Just add imagination - using everyday materials to inspire play.

Would you like an endless supply of toys that are easily accessible, cost-free, and inspire learning, experimentation and play?

According to Sarah Harris, Director of SDN Lady McKell in Goulburn, you needn’t look further than your own recycling pile.

“Give a child any resource and they will come up with a way to play with it.” Sarah says. “You can use so many things that otherwise would just be thrown away. Cardboard cylinders, egg cartons, packaging material, plastic bottles, all can be used to inspire children’s imagination. They won’t cost anything but they will be lots of fun. The most important thing is not to direct children, but to give them the materials to see what they do.”

The benefits don’t stop at price and convenience. According to Sarah recycled materials are often toys that inspire creativity because they don’t tell a child how to play with it.

“Old plumbing pipe is a good example.” Sarah said. “The children at SDN Lady McKell love to drop things through it, and see what comes out the other end. Cut that piece of pipe in half and you’ve got a tunnel for a train, turn it over and you’ve got a channel you can pour water through.”

“We created a toy that children find endlessly fascinating, by pouring some uncooked rice into a bottle and then pushing through some treasures, so they are buried by the rice.  We sealed it well to ensure there wasn’t a hazard. The children love to turn the bottle until a treasure emerges.”

The educators at SDN Lady McKell, Goulburn  give their top uses for recycled materials

  • Ask your local whitegoods dealer if they can give you their old appliance boxes. Large boxes can be decorated and used as a cubby, or a fort, or whatever else your child dreams of
  • If your child is old enough and there is no choke hazard, keep jars of old buttons or bottle tops for sorting and counting. If you have an old mirror, add that in to the play, so your child has the added dimension of light and reflection. Shells can be used in the same way
  • Paint letters on pebbles and watch your child create words
  • Old corks can quickly become buildings in the hands of a child as they learn to line and stack them
  • Find old picture frames from your local op shop and use them to create your own children’s picture gallery
  • Hang an old sheet on a fence, fill a couple of spray containers with paint and watch children create a masterpiece
  • An old scarf can easily become a superhero cape, or wrapped around the body as a baby doll carrier
  • Old sheets and blankets make great forts, if your child is younger, lace curtains will provide them with a sense of privacy, while making sure they are still in your view.

Always make sure that you check your materials for sharp edges or choking hazards.

Learn more about using things you have around home for play from raising parenting.

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