Whilst developing Pyjama Drama, which combines drama, movement, music and play, I was influenced by two important factors. Firstly by observing my own three children; recognising that as toddlers it was their instinct to play imaginatively, and secondly by the ground breaking approach taken by the Welsh Assembly Government as they introduced and began to roll out the new Foundation Phase throughout Wales. The new curriculum is ‘based on the principle that early years’ provision should offer a sound foundation for future learning through a developmentally appropriate curriculum’ and does, in my view, offer young children just this. By placing emphasis on children learning through doing, children are given opportunities to learn practically and through the medium that is most instinctive to them – play.
I was greatly reassured that the principles of this new curriculum mirrored my own, and that current practise supported the work I was doing during the all-important developmental stage of the Pyjama Drama programme. Seven areas of learning have been identified to describe the Foundation phase, all of which are designed to ‘complement each other and all work together to provide a practical relevant curriculum for 3 to 7 year olds’ and I quickly realised these seven areas (ranging from ‘Language, literacy and communication’, to ‘Mathematical development’) were all being supported in any one Pyjama Drama session. Having developed a programme with such synergy to the new curriculum meant that I had the good fortune to work with inspirational practitioners throughout Wales, all of whom believed passionately, like me, that young children learn best when they are given opportunities to explore their world in a practical, fun and most of all play-based way.
My youngest child, now nearly seven years old and who is in the last year of the Foundation Phase, is the only one of the three who have progressed through the new curriculum from the beginning of her education which started in playgroup. She is also the only one of the three who has been through the entire Pyjama Drama programme (coming to my classes as a babe in arms at just three months) and I can honestly say she is the most creative, inquisitive, sociable little thing you could ever wish to meet. Of course you could argue that she was born that way and I’ve no doubt that she was. Despite this, I will be forever grateful for an education, and experiences that have placed such an emphasis on play and have given her, what I believe to be the best possible start.
Sometimes people assume that Pyjama Drama classes are for children (and their parents) with a desire to learn how to act, for those with ambitions of stardom, a place for pushy parents to hot house their children and prepare them for a career on the big screen. Nothing could be further from the truth. Whilst it may be true that some parents see a talent for acting or performing in their child at an early age (and that our classes are full of children with the potential to be future stars), the vast majority of parents bring their children to our classes because they recognise the huge benefits that young children gain from taking part in a programme that places real value on drama and all its elements.
Sarah Owen, director, Pyjama Drama