Layers of Love in Early Childhood Education: Inspiration from Nesting Dolls

By: Diane Kashin, Ed.D., RECE. 

Taking a layered approach to our work in early childhood education can deepen the experiences offered to children and heighten awareness of pedagogy and curriculum. A layered approach asks us to consider the stories within the stories, the nests within the nests. A nest is a structure or place made or chosen by a bird for laying eggs and sheltering its young. It is about taking care of the next generation and surrounding them with love. To nest is to form a hierarchy, series, or sequence with each member, element, or set contained in or containing the next. To consider a layered approach think about the iconic toy, known as nesting dolls. Nesting dolls are also called Matryoshka dolls. Some refer to them as stacking dolls and they are also known as Russian dolls. I remember these dolls from my childhood, but I called them Babushka dolls. While my understanding of Yiddish is limited, my mother frequently spoke the language that is used by Ashkenazi Jews. The definition of babushka refers to a triangularly folded scarf worn on the head but it also means grandmother! These wooden dolls of decreasing size placed one inside another embody layers of love, support and protection offered from one generation to another.

My granddaughter, Reese is fascinated by nesting dolls. When I watch her pretend play with the dolls, she often refers to them as family and friends. She also sequences, counts, stacks, and positions. She is engaged in schema play demonstrating different types of schemas while making sense of the world around her. Separated at the middle, each doll reveals a smaller figure of the same sort inside, which has, in turn, another doll inside of it, and so on. They have endless possibilities for play and learning. For me, they are also prompts for reflection, and an opportunity to think deeply about family, identity, and my chosen profession. While my love for playing with nesting dolls, helps me to feel young, in actuality, I am old and now a Bubbie, a Yiddish term for grandmother.  My family comes from Romania and Ukraine where these dolls have been popular for over a hundred years.  I can imagine that my grandmother, an early childhood educator, who I never met, played with these when she was young.  Nesting dolls symbolize fertility and are associated with family. Nesting dolls are about carrying on legacy from one generation to the next. While nesting dolls are popular in many countries throughout Eastern Europe and Eastern Central Europe, the first nesting dolls actually came from China. In 1900, the first Russian nesting dolls were presented at the World Exhibition in Paris. Soon after they were being made throughout Russia and surrounding regions. My grandparents were all born around this time. These dolls represent an inter-generational play and learning experience and an opportunity to think about legacy. What do I want to pass on to the next generation of early childhood educators and the next one after that? In turn, what will they pass on to the children?

My thinking has been sparked by many experiences with professional friends. This summer I submitted a manuscript on friendship in early childhood education to Redleaf Press and I am eagerly awaiting the next phase of editing and rewriting. While, I have co-authored a number of textbooks related to early childhood education, I have long dreamed of writing my own book. Rather than a textbook destined for the college classroom, I wanted a book, that would reach early childhood educators. I see this book and the concept of professional friendships as part of my legacy. I have been considering legacy since retiring from a full-time teaching position in 2014 at the same college where I became an early childhood educator, decades before. My post-retirement work is now focused on a parallel process of professional learning. I learn and I teach. When I teach, I learn. I have learned so much from my professional friend, Dr. Hopi Martin, whose PhD thesis, Listening to the Land as Teacher in Early Childhood Education offers a Seasonal Pedagogy that has transformed my teaching and learning experiences.

In the winter season of my life, I am thinking of what I will pass on? What will be my legacy? How will I be remembered? I have gained so much from being an early childhood educator, I want to give back to a profession that I love. Just like the dolls that are stacked within each other, our work with children, represents layers of love passed on from one generation to the next. I asked my Circle of Support to share their insights about legacy and they have deepen my reflection and broaden my perspectives. I am so grateful to my circle of professional friends. They have volunteered to come together to form a Community of Practice with a difference. Our circle represents a gathering of friends who want to listen, to learn and to love. Our circle is equalitarian in nature and focused on hearing everyone’s voice. I will be sharing more about professional friends, Circles of Support, and Communities of Practice on November 9th. Join me for this free webinar!

In closing, I want to hear from you. What will be your legacy? What do you want to pass on to the next generation of early childhood educators? What do you want them to pass on to the next generation and the ones after that? What do you want to pass on to the children? What will be your story? How will you be remembered? We are never too old or too young to think about what we can give with love.

One thought on “Layers of Love in Early Childhood Education: Inspiration from Nesting Dolls

  1. Pingback: Curating Vintage Resources in Early Childhood Education | Technology Rich Inquiry Based Research

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