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The value of the abstract in early years

In November 2012, a number of practitioners involved with early years arts in Ireland went to a conference in Birmingham, hosted by Early Years Arts UK and Moonbeams. A wonderfully rich two days which focused on the concept of quality, among other things. Those present were apprehensive about the quality of Irish early years arts and wondered about our ranking (to put it crudely) or more politely our qualities and defects in the area of early years arts. By the end of the two days we found ourselves calm with contentment and enthused to consider the present qualitative state of Irish arts for early years. In trying to figure our relative place in the early years arts hierarchy of the 21st century, we came to consider our attributes within this sphere.

One of the things considered was our ability to be more than content with entertaining and engaging with the abstract; dwelling, imaging and creating happily in and with that which stands apart from the real.

In considering the value of the abstract to early childhood development where, because of the freshness of the child to the world and all in it, everything has a real and an abstract nature existing at once. Objects have a function, but they can have many functions and all at the same time, without contradiction. Daddy can be the name for any man, a box can be a castle, a sock can be a caterpillar, and water sprayed from a Windowlene bottle is captured rain. These things are at the centre of our humour, our aesthetic, our nature as creative beings and we Irish are pretty good at it I believe. I would think it is something to be cherished within early years and not lost through ‘formal education’, well perhaps unless its formal abstract education.  

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