Plastics for Loose parts
I don't need to tell you how controversial plastics is these days. Its a global, often political, issue which influences each one of us in different ways. Despite the warnings, we still end up with enormous amounts of plastic waste every week (I have just returned from standing inside my wheelie bin because we're inundated with it). It's not our fault when so much comes wrapped in plastic. We do our best to recycle where we can but that in itself is complicated by the number of types of plastics. Anyway, back to education...
There has been a trend towards wooden toys lately. We've all seen Grimm's wooden toy range on Instagram garnishing all of the likes and basically taking over the world in rainbows. Lovely as they are , its not always possible to stock an Early Years setting with these because their high price makes it cost prohibitive. There are a wealth of reasons for choosing these types of toys including opting for a more Hygge friendly setting (visit this facebook page if you're not familiar with this term). For those in the world who reject plastic within their settings, take a moment to step back and examine why...
I recently had a conversation with a woman who works in a nursery chain in the South Yorkshire region. She told me that her chain prefers the use of wooden resources and will often reject anything plastic being introduced. When questioned, her manager told her that plastic resources do not provide the same play opportunities and believes that wooden toys provide experiences which are more open whereas a plastic toy is often limiting. She has a point.
This is something I address within my Loose Parts Exhibition training. Resources can be open and closed and provide a range of opportunities. In general, plastic resources ARE more closed because they are moulded in such a way which limits their use (think of plastic food). But I'm thinking of plastic TOYS here and not the things we would generally use for loose parts.
Resources such as bottle tops, straws, cones, plastic discs, sweet boxes and trays are all fabulous resources for loose parts because they aren't designed solely for a single purpose. A bottle top can be a million and one different things through imaginative play in the same way a wooden cookie can.
What's more, plastic is cheap. Most of the plastic I use in my Loose parts exhibition training comes from my recycling bin. What doesn't, is sourced from my own home. I don't need to buy more plastics because I buy a lot already.
We need to be careful about completely rejecting plastics from our settings based on trends. Ditching plastic toys because they provide closed opportunities for learning is a considerable jump from banning plastics altogether. Some wooden resources which are beautiful, provide fewer opportunities for open-ended learning than plastic resources could: