Crate fun!

Catherine Clark celebrates a simple and flexible resource that never fails to fire children's imaginations...

One of the most popular open-ended resources in use in early years settings has to be the humble crate. They come in all shapes and sizes, some stacking and some nesting for ease of storage. I prefer the ones that have sufficient room for a child to sit in comfortably – this enables the crate to be transformed into all manner of splendid creations.

Crates’ simplicity and versatility means that they can take on the guise of whatever is in a child’s imagination. I’ve seen them become sea-bound boats with yard brush masts and rope for an anchor (they could be the vessel for the Owl and the Pussycat). Just add a wheel and the crate becomes a car, lorry or truck. Join them together and you have a train and carriages or a tug boat. Try zooming into space with your rocket or building a time machine. Some children will choose to make dens, homes, shops or a simple seat on which to rest a while.

Crates work well as a stand-alone resource, but the learning can be extended if the children have ready access to tape, wool, rope, card, foil, wood, fabric, pegs, etc. so that they can really let their imaginations soar. Investing in a high-quality, safe crate is so worthwhile. Theyare light, portable, weatherproof and robust. They are accessible and enable the child to initiate the ideas. The crate may be an obvious, familiar resource, but to me it is an unsung hero of early years play. Something so simple can inspire wonderfully enriched and inspired learning!

Catherine Clark has worked in early years education for many years. She is the in-house educationalist at TTS, consulting and advising on how children learn, and has developed numerous award-winning products.