Explore materials in your setting

Adult and very young hangs reach for clay spinning on a potters wheel.

Be inspired to bring open ended play with new materials into your stay and pay setting.

Whilst it may feel daunting to disrupt your usual play and stay format the benefits are many. Through sustained engagement with high quality makers and materials we have seen positive transformation in skills, confidence and relationships for both parents and children.

In each setting we have worked in partnership with staff to create a safe space where families are able to try new things and where experimentation and risk are possible.

5 key things we’ve learnt

  • An empty workspace where the focus is just on the materials works best to avoid children being distracted by the existing toys.
    However, sometimes specific toys can be ‘a way in’ for children to engage with a material e.g. making a road for a car using clay.
  • Choose a material and processes that lend themselves to play. Over the years we have worked with clay, metal, plastics, textiles and willow. The materials can be explored in different states and worked with in different ways.
  • Focusing on one material at a time means that families can really explore it in different ways.
  • Revisiting the same, tools and materials over a number of weeks had the greatest impact.
  • Artists, staff or volunteers modelling playful exploration with the materials can help families to feel more confident, to take risks and to notice new things about each other.

What else can you do?

Where Next?

Explore materials in your setting

5 key things we’ve learnt

Adult and very young hangs reach for clay spinning on a potters wheel.

Makers and Movers

Building physical strength and skills in early years.

A toddler concentrates as she spreads paint onto paper with her hand. She is messy and calm.

Making Together: Women living in refuge

2019: Exploring metal with Rita Patel and Melanie Tomlinson.

Various materials lie on the table with 3 hammers.

Making Together at Birmingham Settlement

2019: Discovering materials with young children and families.

An older man works with a young boy hammering a metal punch.


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