I have written recently about the importance of creating rich, inspiring play spaces for children and also about creating invitations to play. I have long believed the way we present toys and resources to children can capture their interest and set the stage for longer periods of more meaningful play, and therefore learning.
I am not suggesting as the adult we prescribe the play which must take place, instead it is a matter or engaging the child through creating an interesting play space and then letting them explore, with or without your involvement (as this will vary depending upon the age of the child and their familiarity with the resources being explored).
I recently came across an unschooling term, ‘strewing,’ which I think goes along way towards describing this process. Strewing involves creating “a home environment that is rich and interesting, fun and hands-on, an environment that will spark new interests and connections.”
With young children I think creating fun and inviting playscapes is one simple way to achieve this, especially when it is related to a real life experience or their own interests.
For example, Immy and I have an annual visitor pass for Perth Zoo. Immy loves visiting the zoo, and especially enjoys seeing the African animals, Australian animals, elephants and primates. Each time we visit the zoo, we buy one Schleich animal figurine as a memento of our visit and to add to our collection (I also recently added a few new animals which we had not been able to find at the zoo shop). Each of the figurines holds an especially dear memory or association for Immy, for example, the polar bear is a reminder of our visit to Singapore Zoo last year, she loves finding kangaroos is the free range style Australian exhibit of our zoo, and meerkats are a current obsession.
The images you see in this post are of the playscape I set up as an environment for the animals. I chose scarves to represent dirt, grass and water and added rocks, trees and ‘logs’ as elements of the environment. On this occasion, I set it up while Immy was napping, at other times we have created these types of play spaces together. And this has been a huge hit. Immy has played on and off with the animals for days now. She has asked questions about what each animal eats and loves comparing the physical features of each animal (which is why I really like the Schleich brand, for the level of realistic detail).
Other effective ways I have found of ‘strewing’ for young children include;
- Laying out a selection of books related to their interest,
- Gathering pictures from magazines and making a display or putting them into a display book to revisit regularly,
Immy helped me find these pictures and stick them up on the wall of the playroom
- Taking photographs and printing them out to make a photo album,
- Providing creative materials which allow the child to express their ideas and understandings,
- Checking for local community events or places of interest which they would be interested in.
Basically, putting into their space anything which would further their curiosity and engagement with that they are playing with and learning.
Do you strew?