Let the elves and fairies come out to play - Texas Child Care Quarterly

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1 f e at u r e Let the elves and fairies come out to play About midnight the elves came in, dancing and Fairyland: A skipping, hopped round the room, and then went cognitive milestone to sit down to their work as usual. But when they Elves, fairies, and similar crea- tures belong to the traditions of saw the clothes lying for them, they laughed and folklore and fantasy. In children, beginning around age 3, the abili- chuckled, and seemed mightily delighted. ty to engage in stories about Then they dressed themselves in the twinkling of imaginary little people marks a cognitive milestone that is critical an eye, and danced and capered and sprang for thinking and learning. about, as merry as could be, until at last they The ability to imagine allows us to understand events we dont danced out the door, and away over the green. directly experience (a sisters birthday party going on in anoth- er state, for example), including I n this excerpt from the familiar Brothers Grimm story The Elves and the Shoemaker happenings in the past (history). Imagination enables us to plan (such as next weeks meeting), (Grimm 2008), we smile at the organize (tasks and supplies antics of two elves finding the needed for a project, for example), clothes the shoemaker has made and solve problems (such as how as thanks for their help in making to repair the roof). Scientists use shoes. their imagination to make discov- Stories containing elves and eries and generate theories. fairies have long delighted chil- British biophysicist Rosalind drenand adults. Walt Disney Franklin, for example, contributed made several fairies famous by to genetics by envisioning DNA turning old stories into animated as a helix. films: Cinderellas fairy godmoth- The ability to imagine is also er, Snow Whites seven dwarfs, important for social and emotion- and Peter Pans Tinker Bell. This al development. Imagination story-to-screen tradition has con- allows us to take another persons tinued with more recent stories, perspective (Marys happiness such as J.K. Rorwlings Harry about her new baby, for example) Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, in and to anticipate consequences of which Harry helps free Dobby the behavior (If I work until mid- House Elf from his cruel master. night .). Texas Child Care quarterly / winter 2012 / VOLUME 36, NO. 3 / childcarequarterly.com

2 We see the development of The Funk and Wagnalls diction- his mischievous pranks and imagination in preschool children ary also notes that the term fairy humorous mistakes. when they express fear about the tale has unfortunately been Other authors merely borrow gorilla in the closet and the alliga- applied to many stories that con- characteristics of traditional elves tor under the bed. We see it as tain no mention of fairies at all. and fairies or invent their own to they eagerly await gifts from Most tales about fairies are actu- suit the purposes of their stories. Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, ally traditions and relate real Popular culture, including mov- when they engage in pretend beliefs (Leach 1972). Indeed, they ies, music and illustrations, fur- play, when they re-enact the bat- are often folk tales or wisdom ther elaborate the form and func- tles of superheroes, and when anecdotes that have been handed tion of these magical creatures. they talk to imaginary friends. down for generations. In the early The notion of Santas elves, for Children move easily in and out of fantasy and reality but are If you listen, you will hear more often unable to distinguish between the two until age 7 or 8. Beyond developmental benefits than the obvious story line. for children, the best fantasy offers something morethe enduring pleasure of a good story. Some fantasies laugh; some are full of nonsense; others are breathless with adventure and brave deeds, says Gladys Hunt 1800s, the Grimm brothers, Jacob example, originated in European (2002). If you listen, you will and Wilhelm, collected stories in stories about Saint Nicholas and hear more than the obvious story their native Germany and pub- his helpers (New World line. lished them under the original Encyclopedia 2008). The modern title Household Tales, which later American version of elves as toy What are elves and became Grimms Fairy Tales makers in Santas workshop fairies? (Grimm 2008). evolved through a number of sto- The word fairy, according to Funk Elf and fairy characters appear ries and illustrations, including a and Wagnalls Standard Dictionary of in the folklore and literature of cover for The Saturday Evening Folklore, Mythology and Legend countries around the world and Post painted by Norman Rockwell (Leach 1972), is a term loosely date back many centuries. One in 1922. used to denote a type of supernat- theory holds that fairies are the ural being, usually invisible, personification of the old primi- sometimes benevolent and help- tive spirits of nature, while ful, sometimes evil and danger- another theory says they arose out ous, sometimes just mischievous of beliefs about the spirits of the and whimsical, dwelling on the dead (Leach 1972). earth in close contact with man. Through history, authors have The word elf, according to chosen commonly known fairies Spirits, Fairies, Gnomes, and for characters in their stories. In Goblins: An Encyclopedia of the the 1500s, for example, William Little People (Rose 1996) originally Shakespeare immortalized three meant all types of fairies in fairies in his play, A Midsummer Anglo-Saxon but later denoted a Nights Dream. Oberon and Titania special class. In England elves are the fairy king and queen, and were described as little old men Puck is the sprite or hobgoblin who can shift their shape at will. who moves the action along with Texas Child Care quarterly / winter 2012 / VOLUME 36, NO. 3 / childcarequarterly.com

