Consuming Materiality

Shared by Randa Khattar


It’s a sunny spring morning here at an early childhood centre located on the traditional lands of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation in Toronto, Ontario. At the centre, we  have been discussing the relationships among movement, materials, and human bodies.

For several months, as winter slowly made way for spring, we have observed the parallel movements of adult and child bodies in the toddler room. The educators are thinking about the conditions that might deepen, stretch, and intensify the aesthetics of their own experiences as they aspire to live lively lives with young children.

I am drawn to an encounter on the other side of the enclosure between one of the toddlers – Andrea and an educator named Ken. A toque—on or off?—as the subject of initial discussion is soon replaced by Andrea’s noticing of a budding greenery with a flowerette peeking through the spring’s warming soil. Ken, iPad in hand to capture in digital quality the next new learning, clicks carefully as Andrea’s face moves closer and closer to the plant. Then Andrea upends the plant and offers it to Ken and me, looking for a reaction, it seems. She is dissatisfied or perhaps loses interest when neither reacts, Ken appearing focused on capturing the event and I am wondering how to refrain from turning this into another moralizing moment of “teaching” how to respect or “care” for the plant. Andrea suddenly thrusts the plant onto the concrete pavement and walks off.  Part of what is heard in this reflection is a deep desire to overcome symptoms of consumerism seen in the children’s apparent disregard for materials. There is, however, a deeper desire articulated here in the hope that fellow educators do not focus simply on augmenting or changing children’s behaviour, or engage in moralizing interactions, but rather critically consider the conditions that might produce different, deeper connections to place and materials, ones that can be glimpsed through the children’s and educators’ altered attentiveness or sense of slowing down in the paint and water areas of the room.

What is different about these areas? Are these spaces fundamentally different from other spaces in the room? How do educators and children encounter each other differently in these areas? How is memory enacted and reactivated from moment to moment? How do the children and educators know each other differently here? Entering into experience with an always-already intent to revisit or re-know invites an openness to encountering each moment with an appetite for what is new, yet with a remembering or reconnaissance  that is also ever-present.

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