14 years ago, we established a connection with The Lady of Lourdes Baby Home (Seibo Aijien) in Yamate. The Home is for children ages 2-18 years of age, with 24 children between the ages of 3 and 6. These children all have at least one parent, but for various reasons cannot live with their parents. Every year in November we invite several of the younger children to visit the ELC to play within our environment together with their teachers and our children.
Two days prior to the visit of the Baby Home children, the teachers shared the news that 12 of the children from the Baby Home will be visiting our ELC. Some of the children remembered the experience from the previous school year.
“Small children…(and understanding that the children do not live with their mommies and daddies) he adds, So maybe them can live with us.”
“ They don’t have money…”
“ Bring them clothes…”
“ A blanket…”
“You need baby shoes and baby jacket and baby dress and baby skirt.”
“They need bed and I say goodnight to them…”
“We don’t know their names so when they come to play, we can say hello, hello, hello, what is your name?”
“Maybe we could make them food…”
As the children remember and think about the Baby Home children, we are able to feel the empathy they show towards others through their words and expressions. Our discussions led to another question: “How do we play?”
“We can draw with them and paint with them.”
“When they come they can play with us and share toys.”
“That children will come here and then we can go with that children to their home.”
“We could share our stories to them (storybooks).”
“Maybe we can paint flowers for them.”
“We could make pop-up books for them.”
“Make hot chocolate.”
We listened to the children’s voices and found four main ideas:
- Paint flowers to welcome the children.
- Make pop-up books as gifts for the children.
- Make hot chocolate to share.
- Plan a playdate with the children.
On the day, the children divided into groups to start the welcoming preparation. Some children put finishing touches to the painting and set it on display outside our ELC main entrance. Some created beautiful decorations for the Fruit Snack tables. Some children organized storybooks to read to the Baby Home children. And some children helped prepare the hot chocolate.
As we invited the children from the Baby Home to come into our classroom and join us in our circle, our children made spaces for all our visitors to sit together. We began by introducing ourselves, some shyly, some confidently, repeating each of our names. We then enjoyed drinking Hot Chocolate together, which brought upon smiles on all of the children’s and teachers faces, and helped us to ease into spending the morning together.
We then divided into small groups to explore the spaces of the ELC. As we observed the children, we saw smiles, we heard laughter, we saw gestures of warmth extended on both ends. Time passed by so quickly on this morning. We gathered again on the carpet and sang a Japanese song together. A child from ELC presented the gift of pop-up books to our visitors, and in return, we received a gift from the Baby Home children.
We said endless goodbyes as our visitors leave our ELC, in hope that we can play together again. We would like to develop the idea of a playdate further. There are many elements to consider and we would like to take time to construct these ideas with the children.