Thursday, 1 August 2013

Play Objects

Almost a month ago, I gave my lounge room a "makeover". I turned it into a play room. It looked beautiful and the environment was very calming and a nice place to hang out - but according to my children, not a nice place to play! My 2 years and 3.5 years old were always asking to play outside! Why didn't they ever want to touch their toys? "GO and play with your toys!" I found myself asking them. Aren't children who are brought up the RIE way supposed to initiate play and be self-directed?

This is how my lounge used to look. Memory of the flat screen that once dominated the lounge was still there.
My son during a rare self directed play moment in the changed, yet still uninspiring, environment with their old toys. Blocks, trains, cars, puzzles, dress ups, soft toys, duplo etc. The children rarely touch the toys. 

 So, I began to think that either, a) there is something wrong with my children, or, b) there is something wrong with my environment. I picked that it would most likely be B! One day I looked up a youtube video of the documentation of RIE training in a third world country, with orphanage staff. An image stuck in my head. It was the image of a group of children playing with typical RIE equipment. But what struck me as odd was that the children were older! I guess around 4, 5 or 6 years old. I thought that surely, children of this age need more stimulation. Surely they need DUPLO! or an IKEA train track and a basket full of cars?!

Watch the video here
I continued trying to figure out what was wrong with my environment, but still the thought of changing my resources didn't occur to me. 
Finally I bit the bullet and headed in to "Japan Home" and spent about $40 AUD on non toy, play objects.

Out with the old, in with the new.

Oh what's this? The washing machine hose proves to be an instant hit.

Below are a few quick snap shots of the new set up with the new materials.

I ended up removing the tea set- too many little pieces making the place too cluttered. Bottom left to right: Camphor balls in plastic bowls, basket with glass beads, metal bowls and a washing machine hose.

Instead of filling lots of containers with things, I left lots of empty baskets and containers - full of potential, not clutter.

A few books, miso bowls and Japanese bowl with lid, tooth pick holder and clear plastic jars, compartment tray, silicone mats and mit, a few cars.
 My first customer arrives! 1 year old S takes the bait. She previously went straight to the cupboard with plastic cups! We used to move a basket of baby bottles up high when she came!
  Little S showing her dad these interesting new objects.

 Chris 3.5 and Chi proving these objects are not just for infants and toddlers.
 L aged 3 immersed in play with the balls and bowls. He listens as the balls hit the different materials. I am no longer afraid of "dumping" as there are less objects now. The environment is ready for any "schema" be it dumping, throwing, enclosing etc.

 Finally, self directed play from my two children.

 Chi sees the potential in the empty basket!
 Later in the evening the objects are still a hit.
 True learning is taking place as he experiments with space and shape and incline, testing, hypothesizing, adjusting.

Big brother Chris pretends to be the "baby".
Role play begins as little sister prepares food for the "baby" (her big bro).

The wooden balls are stirred around and around in the colander. The textures and different materials make a sensory delight for Chi.

 Here baby!
Searching for something to be the "bottle".

Chi finds the toothpick holder and fills it with beads.

 Filling the holder with beads.




I will be looking forward to tomorrow to see if the self directed play continues. IF it does, I really will have strong evidence that the ideas promoted by RIE and Magda Gerber, really are not just for infants and toddlers.



  1. Where did you get the natural colored wood shelves? Thanks!

  2. Sarah, you should write down a shopping list of what you bought! :)