You might have noticed the abundance of natural materials in Bambini classrooms. There are many reasons why these items are common in our programs.

This article highlights why we use natural materials in our centres, the best items to gather, as well as ideas for using these resources in early learning classrooms.

 

WHY USE NATURAL MATERIALS IN EARLY CHILDHOOD CLASSROOMS?

As a Reggio-inspired child care program, Bambini embraces the philosophy that the classroom environment serves as a “third teacher”. Children learn from the items in their environment, which is why we pay careful attention to the materials we provide.

Today’s children live in a busy world. Between vibrant colours, loud sounds, and exposure to screens, children’s senses are often bombarded. Too much colour and sound overstimulates most children. However, natural materials tend to be calming and relaxing.

Children need more opportunities to interact with nature and the natural world. Bringing elements from the outdoors inside, helps to bridge their connection with nature.

Moreover, natural materials are often open-ended. When a child is given a toy car, that’s what they usually use it for… its purpose is determined. But a pile of rocks can become cars, people, trains, roads, houses, and so much more!

 

WHAT ARE SOME GOOD NATURAL MATERIALS TO INCLUDE IN EARLY CHILDHOOD PROGRAMS?

The wonderful thing about natural materials is that they’re easy to gather and bring into early childhood programs. Here is a list of some great natural resources to provide for children.

rocks | sticks | dirt | plants | leaves | acorns | sea stars | moss | shells | seeds | grass | clay | feathers | tree stumps | wood rounds | tree bark | sand | pine cones | driftwood | flowers |pods

 

HOW CAN NATURAL MATERIALS BE USED IN AN EARLY CHILDHOOD CLASSROOM?

Natural materials are used throughout Bambini’s early learning programs. Here are some ways in which these lovely resources are utilized.

Provocations

The early childhood teachers may place a few natural items on a table and observe how the children interact with those materials. As interest grows, more items may be introduced or provided.

Manipulative materials / sorting activities

Natural materials may be used for sorting activities. A basket of items with several bowls surrounding it is a wonderful invitation to classify and sort resources. Tongs, chopsticks, or tweezers may be introduced later as an alternate way to sort the materials.

These items are also a wonderful way to introduce numeracy concepts to children. From sorting to counting, there are many ways early math skills can be explored.

Dramatic play

Children can use rocks, seeds, sticks, and sand to make “food” in the dramatic play area. Small wood rounds can become “currency” and shells may be used as decorations. The play potential for such items is fabulous!

Block and construction play

The block area is a wonderful play space to introduce natural materials. The shelves can be filled with baskets of assorted resources. From wood rounds to sea shells, and sticks to rocks, watch the amazing things children do with these open-ended items!

Art

Natural materials are a wonderful element to include in art projects. There are so many possibilities when creating!

Natural items can be used as paintbrushes.

Rubbings (using the side of a pencil or crayon) are a lovely art activity.

Natural items can be used to make 3D sculptures. Using a clay or dough “base”, children can place shells, rocks, pine cones, and twigs into it.

Children can weave hay or wool between a row of several sticks.

A vase of flowers placed by the painting easel could serve as inspiration for art.

Sticky contact paper with leaves, moss, and grass make a fabulous art activity for toddlers.

Small wood rounds and popsicle sticks can be glued together to make interesting constructions.

Room decor

The early childhood classroom itself can be decorated with natural materials. Plants may adorn the shelves, tree branches may be suspended from the ceiling, and a large piece of drift wood can add an element of interest to the reading area.

 

GATHERING NATURAL MATERIALS IS EASY!

Filling early childhood classrooms with natural materials is easy. Items can be gathered from nature walks, donated by community members, or purchased from landscaping suppliers.

As you can see, natural materials are a wonderful addition to early childhood programs and are a beautiful resource. We know the potential that such items hold and they are treasured elements of our program. We share this with you so that you can see the potential too!

 

 

Bambini Learning Group is a Reggio-inspired, holistic child care program located in Edmonton, Alberta. Their vision is to inspire families to live healthier, more meaningful lives. Through innovative, holistic, and supportive resources, Bambini is helping children live the authentic childhood they deserve. New locations coming soon! Contact Bambini for more information about their unique, holistic child care program at [email protected], or book a tour to see Bambini for yourself!

 

JENNIFER BLY

JENNIFER BLY is the Communications Consultant for Bambini Learning Group, a published author, and creator of The Deliberate Mom, a website full of parenting and homemaking inspiration. Jennifer has over 20 years of experience in the Early Childhood field. In addition, she holds a Bachelor of Applied Human Service Administration Degree with a specialization in Early Learning in Child Care.