Archives for posts with tag: stories

trees shadow 2

We may not give much thought to shadows, but dare so we’ve all enjoyed a picnic under the dappled shade of a tree or taken shelter on a scorching day to avoid the searing heat of the sun.

Parents and practitioners can’t help but have noticed children’s fascination for detail, and with shadows acting like huge lenses on the world, they bring delight from magically stretching things to giant proportions!  We sometimes forget what it’s like to experience the world from a child’s height, but our shadows give us a taste of what this feels like, while for children there’s something irresistible (not to mention wonderful for self-esteem) about suddenly being 10 feet tall! Then there’s always playground favourites like the challenge of stepping on your shadow or counting and jumping your way from one island of shade to another. Seasoned story tellers are skilled in exploiting the potential for shadows, whether it be piquing excitement, adding intrigue or let’s not forget in the case of the Dementors, introducing monster proportions and a chill factor to a tale.

Shadows clearly have a place in children’s lives but I wonder how often adults give a thought to the impact of shadow when we plan and use spaces? It takes a skilled eye to fully appreciate what will be the impact of architects and designer’s vision when magically transformed by the touch of the sun. A discreet or nondescript feature can suddenly become noteworthy or a well-proportioned structure magnified into a grotesque giant. As these images illustrate, shadows can introduce architectural interest, indicate our expectations and use of the environment, provide shelter and vitally, delight young and old with their playful results. What’s more there’s something very alluring about their fleeting presence and fact that no two shadows will ever be the same.

Just like snow transforms the ugly and mundane into sculptured beauty, so too shadows can turn a monstrosity into a visual spectacle. Simple functional pieces can be given unexpected aesthetic qualities, like these cast iron hooks which as the shadows stretch off the wall, magnifies their architectural qualities and seemingly implore us to use them to hang things on!

Well considered details like these geometric railings, can reap dividends, being magnified and duplicated. While the railings themselves may go unnoticed by a passer-by, its shadow grabs our attention, seemingly shouting ‘look at me!’ As well as shadows elevating even the most ordinary features to amazing sculptural displays they also bring welcome relief from the intense heat. Just as a space entirely in shade might feel cold, gloomy and oppressive, so too the opposite, an exposed site with no escape from the blazing sun or no private spaces for ‘hiding’ in, can feel equally unappealing. A combination of light and shade provides a range of ambient temperatures and as importantly generates spaces with different energies, moods, feelings and ways of being used. So the shade of a tree or trellis may invite people to pause and gather; while an open expanse of direct sun is a place to move quickly through; and a darkened corner, perhaps a cosy hide-away.

With careful planting and simple backdrops the impact and architectural qualities of plants can also be magnified. Like these lavender plants, look carefully and you will see how much of the picture is an illusion – only the bits above the wall are actually real, a lesson in how to maximise value for money! Some patterns and details may be a happy accident, like the extra textural interest on these seats hewn from stone. Complementing the rough granite sides, the geometric pattern provides a welcome light show for commuters and tourists.

Other images like this, effortlessly capture a single magical moment in time, with the shadows elevating a sensory experience and literally making it larger than life. Next time you’re out and about in the sun, spare a moment to consider the illusive work of the most transient artist – the touch of light and shade.

IMG_6440 camels shadow

To contact me or find out more about my books, research and the resources and services I offer go to http://www.playtoz.co,uk

  

Sue’s inspirations and background

Sue Gascoyne is a qualified Town and Country planner with a focus on design, conservation and architecture.

Sue is also a qualified Creative Arts & Play Therapist – an area which has given her an insight into the impact of environments on children’s emotional, behavioural and cognitive wellbeing.

As an Early education researcher, with a specialism in sensory engagement, environments and new materialism Sue has an interest in not just the affordance of environments but how these actively shape human’s actions and experiences as agents in intra actions.

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I expect most parents have been through the awkward phase of their child becoming frustrated with reading. Not quite fluent enough to read at an exciting pace to appreciate and enjoy the story, a temporary dislike of reading sets in, bringing out a stubborn streak in many a child. In my experience at times like this we need to pull back rather than chastising. Instead, channel your actions on finding the most interesting reads and exciting environments to hopefully rekindle the fire.

When it came to my seven year old son, picking a focus was easy and we started reading anything and everything to do with boats, planes and trains. The mix of reading was also key, from a fantastic diary of an epic duo circumnavigating the world in a dingy in the 1960’s, to a competent crew manual, complete with ensigns and Morse code, exciting novels of adventure to books brimming with facts about the different parts of a plane, or even the Hornby train catalogue! All these provided rich reading fodder to share with myself or my husband. With subject matter picked to appeal and excite, these reading materials also allowed my seven year old to become the expert, explaining to me about the forces of wind on a sail or design of an aircraft wing to accommodate fuel tanks. The topics may be clichéd but what was important was that they dovetailed with his current fascination. Several weeks on The Romans and cooking would have been added to the list!

With reading materials sorted the next challenge was making the occasion and environment special. Blankets and torches transformed a corner outdoors into a den, while indoors, beanbags on the floor and a canopy made from a sheet or Thai cushions in the bathroom gave reading an edge.

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For those of you gingerly nurturing fragile egos, working hard to reignite the temporarily elusive magic of stories, I have provided a photo taken this week which I hope brings you comfort and hope. The image captures the spontaneous moment when for my seven year old son, reading a book became something not easily stopped, not even for a bath! Walking in the bathroom to discover this sight was one of those everlasting special moments, especially in National Storytelling Week! It may look staged but I assure you it is not. What’s more it marks the moment my youngest child metamorphosed from recalcitrant reader to a voracious, insatiable book worm!