Thursday, 27 November 2014

Wooden, plastic or natural? Which resources do you choose?

I was chatting to a childminder the other day who told me that she was getting rid of all her plastic toys and replacing them with wood and other natural materials. She said she was totally fed up with plastic toys that were only good for doing 1 thing at a time … she had recently been on training where they had talked about the joys of loose parts play and she was keen to make sweeping changes to her provision with the aid of some clever storage solutions such as wicker baskets and hanging baskets outside.

There are a lot of useful Pinterest boards singing the praises of loose parts play – they are worth exploring if you want to add some natural resources to your provision. However, while I know it is personal choice, I remain concerned about whether a total move to natural materials would work for a childminder who looks after babies and children of very different ages… there are so many bits and pieces (stones, fir cones, coins, beads, buttons etc) and they are often quite small.

I agree that plastic doesn’t always teach children a lot – it is the same temperature (unlike wood and metal) and texture (unlike stone and fir cones) and it is often made in very loud colours (unlike natural materials which are calming, relaxing colours). Yet plastic can be cleaned easily (important if you have little ones), it is readily available in charity shops and at car boot sales and it is comparatively much cheaper than buying all wooden resources.

We have a combination of wooden, plastic and natural resources here at Knutsford Childminding. We collect and use natural materials during our walks and we make some of our resources from recycled materials. We often make our own books when we have been on outings as well – the children love taking and printing photos and the rich language they use reassures us we are supporting their learning. Fabric is an excellent way of bringing natural resources into the provision – lengths of material can be used to create spaces and envelop children and much more.

So, to go back to the title of this little blog – wooden, plastic and natural? I advocate a balance and when new childminders are registering I always advise them to buy a range of resources – some plastic and some wooden toys both inside and in the garden – then they can take the children on nature walks to find natural resources. In our provision, some of our best play sessions have involved children using their imaginations to create play scenes from ‘finds’ during our regular nature walks. However, we have plenty of plastic resources as well and some of them are the children’s favourites such as Peppa Pig and Action Man role play figures and our collection of Happy Land characters.

In mini e-book 56 ‘Resources and the EYFS’ (from Knutsford Childminding - £1.99) I have looked at how you can provide children with a range of different resources to support their holistic learning and development.

Which resources do you choose in your provision… and why?