Tag Archives: Loose parts

Water Day

Every summer I schedule at least one ‘Water Day’.  Of course water play is not limited to just Water Day.  Water is one of the ‘loose parts’ that is seasonally available through spring thaw, rain, and water collected in the rain barrel.   Some of the children choose to incorporate water into all their daily outdoor play activities whenever possible.

However, Water Day is never a spontaneous activity – it requires planning, plenty of set-up time, and the right weather conditions – hot enough so soaked children do not get a chill.  On Water Day there is water everywhere in the yard which actually makes it a little difficult for me to take pictures but I still try.  Here are a some that I took on our most recent Water Day.

The water table;

15-07-water01  The rivers/water ways;

15-07-water02 15-07-water03 15-07-water04The bins;

15-07-water05 15-07-water06 15-07-water07And above us the mister hose covers the yard ensuring no one can avoid getting at least a little wet;

15-07-water08Water fun day 🙂

Yard Art

Last month I brought some clay and plasticine out to the yard.  I put several pieces of each on trays around the yard.  The children explored the textures.  I showed them how to use the heat from their hands to warm the clay and make it more pliable.

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We collected various items from the yard and garden to add to the clay to make sculptures;

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Of course the process was more important than the product and everyone had their own ideas and methods;

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After the children were done with this activity the clay, plasticine, and other supplies were abandoned in the gravel area.  Only the trays were returned to the outdoor art area.  Later that week I brought some painting supplies out and placed them on the lid of the storage box – it is a nice height for the toddlers to use as a table.

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Some children prefer to try alternative methods when painting – I thought it looked much more difficult to stand on the back side of the storage box but that was her choice;

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It added a physical, gross motor, element to the art activity. Another bit of process over product – it could be described as ‘hanging’ art since her feet were not on the ground;

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Over the last few weeks the children have discovered that the clay that was abandoned in the gravel area has now hardened into ‘rocks’.  The plasticine however is still pliable – especially on warmer days.  Of course you have to find it though – there are bits and pieces of plasticine strewn throughout the 400 sq ft gravel area.

There is always excitement when someone finds a piece of plasticine amongst all the gravel.  It is even better when they can collect enough of it to create another sculpture;

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The sunlight and shadows add even more artistic opportunities.  Even though the process is our goal, some of the products are pretty amazing too;

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Best of all, this plasticine is reusable.  With a wide variety of nature items in the yard there are endless creative opportunities.  Like all the loose parts in the yard, the plasticine offers the freedom to explore, imagine, and invent.  It is all about the process.

Creative Summertime Freeplay

This has been a quiet summer.  Quiet meaning the children have needed very little direction from me.  This year’s group is very independent which has left me plenty of time for observation.

Indoors the trains have been neatly organized in the tubes instead of the block bin with the train tracks.  It was not my idea but I like it 🙂

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That is the only indoor picture that I have because we’ve been playing outside most of the time.

All the loose parts have provided endless opportunities for creativity and symbolic play.  These ‘eggs’ are neatly arranged by size;

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Of course there were many picnics and restaurants;

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The little tree cookies were used to create paths between and around the larger stumps;

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There was an ice cream shop with a wide variety of menu choices;

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A grand pony expedition – I love that these children can use action figures creatively without following a movie script;

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There was also an elaborate dramatic play activity involving the whole group.  The main characters were ‘sabre tooth grizzly birds’ and since I had trouble envisioning what they would look like I asked for a picture of one;

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This picture was made possible thanks to an accessible outdoor art area.

I also asked them to make a list of art items they’d like to have available.  There is plenty of paper so I was a little surprised by the size of the list they made;

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Even our outdoor snack time has been a creative activity;

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And finally, this little pine cone family has been waiting patiently all weekend.

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I wonder what they will be doing when the children return…

Spiders & Others

We have more spiders in the yard than we have ever had before.  There are webs everywhere.  This one in the hyssop is catching all the flower bits;

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There are some with built in homes – the spiders disappear into the holes when we get close;

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Sometimes the children try to rescue the other insects that get trapped in the webs.  They usually give up quickly – those webs are sticky!

We have some other – unwelcome – visitors too.  Our ornamental cabbage is being eaten;

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We have six of them in the garden and planters.  I showed the children how to look for the cabbage caterpillars that were causing all the damage.  There were so many of them.  The children were excited – an endless supply of ‘loose parts’.

All week there were caterpillar schools and caterpillar day cares and the girls even tried potty training some caterpillars. I have no pictures – don’t ask.

By Thursday there were no more caterpillars.  The girls were very disappointed.  However, I was quite pleased that the cabbages are now free of pests 😉

Exploration

The bees love the giant hyssop in the garden and the children love to watch the busy bees.  Yesterday we were excited to have a new visitor who stayed for most of the morning;

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The children have been busy too, there are so many new spaces to explore in our yard.  The toys and loose parts are now spread out around the yard so the storage area isn’t so congested.

