My daughter’s little Goddaughter was at my house one-day last week for a few hours after preschool. She is nearly four years old. She discovered that one of the doors of the press under the stairs didn’t open, even though there is a knob on it. This puzzled her, so, she checked out the other doors, all of which opened. In one, she discovered a hoard of treasures! Namely some brass candlesticks, a few miniature metal buckets and a silver Christening mug (out of sight because I don’t have the patience to clean them!). She was enchanted. ‘Oh’, she exclaimed, ‘all the trophies.’ She transferred them all to the hall table, went halfway up the stairs and instructed me to hand them all to her. She lined them up on one step, transported them all back to the hall table, then went to a higher step than before and again instructed me to hand them all up to her, then back to the hall table and finally all the way to the top of the stairs. Having all the trophies lined up, the next step was for her to ask for ‘her’ camera and take photos of them. She lined them up, moved them back to the hall table and back up the stairs several times more and photographed them each step of the way, as you can see here.
Her favourite thing to do at our house is to take photos. I love photography and often take photos of her, so now she has a little camera that ‘lives’ at my house, so she can take photos too.
It got me thinking about that age-old question…. who needs toys! So much has changed over the decades in terms of the kind of toys children have access to. Simple toys like spinning tops, dolls and prams, and teddies have given way to plastic character-based playsets and all kinds of techy gadgets. But still, on social media you see parents exclaiming that their children prefer to play with the box the gadget came in! In this episode of fun and play there were no ‘toys’ but we can see this child loves open-ended materials, we can see she has a transporting schema. We also see this little girl’s funds of knowledge. Clearly, she had come across the idea of trophies before and linked that knowle,dge to her new exploration of the materials found under my stairs. She likes to document her play by taking photos of her explorations. She also loves to draw.
In our early learning and care sector we know the value of open-ended materials and loose parts. Combined with our knowledge of schemas we recognise that supplying safe, suitable everyday materials and providing opportunities for children to be curious, to explore, to transport, to envelop, to connect, to manipulate and to investigate their own theories and to support their thinking and to talk about these is the best way to support learning. Giving children the opportunity and tools to document their own learning, such as with cameras and drawing as well as conversations deepens this further.
These opportunities can be provided inside and outside, without huge expense. Simple items like cylindrical containers, metal lids, all kinds of boxes, bags, backpacks, prams, wheelbarrows, wrapping paper, tape, candlesticks, Velcro hair rollers, clean saucepan scrubbers, wooden cookies, stainless steel measuring scoops and spoons, different types of fabrics (to name but a few) can provide many opportunities to explore. Having cameras, paper, crayons, chalk, and pencils and chatting to the children about what they have taken photos of, or drawn gives us insights into their interests, thoughts, and theories. Slowing things down and reducing transitions gives more time for this deep thinking to occur.
What loose parts do you provide for children in your setting? How do you enable children to be involved in making their learning visible?