Friday, December 28, 2012

Play with natural materials

I think it's important to have a good stock of open-ended natural materials available for play in our areas.  There are several reasons--
*they are easily adaptable to play at the developmental level of each child--my 4 year old engages in pretend play with them--they may be cookies or nuts for she and her squirril children or she likes to use them to decorate the playroom for whatever scenario she's pretending at the moment.  My 16 month-old engages in a lot of gross and fine motor play, as well as sensory exploration.  He throws them, rolls them, dumps them, carries them around, puts them in other objects (jars, carts, etc.) and we've started showing him how to place them in a line on the tile (early math skills!). 

That's fun for a few minutes, then it's time to kick them! Gross motor!!

So many learning opportunities arise--science, math, motor, pretend play.....natural materials (rocks, sticks, nuts, leaves, etc.) make wonderful learning tools and are free!  And I can guarantee you that both of my kids have spent more time playing with this simple bowl of burr oak acorns (nice big ones!) than any "storebought" toy we have in the house. 

Wanna try it?  Get a nice bowl--wood or metal is best and gather up something from outside with your child's help.  Break up sticks into smaller pieces that fit into the bowl.  Gather nuts or pine needles or pinecones.  Then you might have to spend a few minutes modeling for your child ways to play with the materials.  There's no wrong way!!
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