Rebecca peered out from behind her Mummy’s legs and watched silently. Her sobs quietened, and the tears began to dry on her cheeks.
She stared at the masking tape stage on the floor. A group of children had gathered around it and were busily acting out the stories they had told earlier that morning. Rebecca wasn’t ready to sit with them. She gripped tightly onto her Mummy’s dungarees and refused to go any nearer.
Today was Rebecca’s first day. This was a strange new world, a big and noisy world, so different from the quiet of her front room during lockdown. Although Mummy had made several attempts to leave, Rebecca wasn’t having any of it.
But there was something about that masking tape stage and how the other children responded to it, which made Rebecca curious.
“This is Annabelle’s story,” said the teacher. “Annabelle is going to be a penguin.”
Rebecca leaned out from behind Mummy’s legs.
“A big penguin,” read the teacher.
A girl with blonde hair stood up.
“Annabelle, can I see you pretending to be the penguin.”
Annabelle waddled around the stage, her hands by her side like wings, the perfect penguin.
“Shall we all pretend to be penguin’s waddling around the stage,” asked the teacher.
All the children jumped up and began waddling and toddling backwards and forwards.
Behind Mummy’s legs, Rebecca started to sway, just a little bit at first, then a bit further. She took a step forward, and another, and another until suddenly she was standing in the enormous gap between Mummy and the stage.
The teacher smiled at her.
“It’s Michael’s story next,” she said.
“A tiger. One, two tiger. One, two lion. A tiger.”
Soon all the children were clambering and crawling, tigers and lions, moving around the stage, growling gently.
Rebecca took another step.
“Grrrrrr,” she whispered. “Grrr, grrr, grrr”.
And then, to everyone’s surprise, she placed her hands on the floor and began to crawl.
As Rebecca crept onto the stage, the other children made room for her. She crawled around with them, growling happily. A lion nuzzled against her. Rebecca had found her Pride.
We would never say, “I think it is too early for these children to start playing. They are too young for that. They need to settle into nursery first.”
In the same vein, we should never worry that it’s too early to introduce Helicopter Stories to a group of children.
Transforming a classroom can be as simple as some masking tape, paper and pen; these few ingredients brought Rebecca out of her shell and onto the stage with her peers.