-social behaviour e.g. inclusion, respect of others, listening, empathy and personal responsibility. The children observed their trusted adults welcoming newcomers with confidence, acceptance and high-regard. This modelled behaviours through which the children acquired learning completely unrelated to art and creativity, but useful and important for their future pro-social development.

Finally, the evolving nature of the project allowed us to reflect upon the constantly changing dynamic of the group and the emerging opportunities, the life of a young child changes quickly as do their needs, interests and motivations. The adults within the group (both artists and practitioners) were able to acknowledge, accept this and use a go with the flow approach when needed, allowing movement of learning from child-to-adult as well as from adult-to-child.



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