by Peter Barnett
The relentless responsibilities of being a parent are being experienced by children at Ramsgate Arts Primary.
Year 6 children have been tending to their own ‘flour babies’ around the clock for a week in class, during lunch and break times and at home.
The ‘offspring’ are actually flour-filled bags that girls and boys ‘adopt’ and make their own including creating faces and features for them, naming them, and providing them with clothes. Some fed their ‘child’, others carried them around in baby slings or pushed them along in buggies.
The idea behind the project was to experience first-hand just how unrelenting it is to be a parent – although without the more arduous scenarios of crying, feeding and dirty nappies, the children knew they had it easy compared to a real baby.
Year group teachers Jon Williams and Andrew Beraet said: “Nevertheless, the requirement to keep their baby with them at all times and keep it safe gave an insight into ‘parenthood’. For some of the children it became a real struggle to juggle their learning tasks with the supervision of their ‘offspring’.”
The RAPS initiative follows the story of Flour Babies by former Children’s Laureate Anne Fine whose book examines the social science experiment of schoolboys receiving a six-pound bag of flour, in rags, to form the look of a baby that they must care for it at all times, as if it were a real baby.
The RAPS teachers added: “In our experiment our ‘parents’ were generally very successful and, apart from three ‘deaths’ (split bags), the children cared for their babies remarkably well.
“A huge thank you goes to all the families who supported the project – taking photos, ensuring the ‘babies’ were supervised at all times and even waking their children to ‘feed’ or ‘care for’ their ‘offspring’ in the night.”
Head of School Nick Budge said: “It was a thought-provoking initiative and it was noticeable how the children’s attitudes developed towards their ‘babies’ as the days passed.
“It is very easy to quickly become fed up with the responsibility of caring for another – and this was a strong personal lesson that reinforced how difficult it can be to look after another being, not just for an hour here and there, but full on.
“I know that it meant our boys and girls re-evaluated just how much their parents do for them, each day, every day, unconditionally.
“They may only have been bags of flour but for several days our girls and boys took things seriously, doing their best to tend to them with care and responsibility.
“The flour wasn’t self-raising – they had to put in the hard work and learn how best to raise their flour babies. I know they learnt a lot from the project.”