Scaffolding Experiences to spark imagination!
When it comes to ‘loose parts’ and children’s inventiveness, creative play can be stimulated by occasionally offering a variety of tactile things that ‘scaffold’ (in loose terms) imaginative play. Tactile experiences help to enliven the senses and may also allow a child connect to their body a little more strongly. They also encourage engagement because the child is not faced with a blank stage that they must fill from scratch, but can see a way into the game as the objects suggest certain things.. eg spoons suggest scooping or stirring, a patch of soil and a hand shovel suggest digging…
Here’s some ideas to try:
- Setting up ‘scooping stations’: Place a tray or a large flat dish on the table with small ceramic dishes filled with your scooping staples. Children can use small wooden spoons to scoop tea leaves (black tea, camomile, green, peppermint) into a teapot in preparation for a lovely shared cuppa. Or they may scoop up ingredients for a green smoothie into the blender cup – think chia seeds, sesame seeds, cacao powder, maca powder with a spoon; baby spinach leaves, chopped up kale and pieces of fruit with a child-size set of tongs.
- Fill a tray or dish (with a lip of at least 2cm) with black beans or lentils. Invite the children to scoop them using ceramic scoops (found in asian food markets) into storage containers, or a saucepan pot ready to be soaked for dinner or dahl.
- Digging in the garden and searching for worms in juicy humus soil is fun. Pop a hand shovel, a hand trowel, small buckets or packets of seeds in view.
- Herbs and spices (fresh and dried) can be fabulous for sorting activities, and in ‘cooking’ play too.
- Years ago in my kindergarten, we placed macadamia nuts, seedpods, seeds, gumnuts and other goodies into recycled coffee jars- the ones with the vacuum sealed lids. These jars went into home corner and were used by the children as food, money, for ‘cooking’ or ‘baking’, as ‘nature’s marbles’ in homemade pinball games, and in decorative design play. Children used mini tongs or chopsticks to transfer things from one place to another. And we kept a few handy small woven baskets with handles for ‘shopping’ expeditions also.
- Set up a tray filled with flax (linseed) or rice and pop a few cane baskets, wooden spoons, rolling pins, and scoops beside the tray for explorative play.
- Although I’m not a huge fan of playing with food, I know from experience that flour can be very enticing! Mmmmm…. If you’d like to contain the flour and manage it carefully, then why not pop it in a large low-sided plastic box (those under-the-bed storage boxes are perfect). Add sifters, rolling pins, flour shakers, scoops and cookie cutters too. And keep a dustpan and brush handy!
- A rice table can be another winner. I once visited a kindergarten where alongside their rice table sat plenty of clear glass dishes, vases, tumblers, and drinking glasses. Children were having a ball dishing up the rice into the clear containers. If you’d like to encourage the sense of smell also, why not add camomile flowers, dried lavender or rose petals to the rice too?
- Enliven a sense of fun by hiding a few random treasures in the texture tables too- think gem stones, small crystals, or chocolate money. Pirates, ahoy there!
- In fact, Ned once joined in a find-the-crystal game at a school fair. Such fun. Why not do this too?