Rituals have been a big thinking point in the Ngurra space this year. We have added many to our day with the intention of making important routine moments opportunities for control and agency. Mealtimes and sleep times have changed drastically from how we did them last year or even the first half of 2022, and as a team we have continually noticed how rituals have helped to make our space calmer and more connected.
Children have developed belonging and ownership to the space through these rituals, but they have also developed their relationships with their educators and one another through these rituals. So when I came across a sustainability issue in our space, I immediately began to think of ways that I could solve the problem while also turning it into a ritual.
The issue was our method for labelling our sheet bags. We began to notice that the children’s cardboard labels were going missing, therefore needing a new label. Previously, we created a sheet bag at the beginning of each child’s week, adding a clean sheet and blanket to a drawstring bag and then threading the drawstring through a cardboard label with their name and photo on it. However, as our sleep time ritual has evolved over the year, the children have been able to access these labels more readily, becoming excited to see their picture and names but also pulling on the label and causing it to rip. This meant we would need to use more cardboard, paper, glue and printer ink to create a new one, which in the end would only end up in the recycling anyway.
As we thought about how to solve this problem, a few more factors that needed to be taken into account came along – one of the children began needing to take their bag home at the end of the week to wash with their own laundry powder. But how could they do this without damaging the label or having it go missing? Additionally, we realised that our sleep spaces needed to be adjusted for our newly updated safe sleep policy. The drawstring bags had become a concern; with our old method we would tuck the bag under the bed and leave the string and label visible to the children so that they could find their beds. This then became a hazard as we realised the children could become tangled in the loose strings.
As we developed our new sleep ritual, we realised the children are no longer required to be able to identify their bed as they enter the sleep room. Instead, the children are setting up their bed one-on-one with an educator before lying down, so the loose strings could be tucked under the bed.
So this left me with two problems to solve; how could we label the bags in a semi-permanent way that could also go through the washing machine without being damaged? The bags also needed to be able to have the label removed and brought back to the Ngurra space for the new children each year. As I thought, I realised that we could use a fabric label with the child’s name written on it that could then be sewn onto the bag. In order to make the label removable, we could use a wide zigzag stitch that could then be easily unpicked once the children were no longer in need of a sheet bag.
With rituals on the brain this year, I also felt that this would also be a good process to add to our Ngurra rituals and a nice way to connect the children’s time in the Ngurra (0-2 years space) with their time in the Djirang (2-5 years space).
I proposed that as the children transitioned from a cot to a mattress on the floor, they could create their own sheet bag alongside their educators and peers. They would be able to completely customise it, choosing their own fabric and colour of marker, and then sew it themselves. This bag would then be used in their sleep ritual every day and eventually the children would be able to take it with them to the Gulamany learning group when they transitioned to the Djirang space.
To make my idea more sustainable and ensure no labels were being thrown in the bin, the children were given the opportunity to work with an educator to remove their label from the bag and use it to create something else. Perhaps a Boomerang bag with their very own name on it?
We have already done our first round of fabric labelled sheet bags and the process was so much fun. The children were enthusiastic and excited as they chose their favourite colours, sitting with an educator to write their names before rushing over to me at the sewing machine and helping me to sew it.
I look forward to seeing this idea grow and evolve over time. I hope it can become a cherished ritual here at Explore & Develop Annandale.
Loader, M. and Christie, T. (2022). ‘Rituals; Making the everyday extraordinary in early childhood’. Childspace Early Childhood Institute. Wellington: New Zealand