My daughter had been busy and quiet for some time. Suspicious, I went to check what she was up to. She had found the bag of sticks and wood I have been storing and had built an onstacle course for her Playmobil figures. She had even found some wings for one of the figures to make it into a fairy. Whilst we can’t be at Forest School at the moment, it made me remember how we use our environment and all the open-ended resources to enhance a child’s learning.
Piles of sticks, leaves, stones and seed pods may not seem as exciting as the latest toy, but they can take a child on an amazing journey. A plastic garage or fairy castle will always be just that, but open-ended loose parts have infinite possibilities. My daughter had used her imagination and creativity to design a course and had also used her fine motor skills to balance sticks, draw and write. A pile of sticks can be made into a home, a boat, a piece of art, pretend food, characters; the list is endless. Offering open ended resources enhances a child’s learning because it encourages curiosity, experimentation, creativity, imagination and provides a platform for children to set and achieve their own goals.
Whilst much of Singapore's beautiful outside spaces are closed off to us right now, we can bring a little of it inside our homes, but where can you get natural resources from? It's always difficult to find natural materials in Singapore because legislation prevents the public from taking anything from public land. Here are some ideas for you to source materials legally:
Check with your condo or HDB estate gardeners - they may be willing to let you take home some otherwise 'greenwaste' - mine always are, I have a huge box of Golden Shower seed pods I have collected!
Check with your neighbourhood friends who may have their own gardens and have a little something they can leave out for you to collect (masks on of course!). I have a friend who leaves me everything from wooden planks to cinnamon branches, and another who has given me a huge bag of saga seeds.
Look online. You can order pebbles, coco sticks, rice husk, coconut fibre, jute twine, dried flowers, wooden discs and much more from Lazada to make your own natural materials play box.
Fallen leaves, flowers and seeds are always tempting to take. If your child does pick up a few make sure there is an abundance and return items to nature when they are no longer of use.
Add your own figurines, water obstacles, sand or soil. Provide a big plastic container for a new mini-world. Sharpie marker pens are great for drawing on pebbles, wood and sticks. Let your children play and sit back quietly and observe. When they engage you in conversation, you may ask them to describe what they are creating, ask them why they have designed they way they have, what things did they consider? What might they not have thought of?
We'd love to see your creations so send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org for inspiration we can share with our community.
Caroline joined Wildlings from Tanglin Trust School where she has worked for the last 3 years as a Teaching and Learning Assistant in Early Years. She holds a Diploma in Early Years Education and is currently in the process of completing the Forest School Leader programme. Aside from this Caroline is mum of two children and a keen runner.