Home   Uncategorized   Don’t throw out ‘all’ of the plastic

Don’t throw out ‘all’ of the plastic

On a  recent train journey with my colleague Kim Benham. We were off to deliver a training session to a nursery group on KISP.

The train was delayed and sitting opposite us was a three-year-old child with her mother. We started to talk about how she looked like the character in my children’s picture book. After eating her lunch, the child said she didn’t want to have the iPad, so her mother took out a few Duplo pieces, including one piece – the cat – from her pocket. Her mother shared with her daughter why she had the cat in her pocket. The child carefully arranged the pieces into a long train with a piece of string and began sharing stories out loud about what was happening with the train, the cat and the girl and boy. For a three-year-old, Kim and I were impressed with her language skills and her imagination.

At a time when many settings are replacing their resources with open-ended natural materials, my reflections would be to think carefully as there are plastic resources that can still support children’s all-round development, especially with their communication, language and imagination.

I also like to promote my love of natural resources on my travels. As well as reflecting on other materials, we also need to be mindful of resources that may not be for every child, for instance, children who have sensory processing disorder. Settings need to think about this and do what is right for them in line with their values and ethos. For example, how are these changes going to have an impact on the children’s learning and development in my setting or are we making the changes because everyone else is?

At times, we’re quick to jump on the bandwagon without reflecting on research, theory and the words of wisdom from pioneers.

My reflections:

• When we are making changes do all our staff understand why the changes are being made?

• Do we provide professional development to mirror the changes? • How do we evaluate the changes that have happened?

• Has there been a change in children’s behaviour?

• Have we observed changes in how children play with each other and by themselves?

• Have children made progress in their learning and development?

• How does the senior team know this?

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  • Kim Benham

    Agree Laura. It’s getting the balance right for the children we have. In our settings we have always used a mix of natural and man made resources with a positive impact on our children’s development. There’s always more ways than on way with play. This little girl was amazing with her imaginative play.

  • Stephanie

    Hi Laura
    As one of the co founders of The Curiosity Approach, I couldn’t agree more, with your comments & we too still use small world plastic animsls or small world within our provisions.
    Sadly some people feel that by adding a few apple crates & carboot treasure, throwing out the plastic – this is the way forward!

    It’s more than that!
    Educators quite rightly, need to understand WHY they are making these changes? HOW to support children from the use of closed resources to intelligent & open ended.

    Sadly in today’s society many children are loosing the ability to think creatively & therefore struggle to play with such natural or recycled items. As educators we need to understand how to support & scaffold learning . To offer Quality teaching & learning within our practice.

    This is why The Curiosity Approach offers the accreditation toolkit to answer all those questions you mentioned above. A whole team Approach, evaluation of changes made & the impact on the children’s development.

    Settings cannot just bin the plastic, without having alternative replacements available to take their place.
    Settings have spent thousands of pounds on equipment & toys- where will it all go ?
    It cannot just be dumped or be thrown into skips & landfill – Lets donate, sell or give to charity as an alternative.

    It’s wonderful to see so many settings taking on our Pedagogy or even just a more natural approach, moving away from overstimulation & bright decors. However as you mentioned it has to done with thought & understanding of WHY they are making change x

    Kindest regards,
    Stephanie x

  • Penny Webb

    Totally agree Laura.
    I love my duplo and still have a large collection gor grandchildren’s use.
    I also have plastic resources including some in my heuristic collection such as scoops and plastic bottle tops.

    Throwing resouces away just because they are plastic is wasteful and gives the wrong message.
    I did invest in wooden and natural resouces and over time I did reduce the amount of plastic ( giving to others) but plastic does have a place in early years settings.
    It is as you say all about balance

  • Julia wardle

    We have been working on this area a lot. I’ve done much research into the plastic resources being binned movement, but in observing our settings and listening to children, families and colleagues, we have found that plastic really is fantastic for many of our children – and their learning opportunities. As always, and as you say, it’s always about the individual child and what works for THEM. We use an array of weird and wonderful resources and the common denominator between natural, synthetic, colourful or just plain bonkers, is that each item has to earn its place within our settings – and moreover, has to work hard to stay there. From prickly hair curlers to smooth wooden pegs, from duplo to wooden blocks, if a child sees a value within an object, it’s OK with us.

    • Laura Henry

      Hi Julie, thank you for taking the time to share your nurseries practice.

    • Leanne

      Could not agree more, these are exactly my thoughts. By removing all plastic we would be taking away some valuable resources that engage children, each in their own way. We would also be taking away their choice/interest.
      Balance, variety and having practitioners that are in tune with the children in the setting are key!.

  • Sally Wright

    Well said Laura…..I think lots of practitioners are being ‘social media brainwashed’ in to believing plastic is bad and that children can only learn using “authentic and natural materials which are considered open ended”……what a ridiculous thought!

