Saturday, 17 October 2015

Up cycling

I first came to teach at my current school in November 2001 and was reminded of this earlier this month when one of my nursery students from that first class came back to work as a childcare student two days a week. She had fond memories of nursery and recognised some of the resources from her time in the class. Nursery people are renowned for hoarding resources for years and years & a sign of a well established setting is the wealth of 'old' resources they will have and the patina of their Community Playthings blocks, the darker the blocks, the older they are! 
But this also means we end up with stuff well past its use and this week, it was time for me to accept our set of 4 mega sketchers had had their day. The stampers no longer left any impression on the 'screen' but even more telling, not one child had a clue what they were! I want to replace them, as they are a handy resource to put out after lunch when we just have around 15 minutes of playtime before getting ready for home time. 
This led me to look for new ones in a catalogue and I was stunned to discover that almost all toys now come with batteries, I have found one replacement that is just a simple drawing tool with no lights, noises or changing colours. I realised that most toys are now over stimulating our children & have a very prescriptive use - very few are open ended. 

This is another reason I firmly believe in loose parts, young children, generally have fantastic imaginations and don't need resources to look anything like the thing they intend to use them for. However, the fact so many toys do so much for their young users, does explain those children who struggle with loose parts and appear lost in our playground, those are the children who will be heard saying 'But it's just a stick/block/bucket' as their peers make those same objects into anything they need them to be.
All aboard the reading train!
I 'acquired ' several large supermarket crates last week and set them out in the playground, upturned, thinking the children would climb on them & make an obstacle course. Silly me, I should have learned over the past 14 years that 3 & 4 year olds never, ever see resources the way we as adults do! After climbing over them once or twice, they moved them away from the Tarmac, turned them over, lined them up & hey presto created a train! For 4 days they have constantly played with them, they introduced the 5 minute timer to ensure fair turns as a driver & have been to Dublin, the beach, the zoo & generally on holidays. I suspect the only child who has actually been on a train is the one who was heading to Dublin but they all know about trains & quickly brought into this play. Now, I just need to acquire 26 of the crates to allow a whole class train!
Even more fun has been had with a large quantity of sand we now have in the forest area - it was left over after the wall was replastered. The weather has been so dry the past few weeks so the children have loved sitting in the midst of the sand just digging, filling & pouring etc. One day we gathered leaves from the front of the nursery and then these were incorporated into their play too. Another child had brought us in a load of pine cones and these were added to the forest area and are now the main ingredients in most of their 'cooking'.
Anyone for stew or chocolate cake?
Inside one day, a child wailed that another had taken their tablet off them. Knowing we don't have the iPads out for general use yet, I wondered what she meant until I saw the other child swiping a placemat in the house corner! 
So,seriously I have to wonder why toys are getting more and more dependent on technology and batteries to entertain children who can have as much, if not more, fun with sand, sticks, crates & placemats!

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