The UCD 12th Early Years Conference Inspiring Children’s Imagination presented Trisha Lee from MakeBelieve Arts as the Keynote Speaker. Delegates had the opportunity to be taken on the journey of the Helicopter Stories: Letting Imagination Fly approach through a practical experience of the technique delivered. Trisha who has been heavily influenced by the work of Vivian Gussin Paley designed this approach to support the development of children’s imagination. As a trained Theatre Director her dramatic flair is embedded throughout without being forced in a way which may overwhelm practitioners and children. She is passionate about storytelling and drama in children’s lives, particularly in Early Years. In 2002 Trisha founded MakeBelieve Arts, a theatre and education company offering innovative high quality theatre and education programmes to develop the creative potential of children aged 2-15.

Participants were invited to join in, having the opportunity to demonstrate how the technique could work with children. The approach begins with the creation of a stage, in her book Princesses, Dragons and Helicopter Stories she remembers the anticipation, excitement and energy that surround the theatre before a performance begins. Applying this to working with children they have a level of respect for the stage that is created, they are also filled with the anticipation of what can be experienced on that stage.

Clear guidance was provided as delegates were introduced to the rules for scribing children’s stories and acting them out. Playing the role of the children delegates offered stories, which are brought to life in front of the audiences eyes. Quickly the learning and holistic development opportunities for children using this approach become clear. Not only through the development of their confidence by offering story suggestions but also through the chance to experience many of the Characteristics of Effective Learning outlined in the EYFS. The approach has different stages starting with the children telling their stories, the next being the story acting to the final stage, the opportunity to have their stories scribed – the chance to be an author.

Delegates were taken on the journey with the volunteers re-enacting scenes including princesses, trees and even making a human castle. This provided the audience with enjoyment and excitement but most of all ignited their imagination for the work they do with children. A technique like this can be delivered in practice by all those inspired by the core message: the opportunity to let imagination fly.