Open-ended play

boy engaging in loose parts play with natural materials

The learning in loose parts

“The Lego was fought for, stringing beads spilled in anger, plastic animals broken by grabbing...as a teacher I was at my wits end with this particular group of children. They simply could not play harmoniously together,” relates Martha, an experienced preschool teacher.

 

“On a sudden inspiration I emptied all the tote pans and put the contents in storage. Then we went outside and collected natural objects to fill the pans: small rocks, twigs, acorns, pinecones, and bark. Once inside, we began constructing ‘dream houses’ using Plasticine to hold the sticks together. Soon tables, beds, and little pathways appeared. We kept the houses displayed and worked on them again and again. The old grabbing habits were gone – after all who ‘owns’ the things of nature?”

 

As Martha discovered, the best toys don’t come from a shop. Nature offers a wide assortment of loose parts that are captivatingly simple and empowering. Plus, they’re easy on the budget!

 

Although teachers have always known the great play value in natural materials, current research now validates the tremendous learning potential they offer as well. Read the article.

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girl looking through outlast block

Play: a key dynamic in early childhood development

How do we support children’s learning through play? An effective play educator “engineers learning experiences that put children in the driving seat and then gets out of the way for a while”, write Pam Mundy and Sue Egersdorff. “They (genuinely) smile a lot, provide constant reassurance, and are fun to be with.”

 

Read the fourth article in the “Model for living” series, which encourages and inspires us towards helping children develop a playful approach to learning and life.

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two reception aged children experimenting with water flow on the outlast cascade

The outdoor waterplay system

There’s something about manipulating the movement of water that is irresistible. Which child hasn’t discovered the thrill of sticking their thumb under a tap to create a dramatic and drenching spray of water? It is an opportunity to explore, experiment, and observe – science at its best!

Community Playthings set out to discover how we could enable every setting to provide this type of play – even in urban locations with limited outdoor space. Here, finally, we can show you our new Outlast water play system – operated by a group of industrious little engineers completely absorbed in their play and exploration. Get ready for a waterfall! Watch now.

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A child playing with blocks and pinecones

More than just a theory

Toys and tinsel cluttered the shelves and lay strewn on the floor. Four-year-old Mia and three-year-old Roger were at odds with each other, grabbing and arguing.  Suddenly a collection of shells, forgotten since our last trip to the sea, found its way into Mia’s hands. Peace reigned as she and Roger began to decorate a chair with the shells and when they ran out of shells, they used pinecones—after all who ‘owns’ the things of nature?

Nature offers a wide assortment of loose parts that are captivatingly simple and empowering. Although educators have always known the great play value in natural materials, current research now validates the tremendous learning potential they offer. Read the article.

Twos waterplay

Messing about in boats

"Nice? It's the only thing," said the Water Rat solemnly, as he leaned forward for his stroke. "Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats."

- Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

An afternoon at the park with a two-year-old is not exactly relaxing, but it’s fun. What about those summer afternoons when it’s just slightly too cool to get wet, but warm enough to take off your shirt and mess about in a boat? When you are two, it doesn’t seem to matter whether the boat is floating or not. In fact, when it’s on the grass you don’t need to sit still, and you can climb in and out as often as you like.

“After all, the best part of a holiday is perhaps not so much to be resting yourself, as to see all the other fellows busy working.” (also from Wind in the Willows)

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