You may or may not be aware that we are currently undertaking training in order to become a ‘hygee’ accredited setting and as part of this transformation we are reducing the amount of plastic toys in our environments, instead introducing not only wooden resources, but real, china items and other materials to the children.
One of our most recent additions to the setting is our stunning china dinner service, fondly referred to as ‘The FloraDora’ by the children. This was of course a well thought about decision on our behalf before we transitioned the children from plastic tableware to real china, but one we felt they would benefit greatly from.
Across the Early Years sector currently, many settings are wanting to move away from plastic, introduce ‘real’ items and materials and loose parts as inspired by ‘The Curiosity Approach’ and other pedagogies, however many are concerned about the children breaking these new, precious, real items.
In our opinion, that completely takes away the element of awe and wonder, curiosity and investigation that by having these items and resources freely accessible within your provision ignites and if practitioners are concerned by this element of risk and thus limit the children’s access to these resources or only offer them for their older cohort, then essentially they are missing the point and their setting is not fully on board with incorporating these elements of various pedagogies into their practice and provision, thus making them meaningless for the children.
Children need to be able to freely explore, handle, manipulate, investigate and experience items and resources in order to fully understand their uses, their fragility, the potential risks they can hold and ultimately how precious these items can be; exploring items in such a way enables the children to not only understand the object and it’s uses as well as it’s fragility, but it also enables the children to learn that precious items like china and other fragile materials need to be respected which is an invaluable learning experience in itself.
Of course, it is likely that along the line, something will get broken, however this again is a valuable learning experience, children will not learn from constantly being told that they will break a precious item that they aren’t allowed to freely handle, children will essentially learn, when they do drop the object and it breaks or shatters, this is a life lesson and one children cannot learn from plastic resources or from restricted access to other materials.
Similarly, we have noticed via forums, blogs and other media that many settings only allow their older children access to these types of resources and loose parts, which again in our opinion, lacks validity and meaning for the children. If children go through their early education not experiencing these items, when they reach your preschool room with lots of high end, precious resources freely available, they won’t know what to do with them, and thus their experience and your provision will be impacted as a result. Of course you have to be mindful about certain resources being choking hazards for your younger children (this is something that is difficult to manage, but not impossible, within a home-based childcare provision.) however, there is absolutely no reason why your 18 month-old can’t have access to a real clock, typewriter, metal kitchen utensils, wooden loose parts, curtain rings and the other extensive range of resources you can provide them with. If you enable your younger children to have access to these items and to explore them at their own pace and in their own way, these children will automatically grow up to learn, respect and understand these and other similar items as their curiosity has been ignited and fostered from the outset.
In essence, what we are trying to stress here is that in order to fully embed and implement new and meaningful pedagogies into your setting, you have to be fully committed to the real meaning and ethos of the pedagogy and understand the benefits this type of learning and a broad, diverse range of resources can have on the children’s learning experiences.
Our transformation into a Hygge accredited setting is an ongoing one as overhauling and replacing your resources and environment is time-consuming and costly, however we hope to have completely made the transition by September, ready for our new cohort of children and once Chloe has completed the accreditation officially.
Early Years can be so bogged down with paperwork, Government input and legislation; let’s do what we can to inspire and ignite the awe and wonder in our children’s learning experiences; in our opinions, the benefits of using real, fragile materials hugely outweigh the drawbacks, and our children and their current experiences, learning styles and the new resources and skills they are learning are testament to that.