Critical thinking & problem solving—using open-ended resources, at SDN Linthorpe St

When children use open-ended play materials, they develop problem-solving skills by manipulating them in new and creative ways.

At SDN Linthorpe Street, Newtown, a designated outdoor area offers children out-of-the-ordinary ‘loose parts’ as play resources. Initially a ‘big-block’ zone, children now have access to collections of pipes, milk crates, blocks, fabric, tyres, timber and more.

The loose parts play allows children to test their skills and knowledge with other children, with supportive educators nearby when needed. Large items challenge big muscle movements, and everything on offer invites children to create imaginative play worlds with endless possibilities.  

The children mostly use the area as a stage for roleplay - building houses along a neighbourhood street, using tyres as beds in a shared house, or making cafes and vehicles. Interests from popular culture are played out here as well, as vehicles from Octonauts and other favourite TV shows are recreated.

Senior Educator Kate explains, “Most of their constructions are group builds so they have to work together to create their scenarios. They’re able to take turns leading in the design, to share knowledge and their imagination in their story lines, and to invite others into the play through shared ideas.” 

Learning to work as a group and with unconventional playthings, all sorts of problems arise which need creative solutions. Children encounter engineering challenges as they build, so they collaborate to alter their design, testing and re-building over again.  

 “The biggest problems are around sharing the resources and children communicating their plans for the builds,” says Kate. “When more than one leader emerges in the group, the direction of the construction can take a turn which can be difficult for the original leader to manage.”  

Children transfer social skills they’re developing in other parts of the program into their loose parts play. They practice negotiating, being flexible, taking turns, and listening, before an educator might need to step in with questions or suggestions. Working out how to compromise when two or more people have different ideas is an important life-skill.  

The Preschool educators also use these materials for obstacle courses  - children re-create the ones they enjoy the most and repeat the courses. There’s an element of risk in this type of play - assessing risk is important for problem-solving - which excites the children, and allows them to feel strong and powerful while testing their balance and coordination. 

To learn more about our preschool program and curriculum pillars, visit this page here.

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