At The Curiosity Approach, we believe in giving children responsibility to handle and play with breakable items. Ceramic tea pots and tea sets replace the bright plastic child sized ones that we all have always used.
Traditionally, early years settings have used brightly coloured child sized tea sets. Cups & saucers of red, yellow, green and blue, adorn the majority of nursery home corners. Each has been purchased to encourage colour recognition & allow children the opportunity to match items and provide a safe, purposeful addition to the play kitchens in home corners of our nurseries, or educational settings.
So, what other benefits do these miniature unrealistic items have?
Plastic tea sets are robust & don’t break.
Is this REALLY a good thing?
Plastic tea sets, up and down the country last for years, they get dropped & thrown, used in the water play area or in the outside sand pit. They get coloured or scribbled on & sometimes scratched and occasionally chewed.They get flung across the room or dumped without care or regard.
Children subconsciously & consciously know this, they think it’s ok to treat these resources any way they like because these items are virtually indestructible. So, is this a good thing?
There are therefore no consequences to children’s actions-
It really doesn’t matter if a tea cup gets catapulted across the home corner. Or a saucer literally becomes a flying missile from one side of the sand pit to the other!
These resources don’t break, they don’t bend and they can withstand any man (child) handling, mistreatment or total disregard for it, as a piece of nursery equipment!
What messages are we giving our children, when everything we allow them to play with is PRETEND and an unbreakable resource?
A child loves to mimic and replicate the actions of their loved ones, they want to re-enact real life scenarios and be like Mummy, Daddy or significant adults, peers etc.
So why is it we give them miniature, child sized replicas of the real thing? Why do we fob them off with tiny resources of unrealistic colours, patterns or designs?
Aren’t we undervaluing their play as just PRETEND?
Aren’t we sending messages to them that their play isn’t real, therefore it’s not worth giving them the ‘good stuff.’
Children love to have what we have, they want the REAL mobile phone or TV remote. They can’t be fooled with replacements and get frustrated when we try to offer them up instead! Who are we trying to kid? These children are smart cookies!
So what’s stopping you from allowing these items in your settings?
Believe me, I totally understand your reservations! Crockery or glass in the nursery! ARE YOU HAVING A LAUGH !!!!
I too, felt exactly the same, however after much soul searching and deep consideration, I decided to give it a go! I first started with the ceramic tea sets, introducing them as an adult initiated activity.
Taking a smaller group of children at a time, we held a little tea party for the nursery dollies. We had conversations about the tea pot, cups and saucers. Looking at the differences between the plastic items and the ceramic/real ones.
We discussed what to do if something got broken, stand back – don’t touch & tell an adult.
We talked about CONSEQUENCES and RESPECT for equipment. We discussed that these items were special and to be looked after, to handle with care.
The children listened with interest, desperate to prove they were worthy of handling such precious treasures. Their self-esteem rocketed as they realised they were given a responsibility to look after these fragile treasures.
Their little chests rose with pride and their eyes twinkled as they showed how capable they actually were, to be allowed to pour from the beautifully patterned China pot into the exquisite and truly beautiful cup & saucer.
It was truly incredible to watch as the sometimes quite lively home corner play, slowed down to a more mindful & thoughtful approach. Time seemed to tick past slowly as children became more engaged & respectful. Noise levels quietened and children took care to handle the items with precision and care.
Yes, occasionally we lost a handle of a jug or a cup got accidentally chipped. However, children now saw their actions had consequences. Peers reminded peers to be careful and slow down.
Children learnt to manage risks, understanding the need to hold the lid on the blue willow tea pot – because if they didn’t, the lid would topple off and land in the tea cup!
Honestly, I’m truly thankful I made the changes to introduce ceramic breakable items. Home corner play has been taken to a whole new level! Children who once struggled to concentrate, or flit from one activity to another, now become deeply engaged for extended periods of time. High levels of concentration and active learning help to form connections and that ever changing equilibrium of knowledge.
So what’s stopping you?
This is easily changed, all it needs is a small amount of courage and vision. All you need is to be brave!
Get yourself organised, write up your risk assessment and let the magical learning opportunities begin.
The play takes on a whole new meaning, it slows down and children engage in a calmer, more meaningful interaction with these resources.
The weight feels different with a ceramic tea pot and usually, these items are unusual different in design, shape and many other features.
Children are taught with respect, therefore they develop a deep respectful thinking to their play.
Mindfulness is a big part of The Curiosity Approach – being present in the HERE & NOW!
Sadly today’s culture is a throwaway society, items have no value, no meaning! Easily replaced or discarded with no second thought.
Let’s teach our children a little respect for items, belongings and resources. Let them be given responsibilities to look after equipment & to share in the disappointment if something gets broken.
We need to be getting our children prepared for life, instead of exams and college. Encouraging them to handle such things at home or school. How will they know how to do this, if knowledgeable educators like ourselves don’t support and scaffold children to handle resources in a safe environment. A place of trust and confidence in their abilities.
These children are so capable. Extremely competent, it’s us as adults that could potentially be holding them back and making our environments total risk free zones.
How incredible it is when you give a child a ceramic tea set. Immediately their little faces light up in disbelief, awe, wonder and gratitude! Children become curious, inquisitive & have the wings to fly.
Be Brave, these amazing little people will astound you!
This article was written by Stephanie Bennett, One of the Co-founders of The Curiosity Approach, alongside Lyndsey Hellyn. We're more than just another consultancy company, together we want to impact on early years. To make a change to the educational system. To inspire practitioners to bring back curiosity, awe and wonder to childhood and to the lives of educators.
Curious is our monthly publication that focuses on one inspirational ingredient of The Curiosity Approach each month. It opens out into a quality A2 poster, which can be displayed in your provision to excite and inform your team and/or families. We use beautiful imagery from our own settings, to help spark the visual learners amongst us, along with hints and tips on how to bring this aspect to your setting to create exquisite yet practical environments that feed our children's hearts and souls.
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