At kindergarten one of the busiest places would be outside at our playpod area. It has now been over two years since our playpod was introduced and it is still very popular amongst our children. When I reflect about the playpod, the first thought that comes to mind is how our children appear to be happy, joyful and engaged with their play.
For those who are unsure, our playpod is full of loose parts, including; cable reels, ropes, bungees, stakes, wooden boxes, cones, tarpaulins and wooden cookies. These all have endless learning opportunities, for example; problem solving, divergent and creative thinking, taking risks, negotiation, cooperation, social interactions and use their imagination.
“When children interact with loose parts, they enter a world of “what if” that promotes the type of thinking that leads to problem solving and theoretical reasoning. Loose parts enhance children’s ability to think imaginatively and see solutions, and they bring a sense of adventure and excitement to children’s play” (Daly and Beloglovsky, 2015).
I know for some teachers the indoor environment is viewed as the place where all the learning happens, whereas at Mairtown our outdoor environment is as crucial as the indoors. We don’t view the outdoors as just a place to run and climb, it is another highly valued learning place where children can fully immerse themselves in dramatic play. As I think about the playpod I feel that there has been a sizeable increase of dramatic play outdoors.
The thing I love about the playpod is all the creative thinking and dramatic play that emerges from the use of loose parts, for example the cable reels are often used for wheels to make a bus to go on an adventure to Kiwi North, or with the addition of a long piece of hose it is now a fire truck off to the rescue, or a piece of bark can be used in so many ways like, used as a chainsaw to chop firewood or used as a phone or even a remote for the television which is actually an old sink. The opportunities are endless and I love how the children’s play develops and evolves over time on different days and with interactions with other friends as they share their ideas and work collaboratively.
“Loose parts encourage dramatic and symbolic play, indoors and out. These materials offer children the chance to embody the worlds of their imaginations and create complex stories and scripts assisted by props. Loose parts offer children opportunities to understand their past experiences and to engage in realistic, complex representations of their daily lives.” (Daly and Beloglovsky, 2015)
As an early childhood teacher I know well how children love to transport items. This is the added bonus of the playpod equipment, with it being so movable, it all depends on the child’s imagination to where they construct or move to. Recently there has been a lot of interest amongst our children in firewood and chainsaws, this interest is able to be incorporated into their play through using the large wooden cookies, a trolley, bungees and large pieces of bark as the chainsaws.
It is wonderful to watch them full heartedly engage in their play by lifting loads of wood into the trolley which is carefully tied down with the bungees and moved to another area. Another time I remember observing lots of playpod equipment being moved to a place behind our large boulder. There I could see a large construction happening, I was informed that the road out to the beach has big rock cliffs and there are big rocks at the beach so the motor home needed to be next to the rocks.
“When children move objects, they learn about weight. They compare and contrast the size and weight of an object and they estimate what type of container they need to move the item. When children transport, they can determine the accessibility of the items they want to move. They learn the concepts of more and less and enough or not enough.” (Daly and Beloglovsky, 2015)
When our children are involved in their play at the playpod it often becomes a very social place where they join in helping to construct or simply join in the play. In the winter months we have a weekly fire which we use to cook with our children. This is very popular amongst our children and is often reflected through them building a pretend fire made out of wood and fallen cabbage tree leaves, with the wooden cookies used as seats around the outside of the pretend fire, singing songs together and pretending to cook. These moments are such social times that support our children’s sense of belonging, their inclusiveness, and their willingness to take risks.
Providing loose parts significantly enhances inclusion for all children and helps improve children’s relationships and self-confidence. Play with loose parts increases children’s collaboration, negotiation skills, risk taking, conflict resolution, communication and problem solving. (Armitage, 2009)
There are many benefits for children’s learning and development when they play with loose parts and the best thing is that most items in our playpod are free or cost very little. I totally agree with research conducted by the Brainwave Trust Aotearoa where they state “Children do not need expensive toys. Rather they need everyday opportunities to be imaginative and creative and to solve problems.” This is so true and I can’t wait to see where the playpod play will develop next.
Ngā mihi, Susie