What are intelligent resources?

Let’s discuss Intelligent Resources

Intelligent resources are resources that allow the child to use their imagination and explore endlessly. They are your open-ended materials,  those loose parts, natural materials, recycled materials, resources that can be transported, changed again and again. When we think about Intelligent Resources, we are changing the focus of what the item is to what it could be, moving our focus to the process of play!

Module 3 of our Curiosity Approach® Accreditation – Invitations to Learning, is about reflecting on what intelligent resources we offer within our Early Years setting, within the continuous provision and opportunity for play. For Educators and teams to understand the purpose of these ‘ Intelligent’ resources and to recognise that it’s not a tick box that you have them available, it’s about understanding, gaining new knowledge  and to understand WHY, these items are rich in play and learning potential. https://


• What do they offer?

• How do you provide intelligent resources?

• How are your intelligent resources managed?

• These are the questions as a team you need to be discussing and fully understand.

At The Curiosity Approach® we empower self-reflection and extension of knowledge, to share and support one another. We must as early years practitioners extend our knowledge and understanding of the purpose of these materials and have that deeper understanding.
intelligent resources are much more then just resources. It’s about allowing children to be curious, to freely explore, to transport items to learn, to play with no intention of the outcome. 

When we provide intelligent resources with labels such as “Can you build a tower?” They are no longer a loose part or intelligent resource (Stephanie Bennett has discussed before in the Curiosity Approach® Academy) This is because we have given the resource a purpose, a pre conceived idea and outcome. WE Have already planned how children should use these items. Therefore the wealth of potential has been lost. 

Let’s remember that the intent of intelligent resources is to be open ended, to become whatever the child wishes to at that moment, then to change again and be something different.

A box of buttons are rich in potential. Children will play with these buttons following their own ideas and schematic learning styles. To mix up, combine, sort. To use in imaginary role play etc etc. the possibilities are endless and this is why they are intelligent.

“When loose parts are offered to children they provide many opportunities, provocations, and invitations to use, transport, combine, and transform them. The more a material can do, the more intelligent it can become with children because what a material can do determines the potential for learning. In order for materials to be intelligent they need to have potential to communicate: to be expressive. When children encounter materials and begin to explore them, they build awareness of what can happen. It is through interactions between a child and a material that a language is developed. “As children use their minds and hands to act on a material using gestures and tools and begin to acquire skills, experience, strategies, and rules, structures are developed within the child that can be considered a sort of alphabet or grammar” (Gandini, 2005, p. 13). The child discovers the language of the material through experimentation and by observing and interacting with others (Gandini, 2005).”( https://tecribresearch.wordpre...)

Our role when providing intelligent resources is to wait, watch and wonder. Allow the child to welcome you into their play! If we take over, we then close the play down. This can be hard to do in early years,  as previously we are told to model, demonstrate, and communicate! 

To set up our environments in readiness for children to be curious, inquisitive and to investigate.

However, understanding the importance of waiting, watching, and wondering,  allows intelligent resources to play their part! As a team make sure your intelligent resources are available, rotated and replenished. This isn’t down to one person, its understanding as a team the importance to always have these resources available.

Intelligent resources can only do so much, we too must believe in the children we care for. Focusing on what they CAN do not what they can’t.  What is your image of the child? Do you see them as capable competent learners? 

We must understand the children we care, knowing their capabilities and competences as this will impact what we provide. 

Do you often comment “We can’t do this because…!” Already you are stopping the play that could be beneficial for your children. Come together as a team and pause, reflect on those “can’t” moments and see the CAN moments! 

Have you given your children a chance to show you their capabilities? Let’s stop the negative focus on the children we care for and see the positives our children have.

“The environment you construct around you and the children also reflects this image you have about the child. There’s a difference between the environment that you are able to build based on a preconceived image of the child and the environment that you can build that is based on the child you see in front of you — the relationship you build with the child, the games you play. An environment that grows out of your relationship with the child is unique and fluid. The quality and quantity of relationships among you as adults and educators also reflects your image of the child. Children are very sensitive and can see and sense very quickly the spirit of what is going on among the adults in their world. They understand whether the adults are working together in a truly collaborative way or if they are separated in some way from each other, living their experience as if it were private with little interaction.” – Quote from - Your Image of the Child: Where Teaching Begins by Loris Malaguzzi, https://www.reggioalliance.org...

Reflect on your environment, do you have a good number of intelligent resources? How are they present? What risk assessments do you have in place? How do you as a team make sure these areas are replenished?

Let us bring back curiosity for our children, make use of our intelligent resources! Let our children show us what they are capable with your team having a "they CAN!" attitude. 

Here we share these fantastic articles around Intelligent resources, open ended play and Loose parts. Please share with your team and extend your knowledge on Intelligent resources.





Want some ideas for intelligent resources that you might like to start collecting? Ask your parents and carers for donations 

Natural items,

Cones, shells, stones, twigs, wooden cookies, seed bods and dried out fruit, bark, leaves and feathers. All of which are loose parts and intelligent resources. 

Baskets full of recycled treasure, here we have table place mats rolled up, ready and waiting to be discovered and used in play.

Baskets full of recycled materials collected from scrap stores, parents and carers. Have you visited your local scarp store recently? Use google to search one in your area, they are a treasure trove of intelligent resources. 

A ‘sensory banquet’ Kimberley Crisp tells us to provide items that are a feast for they head, hands and heart. A pleasure to touch, explore and investigate. At The Curiosity Approach® we encourage educators to move away from plastic manufactured toys and see the delights that can be rescued and recycled for a faction of the price, if not free. 

Do you want this blog as a PDF download? We have a vast array of beautiful magazines to access via our Curiosity Approach App - see the apple store or google play for details. 

We hope you enjoyed this blog, we have many more available at our Knowledge centre and web page www.thecuriosityapproach.com

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