It’s still a bit early to put out the plants in the strawberry pot but it was a perfect time for some sensory-play and fun with loose parts that encouraged early learning (and kindergarten readiness). The loose parts were a few plastic toy animals and some other assorted accessories (aka stuff or junk).
The animals needed a house so Big Sister found a piece of wood to make a roof. Some motivational bracelets made fences and a bottle cap made the drinking place. The stairs, that is the little lips on the side of the pot, were their houses and the animals visited back and forth. There was not much sensory play in the dirt in the big pot, but in the yard there was quite a scavenger hunt for weeds that could be pulled out to feed the animals. This required some digging too with a big old spoon that led to some dirt and puddle mixing for mud play.
The animals also needed some rounding up. The dog is an eraser top for a pencil and the frog is a pencil sharpener. These two usually live in a desk drawer but “wanted to go and play with their friends.” After a long time of imaginative play, the animals had to come back in the house and get washed with some warm soapy water in a bowl-bathtub. An old rag and 2 small hands helped them to dry off before they had to get put back in the toy bin.
So much of children’s play happens with materials that are not necessarily toys. But there is no doubt that learning is taking place. Problem-solving, imagining, creating, remembering, organizing, planning, talking, asking, and explaining, were just a few of the higher-order thinking skills. There was also some negotiating practice: “but I will be careful with the frog pencil sharpener,” and some responsibility since the animals had to come back in. Are there some small animals that your child can use for some sensory-play and loose parts fun at your house or center?