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Strewing: Setting the Stage for Learning

Childhood 101 | Strewing - setting the stage for learning

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 resources for 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 (this will vary depending upon the age of the child, their familiarity with the resources being explored and the amount of support they request).

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 the play is related to a real life experience or the child’s own interests.

Childhood 101 | Strewing-a strategy for setting the stage for learning

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. 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 above are of a playscape I set up recently – 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. It’s been a huge hit, with Immy playing 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;

Childhood 101 | Strewing-setting the stage for children's learning

  • Laying out a selection of books related to their interest,
  • Gathering posters and pictures from magazines and making a wall display or putting them into a display book to revisit regularly,
  • Taking photographs while on related excursions or field trips and printing them out to make a book together,
  • Providing creative materials which allow the child to express their ideas and knowledge of the topic,

Basically, putting into their space anything which would further their curiosity and engagement with that they are playing with and learning.

Do you strew?

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Comments

  1. I'm a big 'strewer' Christie. At preschool I love putting one or two interesting things in their path and seing what happens. Strewing is also handy when their play has stalled – adding something else for them to discover can often take it off in a whole different direction.

    (

  2. SquiggleMum says:

    This is an awesome post Christie. To be honest I have shied away from strewing at home because it was the kind of thing I often did in an early childhood classroom, and I try not to be too "teacherly" in our own space. Thanks for reminding me to give a try at home in different, age appropriate ways.

  3. katepickle says:

    Ah 'strewing' is a fabulous way to describe this!
    Even just pooping out a basket or two of interesting relevant bits and pieces works as 'strewing'… fab!

    • One of my favorite things about comments is how our funnny little typos can make someone laugh. Laughter is good for the soul. Good luck “pooping out a basket”! LOL. Have a great day.

  4. Yes. But didnt know there was a term for it. When saw the title I was thinking of strewn I think as in stuff thrown all over the place/big mess scattered everywhere which I also have to say is common in our house

    Love the Schliech collection too. Had to get new bookshelves in Ellas room to accomodate them and she spends ages playing with them and making zoos and farms and jungles and families

  5. Gill@OurParklife says:

    Yes we do this at home but I also didn't know there was a word for it!

    I adore the envrionment for the animals you created here

    Go Perth zoo btw! Haven't been for ages so will have to make the effort next time we are up in perth.

  6. This is not something I've ever tried before, so thanks for the inspiration. I'd love to have been a kiddo in your house! :)

  7. The girl who painted trees says:

    I strew all the time. We buy the animal toobs instead of the Schliech animals because they are less expensive, but the Schliech are so much more beautiful. I like how you buy the as mementos.

    http://theadventuresofbear.blogspot.com

  8. Sherry and Donna says:

    I've never heard the term 'strewing' before, but Sherry and I are biiiiiig strewers!!! Lovely post Christie, thanks.
    Donna :) :)

  9. Joyful Learner says:

    We had park day today and noticed how the homeschooled children were playing with things that nature "strew" like sticks, leaves, berries, barks, and running creek water. I thought it was interesting they used what was in their environment and didn't need "toys" to entertain them.

    At home, we strew math manipulatives, animal figures, and art supplies. Sometimes she combines two or more items that I would not have considered combining…like building a house for the animals using the manipulatives and then drawing food and cutting them out for animals to eat. There is no limit to their imagination!

    I love the detailed work on Schliech collection. Our daughter has the free booklet which she loves to look through but we have yet to purchase them because they are so expensive.

  10. I have read your article with great interest. I need your advice here. We have a baby girl aged 10 months old. What kind of activities do you suggest we should introduce to stimulate our baby's interest and development. Thanks.

    Vin

  11. I 'strew' with dinosaurs figurines and felt cut out in the shape of a river (blue) and grass (green) and those smooth pebble rocks bought from a cheap shop. Sometimes adding playdough mounds for the dinosaurs to stomp over leaving their footprints. Also my Mum recently sewed one of your wonderful teepee tents for my daughter. Jessica likes to play camping as this is something we do in real life as a family and we make a fake campfire using once again the smooth pebble rocks and orange & red cellophane paper scrunched up in the middle of the rocks. Not forgetting cotton balls on skewers for marshmallows to toast on the camp fire!

  12. Jolene (South Africa) says:

    I've never heard of "strewing" before, what a wonderful concept. I am definitely going to impliment this with my 3 children. Thank you so so so much for all the information.

  13. Raising a Happy Child says:

    Those are great ideas. I don't do a lot of "strewing" at home – mostly because I am a bit worried that it will take away Anna's imagination, but I can see that playscapes can actually help it. Thanks for sharing those wonderful playscapes that you created.

  14. Erin @ Letter Soup says:

    Yes, I guess I do "strew" but I've never known the term for it. Thanks! I just learned something new today! :)

  15. I love this idea of strewing. I practice it but never knew the name.

  16. Maggie Macaulay says:

    Thanks, Christie. I love the concept of strewing, and I will share it with more parents by placing a link to your blog in our July 29issue of Parenting News, our free weekly e-zine for parents and teachers. If any of your readers would like to subscribe, please visit http://www.WholeHeartedParenting.com. Your photos of the play spaces are so fun!

  17. My little one (8m) and I strew all day long, I have given her her own space in the living room with books, toys, cushions and wall decals, it's right next to my space, a few mornings ago she was sleeping in my bed, which is very low to the ground, I woke up and she wasn't there, panic! No wait, she had gotten up, off the bed and in to the lounge. she was sitting contentedly looking through her books in a wee puddle of morning sunshine, I love the independance this sort of stuff creates.

  18. Christie - Childhood 101 says:

    Thanks for your comments everyone, I too was interested to find there was a 'word' for it.

    Pumpkin – I would start with simple wooden blocks and cars, a small doll, some pop up toys (where your little one has to push or twist a button for an animal to pop up), very simple, chunky piece peg puzzles, balls, and a play phone – hope that gets you started.

  19. ButterflyMama says:

    Hiya
    I'd love to know where you got your raw wood blocks from in this post – they look wonderful!

  20. thanks so much for this idea. I love your website! It has help me a lot:)

  21. I try to set up a lot of materials in my library for children to work with freely — puzzles, craft materials and the like. They have a small puppet theater and fingerpuppets they can play with, but I was always curious why the productions they put on were so barren of, well, creativity. Now I know what’s missing — props and background. Any suggestions? The puppet theater has a very ordinary curtain.

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  1. [...] new experiences, hands-on activities and lots of time to learn through play. This is known as strewing* in the unschooling world. I hope to set up a room with play centers, much like you would see in a [...]

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