Recycled resources

Catherine Clark recommends having a rummage in the junk box...

It’s amazing how many everyday items that we place in the recycling bin have great potential to aid learning. But how do we utilise them? Do we just put them in the water play area or the ‘junk’ box, or do we examine them more closely and use them in more exciting ways to support skills?

Shampoo, soap and bubble bath receptacles come in different shapes and sizes. Some are clear, some are tinted and some are opaque. The tops on them may be pressed, flipped, twisted. Some have pumps which deliver a specific amount. Many containers dispense their contents by squeezing the sides – for example, sauce bottles. Try to provide a range to experiment with.

Children can learn a lot in the water area if play is carefully planned. Think about how the containers can assist their knowledge of capacity, forces and properties. Do you always have the water clear or do you use food colouring or glitter? Try adding aromas, washing up liquid or other safe substances that dissolve in water or which change its state. Also reflect on the viscosity of messy play. Does the mixture pour, is it translucent? Some children will love emptying and filling containers, reflecting their schematic behaviours, so have a variety of pots from which to select. Yoghurt pots and bottles come in all shapes and sizes and are great for little hands. Pouring liquids into small and large containers is often really enjoyable for young children but can also help with their hand-eye coordination.

Recycled containers are a part of most settings, but it is useful to think of new approaches to use these free, versatile and readily accessible resources.

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.