As an early childhood educator itâ€™s my job to give children experiences that challenge their concepts and ideas. This is why if you come into my early learning environment, whether for StrongStart of Preschool you will not see any generic cookie cutters at my preschool table.
Now donâ€™t get me wrong, Iâ€™m not saying that cookie cutters are evil. I still have days when I can pull out a few cookie cutters and bend my own rulesâ€¦lol. What Iâ€™m purposing is: Do using generic toys stifle our imaginative learning? What are we learning during play dough play when we donâ€™t use traditional materials? This is the question I frequently ask when I picked loose parts for the play dough area. By loose part Iâ€™m referring to just using random items (Popsicle sticks, rocks, old cdâ€™s, coloured uncooked pasta, etc.) and asking children and families to explore and play in different ways.
The other day, while at preschool I happened to notice Olivia sitting at the play dough table. This wasnâ€™t out of the ordinary for her; she was an avid play dough player. What was mind blowing for me was the fact that she was making cookies.
Making cookies you say… whatâ€™s so spectacular about making cookies?
Olivia was making cookies by using flat oval shaped rocks and plastic knives that I had on the table. Thatâ€™s right people, Loose Parts. She would flatten some play dough with a cylinder shape block (from the block area) like you and I would use a rolling pin. Then she pressed the oval shaped rock into the play dough and traced around it with the knife. Essentially she was using the rock as a cookie cutter. Wow…
Did I as a teacher make her start thinking about different uses for things because of not putting out expected tools? I sure hope so.
Some of you may say, â€œWell she may not have had to work so hard if I had just put out the cookie cutters in the first placeâ€.
Sure she may not have, but what would have the thought process have been? Would she worked as hard at making sure the rock was perfectly pressed into the dough? would she have worked so intrictly at using the plastic knife to trace around the rock? I some how don’t think so.
I leave you with this to think about: AfterÂ everything i have questioned you with doÂ I ever get asked for the cookie cutters and other usual play dough toys? Yup, absolutely.Â A high percentage of them are adults, in fact almost all of them are adults…lol Does this mean that as adults have we lost the ability to think outside of the box?
Something to think about…….