Imagine this: you spend hours picking the perfect modern birthday present for a 3-year-old. The box complete with a big blue bow is placed in a simple brown bag and handed to the child. We’re all too familiar with what happens next. For what seems like a blink of an eye, she plays with the toy but then turns all her attention to the tiny insignificant brown thread of the brown bag for the rest of the evening.
Like the brown bag, simple materials pique children’s curiosity to play, tinker, experiment, break, make, design, redesign, move, carry, combine, improve, and do lots of other self-initiated actions.
K-12 teachers across the world are trying to integrate “maker education” in their classrooms and curriculum – a human-centred approach to learning where students are given the agency, tools, and resources to develop skills and knowledge. However, for early years educators, every single day is an opportunity to create learning environments where children intentionally explore a diverse range of materials. This visual playlist captures photos from a materials maker faires we hosted as a part of our How the World Works EY Unit called “Materials can be manipulated to serve a range of purposes”. As an early years educator, I am a designer in constant pursuit of inspiration. With this resource, I hope you too can experience and implement a reggio-inspired world of sand play, music-making, fabric-exploration, materials-manipulation, stories-creation, digital landscapes, colour-mixing, and much more!
Children were given the gift of time and freedom of space to explore every material and tool. Children were at the center of these open-ended, student-driven, interactive experiences as they imagined, designed, and created worlds, stories, and products. Our role as teachers was to “give meaning” to simple materials and “provide conditions” through carefully designed learning environments so children could make connections, construct meaning, and be thoroughly engrossed.
This was our little adventure with simple materials and designing inspiring learning environments! Simple and thoughtful materials including shells, rocks, kitchen tools, sand, fabrics, boxes, bangles, pipe-cleaners, beads, pasta, and many others were used – each with no fixed use. We’ve intentionally not labelled or captioned images to provide space for wonder, words, and possibilities.
Remember – In play, the child is the direction, always.