3 A cursory look at fairy-related But the Funk and Wagnalls dic- appearance. books in bookstores and libraries tionary insists this explanation is Where does it live? will reveal many titles that pur- an error. Its gremlin entry says What does it do? Was its action port to define and classify folk gremlin-like characters have in the story helpful or harmful? and fantasy characters, perhaps in appeared as technicians impart- How does this elf or fairy com- an attempt to make sense of an ing knowledge to man since the pare to others we have read enormous and complex subject. beginning of the world. Indeed, about? The Fantasy Encyclopedia (Allen some were artisans who provid- Have you ever seen an elf or 2005), for example, groups elves ed the knights of the Middle Ages fairy? Are elves and fairies real? and fairies in the category of little with wondrous steel blades, hel- people, along with leprechauns, mets, and weapons. A sampling of childrens books: fairy godmothers, dwarfs, brown- Given such differences, we can The Blueberry Pie Elf, by Jane ies, hobgoblins, and gremlins. approach a unit on elves and fair- Thayer, 2008. Elmer, a house elf, Distinctions remain elusive, ies with an appreciation of the jumps into the middle of a blue- however. Whats the difference embellished interpretations of berry pie freshly baked by the between a sprite and a pixie, for folklore balanced by a respect for family. After gorging himself, example, or a dwarf and a the scholarly study of folk tradi- he wants another but cannot tell gnome? It depends upon the tions. As folklorist and storyteller the family because hes invisi- author and the sources cited, and Lise Lunge-Larsen has said in The ble. Then presto! He finds a in many cases the definitions Hidden Folk (2004), the emotional solution. overlap or contradict. truth of a story is more important Diane Goodes Book of Giants and Two encyclopedias (Allen 2005 than its literal truth. Little People, 1997. This collec- and Rose 1996), for example, As teachers, we can engage chil- tion of 17 stories and poems claim the gremlin originated in dren in stories of fantasy and folk- includes the classic Shoemaker World War I as British pilots lore not only to enhance their and the Elves as well as sought to explain their difficulties imaginative skills but also to Anansi and the Plantains in operating the new-fangled fly- encourage their love of reading (from Africa), Lovesick Lopez ing machines. Two decades later, and literature. (California), and Three Strong Roald Dahl, a member of the Consider setting up learning Women (Japan). British Royal Air Force, wrote a center activities using the elves Nells Elf, by Jane Cowen- novel (The Gremlins, 1943, now and fairies theme. Use these ideas Fletcher, 2006. When a little girl out of print) explaining the grem- to get you started. finds herself bored on a rainy lins mischief as revenge for the day, she draws an elf. destruction of their forest home Literacy Surprisingly, it comes to life. (Allen 2005). Gather books from your school or The Hidden Folk, by Lise Lunge- home collection and the public Larsen, 2004. The author has library. Review books carefully fleshed out nine stories told by before presenting them to chil- her mother, aunt, and grand- dren. Avoid books that portray mother to make them engag- fairies as female stereotypes who ing to todays children. The value beauty and fashion over stories feature flower fairies, brains and courage. Look for sto- gnomes, hill folk, elves, dwarfs, ries and pictures that show diver- water horses, river sprites and sity in race and ethnicity. selkies. Read stories aloud during circle time and lead children in a dis- Art cussion, with questions like these: Talk with children about the pic- What kind of elf or fairy is in tures of elves and fairies in books this story? Describe its size and as well as those you find on the Texas Child Care quarterly / winter 2012 / VOLUME 36, NO. 3 / childcarequarterly.com