    There is no mistaking that these things are lovely for us to be surrounded by (as adults!) but at the end of the day ANY object can be open ended if we as practitioners set it FREE and allow the children to PLAY as they choose! Its us adults who assign uses to resources…….children don’t do that…..I mean I have had a full blown telephone conversation with a child via a corn on the cob and a banana this morning…..not your usual method of communication and both plastic resources! Imaginative play at its best!

    It’s like you said, it’s about finding that balance which suits YOU and your children. It’s so refreshing to hear somebody standing up and saying don’t blindly follow a trend unless you fully understand the ‘why’s?’

    There is a big element of risk assessing which I often feel gets overlooked too when people are just copying others styles and using anything & everything except toys…..we have CE standards for a reason ‍♀️

  • Anni Mctavish

    Thanks for a great piece Laura – really thoughtful and helpful. Particularly so at a time when many settings have limited funds and may be thinking about how best to plan a great environment for learning…. reminded me of the LOVE one of my children had for a particular teleytubbies musical radio! It encouraged a first stage of crawling.
    Warm regards Anni

  • Alison Cobb

    I carry a set of Tegu bricks in my handbag when I am out and about, not just for minded children to play with when sitting waiting for lunch to arrive at our weekly lunch treat, but if I am on a plane – as I often am, to Dubai as my daughter lives there, or to Canada where my son lives, but for any child who needs a distraction.

    The fact they are very tactile, are beautiful muted natural colours and one end is magnetic, means there are endless learning opportunities, opposites, attract, repel, magnetic and non magnetic, they can be made into any shape and they are just beautiful.

    I have invested heavily in several different sets and the big group setting packs, they are a firm favourite from any age in my setting.


  • Sam Evans

    Totally agree with Laura and sally! People are being brainwashed and I’m going to be really honest and say that there are people who are influencing this and encouraging people to bin the plastic… even when they say they are not encouraging it! These people can be offensive to others and are almost dictating the way early years should be! What early years should not be is carbon copies of each other’s settings because they all have different children and staff which should influence your approach! Research and observation should lead you – not a fashion trend or dictatorship. I like to provide inspiration to others, but advocate strongly for educators to do what feels right for them and their children! Constantly reflecting and driving forward for consistent quality!

  • Catherine Low

    My biggest gripe is educators jumping on the ‘in style’thing of the moment. To make a meaningful change in approaches to teaching, you need to do diligent research for it to be of any benefit. You need to know why you are doing it and what for otherwise it will all fall away come the next ‘in’ thing. I have all manner of loose parts right alongside my plastic animals, duplo pieces and plastic fruit and vegetables. I watch what my students do with them, how they engage with them and make changes accordingly. Nothing is more rewarding than watching my students use their environment and its resources in play that is authentic to them. The only thing I discard is broken or unsafe resources. If I replace any older versions of items I always look to donate what we are no longer using to a charity.

  • Zoe Wright

    It’s my biggest bug bear at the moment and causes me such frustration.
    As others above have mentioned there is a “movement” towards binning the plastic. I see settings skipping thousands of pounds worth of perfectly wonderful plastic resources which is appalling for their budgets and the environment. I see settings buying in thousands of pounds of natural resources which are not being used and/or staff have no depth of understanding behind the rationale so consequently learning opportunities are being missed.
    I see (credit where it’s due) a very very clever marketing strategy that is highly effective at selling its ethos and I am sure it has many many positive aspects- however as with all these things people will try to get it on the cheap and through the back door and consequently I see a theoretically good visual environment that has no substance or depth of understanding to back it up.
    It reminds me of the Mud Kitchen period- I will never forget a conversation with an inspector who said “if I see another bloody mud kitchen with no learning behind it I will scream”.

    It saddens me greatly that our sector is becoming so heavily focused on visuals, copy cat ethos and what Ofsted want rather than standing back and looking at the cohort and saying “what can we do today that these children will take with them into their tomorrow”.

  • anon

    I think at the minute there are a lot of people/settings ‘competing’ and in some cases jealous that maybe their approach is not the trend of the moment like it has been in the past. It’s clear to see from two comments from two different settings/ approaches above that this is the case.

    Let’s remember our children past, present and furture are our focus, yes share ideas, use ideas from other settings but think am I putting this out so I can share it on facebook to get likes or is it genuine of the children’s interests.

  • Linda keats

    Plastic is all around us even if we aren’t too happy about it….so why take it away from children altogether in a place ( preschool/nursery) where they will be doing lots of experimenting and investigation! Instead offer a mix of natural and plastics and allow the children to interact the two….to see how each effects the other and get a feel for how they work together.

  • Rachel Lloyd

    Why is the most important question…Why are we using the resources, adopting this approach and why is it important to us?
    We as educators are just as individual and unique as our children. Each of us has different answers to those questions and it’s so important if we are encouraging our children to celebrate their individuality that we recognise and celebrate our uniqueness without having to have an endorsement from other educators who are equal but no better than ourselves.
    If that means no plastic, mixed materials, solely plastic or something else…if we have the why and our children’s best interests at the heart of what we do then that is all that matters.

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