Play and learning blog

overflowing classroom shelves

Time to clean up

Shelves overflowed with piles of games, equipment and donated items, making the room look more like a neighbourhood boot sale than a classroom. In fact, there seemed to be more storage space than floor space.…

A cluttered play environment can make children restless and unfocused. When toys do not lead to deep engagement, children are easily distracted and tend to flit between occupations. Having more stuff certainly does not make children happier and often stifles imagination. Educational consultant Sandra Duncan refers to this as “mental clatter” which has a “negative impact on children’s growth and development – and especially their behaviours.”

Is there stuff in your classroom that just collected dust this year? Arm yourself with more than a feather duster for a real clean! This article is a bold invitation to De-clatter your Classroom.

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a nursery aged girl playing with outlast ramps and a waterwheel

Making the most of water play

“Water is one of the basic raw materials for purposeful play. Just like sand, clay and blocks, children can use water without being constrained by the one right way to use it,” writes Sandra Crosser, Ph.D.

“Water is intriguing. It seems to draw children to explore its structure and properties. Because water is naturally fascinating, the thoughtful teacher can structure the environment and materials in the water centre to make the most of water play.” Read more.

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nursery aged child playing with unit blocks and village vehicle

A solid foundation for STEM

For a five-year-old, the practical application of science, technology, engineering and maths is something they can only absorb through experience.

There is no better material to engage a child in STEM learning than unit blocks. In this new 3-minute video, Hal Melnick and other educators explain why every early years setting and school that is serious about STEM education needs to have a strong block play component in their curriculum. Watch now.

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two children doing dramatic play in the home corner

The rules of play – developing self-control

“Mothers and fathers go to work and make the dinner, but not babies. Babies cry, while grown-ups take responsibility for caring for and calming the babies. Even fantasy characters behave according to some rules,” writes Nancy Stewart, experienced teacher, consultant, trainer and author.

“While to a casual observer it may seem that children involved in pretend play are acting totally spontaneously in ‘free play’, in fact they are imposing their own set of rules... Children who show self-restraint in following the shifting rules of the play gain the great pleasure of belonging, as they develop cooperative play with others.” Read this excerpt from Nancy's book How Children Learn – The characteristics of effective early learning.

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two children making mud pies on a table structure built of outlast blocks and planks

Celebrating mud

Children seem to be magnetically drawn to water and dirt. From their perspective, the activities that result in the messiest clothes are the activities which are the most fun!

“It’s okay for children to get dirty,” writes Michelle Rupiper. “In fact, when you look at the benefits children gain from mud play, it’s not just okay, it’s important.” Science now shows that certain bacteria present in soil are very beneficial to children and can aid in mental health and the prevention of allergies. In addition, the open-ended, malleable properties of mud make it an excellent learning material – encouraging the development of both cognitive and social skills. Read more

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P.S. International Mud Day is 29 June!

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