4 Internet. Emphasize that the pic- description of a fairy (Leach with a feather or flower tures were drawn by artists using 1972): He usually lives under- fabric caps with a yarn ball or their imagination. That means ground in a burrow or under a bell on the end that elves and fairies can be hill, or in a heap of stones. cone hats made from stiff paper depicted in many variations; there Usually he is clothed in green; and decorated with stars, rib- is no right or wrong way. sometimes his skin and hair are bons, or glitter Invite children to create an elfin green. tunic made from a burlap rect- figure out of clay or to draw one In choosing props, consider angle about 36 inches long, with using crayons, paint, markers, or using the artwork the children a hole cut in the middle to slip colored pencils. Encourage chil- have created in the art activity. over the head dren to make the elf or fairy any Note that their creations may rope or cord belt large green or brown T-shirts, dotted with one or two con- Allow plenty of time for children to trasting color patches (iron-on type or sewn) beard made from cotton or yarn engage in pretend play. beaded necklaces Math and manipulatives Print out the Norman Rockwell illustration, Santa With Elves, way they like. As children work, depict elves and fairies as chil- from the Internet (Google the invite them to talk about the col- dren have seen them in books and name of the painting and search ors and shapes they choose. movies (features such as pointed images). This illustration, used on If children are interested, invite ears and gauzy wings, for exam- the cover of the Dec. 2, 1922, issue them to make fairy clothes and ple) or as children have invented of The Saturday Evening Post, props listed below in dramatic them (purple hair or combat shows a tired Santa surrounded by play. School-age children may be boots, for example). eight tiny elves. Find another pic- willing to make these props for Invite children to dress up ture, in a childrens book or on the preschoolers, using instructions either as elfin people or as Internet, of Santa with larger elves. they find on the Internet or humans who will interact with Place copies of the two pictures visions they create in their own them. Allow plenty of time for along with a ruler and a yardstick heads. children to engage in pretend in the manipulatives center. Invite play. children to estimate the height of Dramatic play the elves. The Rockwell elves, for After reading The Elves and the A sampling of props: example, appear to be about 3 Shoemaker, transform the dra- feather boas inches tall. Other pictures often matic play center into the shoe- leaf or flower hair garlands depict elves at about half Santas makers shop. Youll need a table crowns height, or 30-40 inches tall. and chairs, an assortment of wings made from paper or net Ask children to demonstrate the shoes, wood mallets, pounding skirts made of net or chiffon height of each elf with a ruler and bench, elf caps and jackets, and wands yardstick. Then compare the two sewing supplies, for example. aprons heights: How many tiny elves Encourage children to assume the bells or battery-operated lights standing one on top of the other roles of the different characters on shoes would it take to equal the height and act out the story. pointed ears made from felt or of the larger elf? How does your Set up a dramatic play area out- paper height compare to the elves doors using props that follow this triangular paper hats adorned heights? Texas Child Care quarterly / winter 2012 / VOLUME 36, NO. 3 / childcarequarterly.com

5 Glue the two pictures on card- leave a few berries hanging on the tional story such as A Rainbow of stock, and then cut them into 6 to vines for elves and fairies. My Own, by Don Freeman (1976). 12 puzzle pieces. Place the pieces Encourage children to imagine After reading, explain that a rain- in an envelope or basket and they are elves and fairies and con- bow is colored light that appears leave them in the manipulatives sider what they might eat. If they when rays of the sun hit rain- center for children to put together live in the woods, they might eat drops in the air. during free play. berries, nuts (such as pecans and Encourage children to make walnuts), and honey made by their own rainbows with these Blocks and wild bees. If they live in a persons activities: construction house, they might eat what a fam- Hold a glass prism to sunlight Talk with children about the kinds ily eats, except in tiny portions. against a white background. of structures in which elves and Invite children to make an elfin The prism separates white light fairies might live. Might they snack or lunch. Be creative. Use into the colors of a rainbow. sleep in a cave, an underground cookie cutters, such as star, heart, Place a small mirror in a glass burrow, the hollow of a tree, or a flower, and butterfly, to cut of water. Hold the glass so the shed in the schoolyard? How shapes in bread or to shape gela- sun shines on the mirror, and many elves or fairies are there in tin. Spread the bread with peanut turn the glass until a rainbow is a group? How big are they and butter, hummus (made from reflected against the wall. how much space will they need? mashed chickpeas), or lowfat Go outdoors, and stand with During outdoor play, set aside a cream cheese and dot with tiny, your back to the sun. Spray a dry, protected area where children cut-up pieces of dried cranberries mist of water from a garden can build a miniature house or or crushed nuts. For safety, make hose into the air, and watch for shelter where elves or fairies sure each fruit and nut piece is the rainbow to appear in the might live. Encourage children to smaller than a grape to prevent spray. gather natural materials, such as choking. rocks, sand, sticks, leaves, and Spread whole wheat tortillas Music acorns, to use for building. Or with pimento cheese, mashed In folk tales, elves and fairies add these materials to the block beans, or guacamole. Roll up each often play music and dance. center indoors. Provide match- tortilla, and cut across each roll in People once believed that mush- boxes or spools for furniture and 1-inch sections to make coin rooms growing in a ring followed fabric or paper scraps as linens. shapes. Insert a toothpick in each the paths fairies made by dancing If children want to build a coin to hold the layers in place. in a circle. structure for larger elves, you Serve on a plate garnished with Look through your CD or tape may need to provide boards, parsley or cilantro. collection for dance music. Invite bricks, and canvas or a sheet. children to wear props from the Allow plenty of time for children Science dramatic play activity and dance to engage in play. Talk with children about rain- to music. Or arrange children in a bows. Ask questions such as the circle, each with a colorful scarf, Cooking following: and have them wave the scarves At snack time, set out slices of Have you ever seen a rainbow? as they dance to the music. freshly baked bread, sugar-free What kind of day was it? Sing Somewhere Over the blackberry jam, and lowfat milk. (Rainy) Rainbow from the The Wizard of Explain that a long time ago, Are rainbows magic or real? Oz. Invite children to make up humans expressed their apprecia- Name the colors in the rainbow. actions that go with each line or tion to elves and fairies by leaving (Red, orange, yellow, green, use those below. out a little bread and a small con- blue, and violet, in that order) tainer of milk after milking a cow. Read a childrens science book, Somewhere over the rainbow, In addition, when picking berries such as Rainbow and You, by way up high (spread hands in an in the woods, they would often Edwin C. Krupp (2000), or a fic- arc overhead) Texas Child Care quarterly / winter 2012 / VOLUME 36, NO. 3 / childcarequarterly.com

