Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Tuff spot and messy play.

A big feature in my classroom, is the tuff spot, or builder's tray. This is a black shallow tray that can be bought from school and nursery supplies or for under £20 from B&Q. The education supplies also sell stands, but we use ours on the floor as few of my class are walking.

On the floor it can also be used to encourage reaching from sitting or kneeling positions, and is great for the kids who want to totally immerse themselves.
On the other hand, the stand would be useful if we wanted to discourage too much immersion.
I try to put something different in it every couple of weeks, so that the children have chance to explorers more than once, but not so much of the same thing that they get bored. We have a few favourite tuff spot activities that we use a lot. Many nurseries use them to create imaginative play environments, like underwater scenes, or use items that represent a story. My class are so young that they are not really at that stage of development yet, and I really have to be aware of the likelihood of them putting bits in their mouths, so I am a bit limited by safety considerations.
However, I love the tuff spot. The children greet it with excitement and curiosity. It often absorbs them for quite long periods, and parents tend to enjoy it too. Filling containers is a favourite activity, so I collect different ones, bright colours, different sizes, some with handles, some metal to add sound and reflections. They really practice all kinds of physical skills here as they fill and empty containers, try different tools, move around and reach out across the play area. It's a sociable activity, as the children tend to wander over to the tuff spot to see what others are doing, and lots of exploration goes on as they investigate it, and the tools or toys in it.

This was spaghetti, coloured to make it more eye catching. There's a selection of different bowls and spoons and tongs to pick it up. Great for pretend cooking, for scooping and tipping, developing control using tongs. Tongs were great with this, and chopsticks were fun, too.
Playing with this gives you such an opportunity for conversation, offering choices "in here or in there?" Vocabulary around size, full and empty, colour, how can we pick it up?
Dry pasta shapes are a favourite. I haven't tried colouring them, although I think it can be done. They are great because they are so noisy, they don't make much mess, and while they aren't enticing to eat, they won't harm the child who tries. They are really popular when we put them out with bowls and spoons but we also use plastic bottles to encourage posting, saucepans for play cooking, soft toys for pretend tea parties.
Oats are interesting for pouring, silky to touch, go through funnels and slatted spoons. We have done a 3 bears theme with big and small bowls, teddies and spoons. Don't wear black clothes though!
Coloured rice looks great. We started ours in stripes and let the children mix it up. Rakes, cardboard tubes, funnels, plastic bottles, especially clear ones all work well with this. It was really popular. One child just loved run in it through her fingers. another lay in it and waved her arms as if swimming or making snow angels. most of he others filled the bowls, fed toy animals, and stirred saucepans. The rice keeps so can be used again and again.

At the end of the session, it looked like this!

Shredded paper, great with tongs, for building piles, hiding toys, throwing and catching. You can use different colours for different themes. We found red and blue for the jubilee and Olympics.
Cotton wool can be great with a snow theme, interesting to touch and throw, easy to clean up. Works well with containers with compartments like the inside of a chocolate box for early number work.
Christmas tinsel, with some unbreakable tree ornaments hidden inside. I chose things that the children would recognise, stars, Santa, animals, to encourage naming and searching.
This is my Easter theme. Green shredded packing stuff from the pound shop with a cheeping chick, fabric flowers and those eggs to fill. I've taped some eggs together having put rice, or pasta inside to make different sounds. I also bought cat toys from the pound shop to make an interesting rattle, and cheap toys with lights in that come on when you shake them, and took the lights out to go in a couple of my eggs. I think this will look appealing and encourage the children to shake and investigate to explore what the eggs

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