Deconstructed role play
After reading numerous blogs about deconstructed role-play over the past year, I was really excited about developing a stimulating learning area within the classroom environment. I wanted an area or space, which truly promoted children’s independence, imagination and most importantly freedom of choice in his or her own creativity.
Alistair Bryce-Clegg from ABCdoes.com (@ABCDoes) highlights that sometimes adults set up spaces that are not suitable to the children’s ages or experiences and therefore do not extend the children’s imagination or participation in that particular theme. For example, I often see travel agent role play areas yet how many children would honestly have any experience of going to a travel agents? Most adults book holidays online and many have never been to a travel agents at all so how can we expect a child to draw from experience and extend their imagination to play the various roles required for a travel agents?
The most compelling advice I found in his blog was ‘you create a space that is full of things that can be anything.’ This message is so powerful yet so many of us fail to do this on a daily basis. Many settings tend to limit children’s imagination by only allowing them to engage and play with ‘what’s out’ or ‘on the table.’ This is a fear of ‘they will only make a mess’ or ‘I’ve spent ages setting up this supermarket and they just come in and put the play food everywhere.’
So with all this motivation, passion and energy I decided to create an area, which encompasses not just role-play but also small world play and construction.
The results have been absolutely amazing! I didn’t think I would ever observe so much creativity, imagination and collaboration. The children are engaged, in control and most importantly, happy! The depth of language and thinking is astonishing. The children have complete ownership of their ideas and what they produce is outstanding and different everyday.
In relation to the Characteristics of Learning free access to a variety of resources allows children to tick every box. Through this type of play the children demonstrate numerous ways of achieving learning outcomes. The list below shows how this approach embraces child-led learning and promotes all areas, which intertwine with the characteristics of learning.
Playing and Exploring –
• Showing curiosity
• Using imagination
• Taking on roles in the play
• Taking risks
• Seeking challenges
• Initiating activities and ideas
• Staying focused
• Displaying high levels of fascination
• Staying on task
• Keep trying
• Using different approaches
• Bouncing back
• Displaying Self achievement
• Taking pride in their work
Creating and Thinking Critically
• Thinking of ideas
• Solving problems
• Finding new ways of doing things
• Making links and patterns
• Making predictions
• Testing ideas
• Developing ideas
• Changing strategies
• Making own decisions
This is not a ‘must do’ guide but simply how I achieved a ‘free choice creative and imaginative area.’ In order to set this up I needed to take account of:
• Adult interaction (both intervening and giving guidance as well as letting go/standing back.)
Selecting a good sized space is preferable but a corner of the room will do. It’s important to select a space, which is not a walk-way or an area that needs to be tidied up after every session or at the end of everyday. After spending up to an hour working on a ‘superbase’ or ‘Ariel’s cave’ its important the children have the opportunity to go back to their creation after lunch or even the following morning.
Most early years settings already have a large array of resources, which would be ideal for this area. I have listed resources, which are very popular within my setting and are easily attainable.
• Different lengths of wood (both natural and painted with chalkboard paint)
• cable drums
• wooden blocks
• logs (better if they have holes)
• pine cones
It’s also essential that the children then have free access to all small world and construction resources. I organised my small world baskets into; sea animals, wild animals, dinosaurs, fantasy characters, medieval figures, farm animals, people, minibeasts and transport. There are lots more ideas you could use such as pirates, space, fairies, construction site etc but that is depending on your children’s interests.
The construction resources were organised into larger baskets which consisted of; Lasy, stickle bricks, Lego, Duplo, Gears, Mobilo, 3D large plastic shapes and Popoids. Again, this is your classroom so just use the resources you have, with a bit of imagination the children can create and construct with almost anything. Please see @cosydirect for a wide range of natural excellent resources and @CreativeSTAR for inspiration to take this approach in the outdoor environment.
The area could also be enhanced even further if children have free access to maths resources. I’m all for natural play with natural objects but its nice for the children to make their own choice and develop their play into different paths using a variety of materials such as plastic or coloured metal. I have a maths/fine motor resource trolley placed next to the area. Sometimes the children will use these within their creation and sometimes they will use them on their own. The trolley includes; compare animals, clever sticks, multilink, chain links, 3d wooden block shapes, octagons, Interstar rings, coloured plastic straws and magnetic objects.
Within the classroom I also have a large assortment of cultural and intriguing objects and artifacts to stimulate wonder and conversation. These include unusual shells and stones, a boomerang, Russian dolls, assortment trays, a statue of Buddha, Diva lamps, Japanese wooden dolls, African baskets, Turkish coffee pots, Brass and copper tea pots, a candelabra, bronze milk jugs, an Afghan rug. I have probably forgot a few things but you get the idea. (I recommend ebay, car boot sales and charity shops for these resources.)
I hope you have enjoyed reading this blog about my journey into creating spaces that are open ended, accessible and don’t restrict the children’s ideas, imagination and creativity.
The most valuable advice I would give, is to allow the children freedom of choice in selecting resources to enhance their learning by providing opportunities for them to be independent, problem solvers, team players and creative.
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