One of my vacation projects was to re-purpose our old rain barrels into loose parts storage bins. The two that cracked this past winter are now located in the North-East corner of the gravel area;

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The oldest water barrel – which has been waiting for years to get a new purpose – now stores all the larger pieces of scrap lumber.  It is located in the South-West corner of the yard by the tipi.

 

This ‘new yard space’ was created in what used to be the parking area and is now the children’s favourite space.

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The toy bin is in the South-East part of the gravel area.  I’ve trimmed the lower branches off the cedars and this is where the babies like to play.

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I took some close-up pictures of various objects in the yard and used them to create ‘Where-Am-I’ cards.  The children enjoyed searching the new spaces to locate each item on their card.

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These are also useful for learning to recognize our plants by the shape/colour of their leaves or the texture of their bark.

Most recently the upper deck has been transformed into a outdoor art area.  Yesterday was the first time the older children got to use it during quiet time when the little ones were napping.

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We’ve enjoyed exploring all the new spaces and are looking forward to many more adventures.

Summer Holidays

So, today is the last day before my ‘holiday’ begins.  As usual I have a HUGE list of projects to complete this summer.  Some of them are smaller projects that will be done on weekends.

The ‘big’ project will involve rearranging the parking area, moving the fence,  and an overhaul of the gravel area and loose parts storage.  I wrote about the plans last Spring – read about it here.  We already built/moved the sheds but ran out of time last summer to complete the project.

I’ve had nearly a full week with my new summer group and it was wonderful.  Everyone is settling in to our routine and the lack of a school-defined schedule has greatly improved the ‘flow’ of the day.

Outside I have all the new stumps stored in the corner of the yard waiting until the yard project begins.  Interestingly, the older children have deemed this to be the ‘perfect cooking spot’.  Hmmm, I’ll have to modify my plans a little so we can continue to accommodate this;

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The old stumps are still as popular as ever.  The lone boy in the group seems somewhat concerned about all the climbing and jumping about.

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Later he put on the construction helmet and did this;

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‘No climbing here’ 🙂

I found a dead moth and gave it to the insect lovers.

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Turns out it wasn’t dead – just injured – so it was rushed to the emergency room. For nearly an hour a team of dedicated medical personnel worked to save the moth – or at least make it a little more comfortable.  Here is his x-ray/chart;

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As excited a I am about all the renovations I have planned for the next two weeks I am also going to miss these kinds of activities too.  However, I’m certain we’ll have many more adventures when we return.

Introductions & Outcomes

I think of a ‘Lesson’ as a planned activity with an expected outcome – structured and defined.  An adult led activity with a predefined goal that upon completion is either right or wrong.  Any activity that requires me to constantly ‘correct’ or ‘redirect’ what a child is doing with the supplies is not a learning activity – it is an obedience activity with the goal of conformity to rules and following directions.

Learning through play is all about exploration, experimentation and observation.  Unstructured play offers opportunities for learning without a predefined result – no right or wrong conclusion – no pass or fail.  I consider the majority of our activities to be unstructured.  ‘Planned’ activities are generally just activities that require some type of advance preparation rather than a specific outcome.

Last week I introduced the infants and toddlers to a new sensory bin.

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You might think that the bin has a Valentine theme but that was not intentional.  I wanted the flower petals and the dollar store only had red ones in stock.  If they had had other colors I would have used more than one color.  The foam hearts were chosen for their texture not their color or shape.

The various pieces of green wool were also added for their texture – I have many different colors and types of wool but these ones were left over from another craft and already cut into small pieces so I used them.  The metal trays, paint brushes and water were ‘extra’ textures outside the bin.

Throughout the activity I didn’t instruct the children but I did describe and comment on what they did.  The baby insisted on sitting in a chair;

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Normally the smaller children just use these chairs when they are sitting at the little table because it is difficult for them to reach items on the table when they are sitting on the floor. The sensory bin was on the floor so it was easier to access without the chair but he wanted to sit in it.  His preferred activity didn’t involve the bin anyway.  He enjoyed using the water to paint his hair;

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That’s still a sensory activity using the supplies provided.  It also helps to develop motor skills and coordination.

Some painted individual hearts;

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And arranged them – sorted by colour – on a tray.  Wet foam pieces stick to the metal trays but dry ones slide off;

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Others enjoyed a more physical approach diving into the bin – stirring, tossing, and squishing the items at the same time as another child was meticulously balancing the white hearts around the edge of the bin;

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And the baby moved on to pushing the hearts and petals through the little hole in the top of his paint container and down into the water.

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All of them are learning and developing new skills. The learning outcome is not their ability to copy what I asked them do.  It is their demonstration of what they have discovered and how they put it to use.

We’ll use this bin again in the coming week(s) and I’ll add some other items too.  Maybe the children will continue to pursue these same activities.  Maybe additional equipment will enable them to expand on these activities.  Maybe they will try something completely new.  I’ll make the introduction but we’ll have to wait and see what the outcome will be.