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Nursery children treat me like a celebrity, I am not, I am just a male!

I have been meaning to write a blog on this for quite a while now and it wasn’t until the other day when I really started to think. I was working in a nursery for the morning and two children in that morning referred to me as ‘Miss’. Now it could have been quite funny that the boy had mistakenly said it but he hadn’t. The boy said it naturally as if I was being weird in correcting him and saying ‘My names Simon’. It was so natural for this child to see an adult and call ‘Miss’. What do you call a male practitioner in a nursery? It’s so rare the children don’t need to know.

Over the past year I have been able to visit lots of nurseries and deliver ‘Helicopter Stories’. One of the unique parts of the approach is that it allows children to feel listened to and valued, which is so different to what they are used to.

When I enter a nursery children run up to me, excited for my arrival, stories ready to tell. I see children engaged, wanting to play, wanting to talk to me, to tell me everything they have been up to, 100mph conversation and I listen to them. They say they love me within an hour of me being in the nursery. One girl told me her story. She was so excited to have it acted out. Always looking to me to get my approval. Waving to me, that bond is something special.

It’s as if I am a famous person, as if I am dressed up in their favourite superhero costume or story character but I’m not, I’m just Simon and I’m listening! And this is the same response that I see children give to both male and female workshop leaders who have entered their settings to deliver ‘Helicopter Stories’; but is it completely the same?

Do the children have a different response to male practitioners in a nursery? I think they do.

In a recent study only 2% of early years professionals are male. This is shocking and needs to change. I have been able to experience children’s response to a male in their setting and it has been so rewarding for me but most importantly for the children. In my opinion, having a male there gives it a completely different dynamic.


So the question could be asked am I engaging to the children because of my personality as Simon or is it my gender that’s engaging them? In my opinion and that of a colleague of mine is that children are fascinated by males because they don’t always associate dad with play or stories. This Is not something that dad does – a male does, it’s something that mum does with me – a female. So when I enter the nursery as a male and ask them to tell me a story and I listen to them it’s something so new and exciting they don’t want me to leave.

This was no more apparent than when I recently led some ‘Helicopter at Home’ sessions. A session open to all parents to learn the approach so that they can do stories at home with their children. 10 parents arrived. 9 mums and 1 dad. It could be said that it’s the morning and they work but when I finished the session and started to walk out to the playground, I was met by the parents picking up their nursery children, the 9 mums but also at least 10 dads. Why did they not come to the session? Is it because dads don’t do stories?

It has been so special for me to do the ‘Helicopter Stories’ approach with the children. To sit down with them and listen to them tell me their story. I love the approach and I am lucky to be able to visit lots of different nursery settings. Hopefully I can have a positive impact on those children in the short amount of time that I am working with them.


One other unique part of the ‘Helicopter Stories’ approach allows for boys to play girls and girls to play boys. A boy becomes a princess and a girl becomes a builder. A safe space is created for children to experience this and the children love it. It’s just a shame that in today’s society, adults can’t learn and follow the children. We need more men to work in early year’s education and more women engineers. There is no judging as children and there shouldn’t be any judgement as adults.

My hope is that maybe one day in the future, a female practitioner gets mistaken for a male! But then again, we are back to my earlier question, what do you call a male working in the early years? If only I could come across one to ask…

The Social Benefits of the Helicopter Stories Approach

On Friday 4th April 2014, Creative Associates Sonia Hyams, Simon Batchelor, Annekoos Arlman, Emma Deakin, Amie Taylor and Paul Andrew completed their Helicopter Stories Level 2 Presentations and handed in their essays.

Their presentations and essays were based on their chosen theme associated with the Helicopter Stories approach.

Take a look at the abridged version of Simon’s presentation below:

Have a read of Simon’s full essay by clicking on the ‘Read More’ button below.


My first experience…

As someone who is new to the work of Paley, my eyes have been opened to a whole new magical world! In just two days of training with MakeBelieve Arts I learnt not only all about the many beneficial effects this approach has on young children but also how much I learnt about myself as a facilitator. There were too many light bulbs going off in my head for me to handle!

The thing I love about the Helicopter Technique is that children no matter of their background or ability are able to tell a story without the fear of failure. It’s that child’s story, their own creative imagination and there is never a wrong answer.

I had the chance to take two stories and I saw first-hand the sheer joy and excitement that child got in seeing their story brought to life in front of their eyes. From their own imagination to paper to the stage.

Elisa came and sat down next to me. She quietly whispered her story into my ear and I wrote it down word for word.

“A dog saw a caterpillar. There were heart trees and they were purple. When the princess was sleeping the prince come and kissed her. He took her on a horse and that was the end.”

We all gathered back around the stage. That quiet girl who had whispered me her story now couldn’t wait to become one of her characters and see it acted out. She couldn’t stop smiling at me. It was truly special!