I'm a bit like ELMER!

This was said by one of the children. It took me by surprise!

This month’s pattern was for Elmer and it was suggested by a member of storybasketeers. I had read the book before but I have to be honest and say I was a little HO-HUM about the book. The first time I read it, the children didn’t take to it and didn’t request it again so it went to the bottom of my pile of books and was gathering dust!

When Elmer was suggested by a storybasketeer member I went searching for the book and gave it another try. To my surprise the children enjoyed it and I saw that it was a great book to share, reflect or wonder on with the children. I had made 2 patterns which had 3 options for a story basket.

I made the first (which was a print and share version) and set it out for the children to explore and retell the story. The children are used to story baskets so I have no worries about putting it out without introducing it. A story basket does gout on a ‘special’ shelf or table when it is put out as part of the routine. Below is the shelf i use, it is from IKEA. You will see little red riding hood story spoons which is a pattern from my storybasketeers membership, a small word play scene using Melissa and Doug farmyard set , acrylic coloured blocks and a basket with a metal tea set from second hand shops..

The materials in it were cheap and easily replaceable if any went missing or got damaged I could simply print them out again or source them. I try and make all my story baskets in this way as it helps me not to feel ‘precious’ about them and children to feel able to explore them fully.

The children enjoyed the retelling and Elmer traveled all over the setting. ELMER joined the dough table and was celebrated with parties and cake! He went into the sandpit and got rather sandy but survived to be returned to the story basket.

The second way of creating a story basket was a ‘crafty’ story basket. It invites the children to decorate a milk container to be like an elephant or ELMER.

It was doing this ‘crafting’ a child said “I’m a bit like ELMER”. I had observed her using only red tissue paper to decorate her elephant. I didn’t think much of it till she brought it to me to see what she had done.

The third way to use the resources was to put the milk container ELMER in a story basket with other items and this time I told the story in a group time. This led to more children wanting to make an ELMER and use it in a story basket.

During the 'crafting' I commented that I liked how she had made her elephant all red. It was then that she said “I’m a bit like ELMER”. I was curious about this and asked her why she thought this and she said “because of my red hair”.

I looked at her and perhaps saw her as she saw herself in the early childhood setting. I looked around and it was true no other child in the setting had her beautiful coloured hair. I LOVED her hair colour as it reminded me of my Ma and made me smile.

I told her “I loved her hair colour” and looked at me questioningly. I told her about my Ma. She appeared surprised. I asked if she knew anyone else with her hair colour and she said “no”. I said there were many others who had the same colour. She laughed and said “You’re tricking.” I have been known to make jokes and tricks with my storytelling and understood her reply. I said I wasn’t and I could prove it. I was honestly taken aback that she had not seen another with the same hair colouring. But as I thought more about Sam (pseudonym) and that she did not have a television at home nor was there any 'screentime' and she lived in small tight knit community I could see that this was possible.

When I returned the next day, I had photos of my Ma and others who had the same hair colouring. I showed them to her and she smiled saying “so you weren’t tricking”.

This teaching episode also meant that I did a ‘dolly and baby audit’ and I discovered we had dolls with different coloured eyes and skin tones but none had red hair. I found a doll with red hair and added to the collection and it reminded me that often it is the small things that have the greatest impact on a sense of belonging.

I can’t believe that I was so reluctant to use this book and was pleased I gave it another go. It helped me celebrate Sam and her hair. It was a HEART felt experience.

Until next time.


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