Do you remember the magic of Play School presenters delving into the useful box?
Cardboard boxes would become all sorts of things, from buildings to beds, and cardboard tubes would be binoculars, wands and all sorts of other imaginary props. With a little bit of glue and a lot of imagination, items from the recycling pile were turned into meaningful additions to learning.
While children and families nowadays may be tempted by numerous toys that light up, do tricks, play music or have interactive apps, there is a lot to be said for open-ended play resources. A toy phone, for example, is a great way to pretend to talk on the phone, but the function of the toy is so specialised that it limits the imagination of what else it may be used for.
A toothpaste box could be re-imagined as a phone, a remote control, a toy boat, a car… the opportunities are endless!
Open-ended materials have an infinite number of uses, limited only by a child’s imagination. When children are given open-ended materials to play with, not only are their imaginations sparked, but sustainability lessons are learnt as well.
Here are some suggestions for everyday materials which could take on a new lease of life in your service:
Gift wrap and paper towel rolls
Many things can be created from cardboard cylinders. They can be used in a bowling game, crafted into telescopes, or even used to paint with. Things can be poured through them, or they can be joined together with tape to make a tower or a tunnel.
Egg cartons – perfect as a means to support children with a transportation or sorting schema to explore, the humble egg carton offers a world of possibilities for play. Egg cartons are also great props in small world play when cut up – they can be tables, stools or a roof. (Please consider egg allergies in your space before implementing this suggestion).
Plastic bottles – many educators have cottoned on to the idea of using plastic bottles to make sensory and self-regulation tools for children, but there is so much more they can be used for. Plastic bottles can be cut into mini greenhouses, used in water and sand play, or help with experiments about sinking and floating. Plastic bottles can be repurposed in many ways.
Cardboard boxes the adage that children love the box more than the toy that is housed in it is true! Big boxes can become cubbies, cars, towers and so much more. Smaller boxes have a plethora of uses too – beds for baby dolls, a new pair of shoes, a letter box – the possibilities are endless.
By taking a look through your recycling collection, at home or in the service, you may unlock a world of possibility.