The Pirate and the Baby
Introducing philosophy to the three year olds in nursery focuses on the children taking responsibility for the thinking behind their play and storytelling. The teacher, or facilitator’s role is to introduce philosophical reasoning and thinking by recording examples of children’s independent play, roleplay and storytelling. These written dialogues are then used to develop mini spoken enquiries. The facilitator asks questions about the moral and social behaviours the children present in their imaginative worlds. It is through this way of storytelling and thinking together that the children learn to make connections between these worlds and the real world they live in.
The following is a short example of how this works on a daily basis in my nursery class using the children’s own words and grammar.
I was hanging around the story area, adjacent to the book corner, with the usual intention of capturing the magical language of children’s storytelling. I was in luck. Three children were using the fairy tale puppets and a selection of small world toys, including a baby. The baby started to cry prompting the princess puppet to respond in a charming episode of fantasy storytelling.
Later that session the class sat together in our circle with the toys in the middle. I read out the children’s dialogue that I had recorded in our story book. I then re-read the following extract from the dialogue to initiate the philosophy dialogue ;
“Help, help, the baddie pirate has took our little baby”
“Ha, ha, yes ‘cos that’s what I do”
I asked the children if anyone knew why the pirate had taken the baby?
C-The pirate took the baby and the princess took it back off him ‘cos he not supposed to take babies
Myself as facilitator …Why did the pirate steal it then?
B-Cos the pirate wanted a baby and the baby was a child who’d stay with him for ever
D-Mummy wanted a baby so the pirate wanted a baby
Fac…So did this pirate have a wife then?
D-Yes and she wanted a baby
Fac…Was it ok for him to steal the baby then?
K-No she should have asked the princess first
Fac…But what if the princess wasn’t very nice, maybe she was always grumpy and the pirate thought she would say no?
K-She says that pirates can’t look after babies
H-Good pirates can look after babies
Fac…Do you think a pirate would be a good daddy for a baby then H?
H-No, ‘cos he be naughty
Fac…Would the baby grow up to be naughty too then do you think?
(Most children say yes)
Fac..Do pirate babies learn how to be naughty or are they already naughty when they are born?
G-Their mummies tell them not to be naughty
Fac-Do you think we can have mummy pirates?
D-No only pirates can be boys.
Fac-But what about the pirate’s wife? Is she a pirate?
S-Well, you can have girl pirates. I have seen girl pirates.
Fac-Are girl pirates nice or nasty?
D-Girls are good; they don’t want to be horrible to their children or babies
Fac-Even mummy pirates?
Fac-ok, I’m going to be the mummy pirate puppet
Am I a good mummy?
Fac-So am I a good pirate?
Fac-But I want to be a bad pirate like the man pirates. I’m going to wear an eyepatch and I want to steal some treasure, is that ok?
Fac- Why not?
S-You need to share it
Fac-I will share it. I will steal it from the King is that ok?
Fac- Shall I bring my pirate baby to steal from the King too?
S-No she’s a good baby pirate
D-No she isn’t, she is naughty, ‘cos she’s a pirate
A-All pirates are naughty
Fac- So even the baby? How is she naughty?
A-She drops toys all over the floor
D-Yes babies never tidy up their mess
Fac-So what do you think will happen in the end of our story? Do you think the baby will grow up to be a bad pirate or a good girl?
D-She will be a good girl
Fac-Even if she has a bad mummy and daddy?
D-Yes because girls are always good
Fac- Is that always true?
M- My sister doesn’t be good, she is always being silly
S- I am not always good or my sisters aren’t always good
D-But girls do want to be good
Fac- So do boys want to be good?
(Majority of children say no)
Fac- I think that is something we will have to do more thinking about later and I wonder if children can make their grown ups good?
I bought the discussion to a close by asking for volunteers to take over the puppets and finish acting out the story;
Fac-So, can you finish the story so we know what happens to the pirate.
Child D as the Baby – Be a good boy daddy pirate
Child as the Pirate- Ok, I won’t steal any babies never more.