6 Theres a land that Ive heard of Introduce children to different Cowling, Tania. 2012. Rainbows: once in a lullaby (cup ear with hand) styles of music using the fairy Teaching Children About Colors Somewhere over the rainbow, theme. Check your local public in the Sky, Bright Hub skies are blue (spread hands in an library for music like the following: Education, www.brighthubedu- arc overhead) Fairies Lamentation and cation.com/preschool-lesson- And the dreams that you dare to Dance, instrumental by the plans/63698-rainbow-lesson- dream (bend head to side and fold Chieftains, an Irish folk group, and-activities/. hands underneath) on their Chieftains 7 album (7 Freeman, Don. 1978. A Rainbow of Really do come true. minutes). It opens in a sad, My Own. New York: Puffin. wistful style and transitions Hunt, Gladys. 2002. Honey for a Someday Ill wish upon a star midway into an energetic jig. Childs Heart: The Imaginative Use (point to sky) Listen for the Irish bagpipes of Books in Family Life, (4th ed.). And wake up where the clouds and tin whistle (recorder). Grand Rapids, Mich.: are far behind me (hand to mouth The Wedding March and Zondervan. in a yawn) Dance of the Fairies, by Franz Krupp, Edwin C. 2000. Rainbow and Where troubles melt like lemon Liszt, composed for You. New York: HarperCollins. drops (close hands into fists) Shakespeares A Midsummer Leach, Maria (Ed.) 1989. Funk and High above the chimney tops Nights Dream (10 minutes). This Wagnalls Standard Dictionary of (raise fists into air and open) march might have been per- Folklore, Mythology and Legend. Thats where youll find me (point formed between acts or during New York: Funk and Wagnalls. to self). action on the stage. It has New World Encyclopedia. 2008. become a classic accompani- Santa Claus, www.newworl- Somewhere over the rainbow, ment for brides making their dencyclopedia.org/entry/ blue birds fly (spread hands in an wedding entrance. Santa_Claus. arc overhead) The Dance of the Sugar Plum Rose, Carol. 1996. Spirits, Fairies, Birds fly over the rainbow (link Fairies from The Nutcracker bal- Gnomes, and Goblins: An thumbs and wave hands up and let, composed by Pyotr Ilyich Encyclopedia of the Little People. down) Tchaikovsky (2 minutes). The New York: W.W. Norton and Why then, oh why cant I? (move dance is one of the best-known Co. head side to side) works that makes use of the Wang, Shirley. 2009. The Power If happy little blue birds fly celesta, a keyboard instrument of Magical Thinking, The Wall beyond the rainbow (spread hands that sounds like a xylophone, Street Journal, http://online.wsj. in an arc overhead) only softer. com/article/SB10001424052748 Why then, oh why cant I? (move You can preview these and 703344704574610002061841322. head side to side) other selections online at www. html. n myspace.com/music/. References Allen, Judy. 2005. The Fantasy Encyclopedia: A Guide to Fabulous Beasts and Magical BeingsFrom Elves and Dragons to Vampires and Wizards. Boston: Kingfisher/Houghton Mifflin. Brothers Grimm. 2008. Grimms Fairy Tales. The Project Gutenberg EBook, No. 2591, www.guten- berg.org/files/2591/2591- h/2591-h.htm. Texas Child Care quarterly / winter 2012 / VOLUME 36, NO. 3 / childcarequarterly.com

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