Thank you to all of you who send me beautifully supportive emails. I really appreciate it. Here's a few of the questions I get asked the most.
How old were your children when you started introducing open explorations & inquiry-based learning?
When Jack was about a year old I started researching different approaches to education and child development. It was then that I came across Montessori. We started implementing different Montessori principles at home particularly the child-sized environment; we set up the kitchen with child-sized utensils, reorganised his bedroom to include a floor bed and made his clothes and toys accessible to him.
We also started teaching him practical life skills like dressing himself, preparing snacks, tidying and household chores. This was working really well for our family. There was still something missing though, so I kept on reading. It was then that I came across The Reggio Emilia Approach. Jack was about 18 months old at the time.
When Jack was two, Sarah was born. She has the benefit of our hindsight and so has been exposed to open-ended discovery since birth.
You can read more about our story on my About Us page.
Where do you get your materials?
I search around for interesting materials which will spark curiosity and imagination. A lot of the materials I buy for Jack and Sarah aren't expensive. I shop at large chain stores a lot like K-mart and Big W, as well as find a lot of open-ended materials from discount stores.
When I am looking for materials I always think about:
- is it beautiful?
- does it provide sensory stimulation in some way? - Is it nicely textured? Is it an interesting shape or colour? Is it made from natural materials? Or is the material intriguing in some way?
- is it open-ended?
- is it a real material? - I get a lot of second-hand utensils, containers, interesting materials, dress-up clothes, bags, hats and things cheaply from thrift stores and the tip shop.
- is it interesting to look at?
is it inviting? Does it make you want to explore it a little further?
Where I buy:
- Baskets: K-mart, thrift stores, garage sales
- A5 & A4 coloured card stock - Officeworks
- 5m roll of easel paper - K-mart (great for covering an art table)
- A4/A3 watercolour paper - K-mart (Creativ brand)
- A5 watercolour book (spiral bound) - Top Bargain (Mont Marte brand) (great for field trips)
- A5/A4 sketchbooks - K-mart (black cover with thickened paper)
- A4 copy paper - Woolworths
- Loose Parts:
- I buy a lot of our loose parts from discount stores. In Australia, I find Top Bargain has a very good range.
- I have also purchased loose parts from ZartArt. Their play-based learning catalogue is AMAZING. If you're in Australia, make sure you pop over and order a copy. The pictures alone will fill you with inspiration. And if you're in Melbourne, take a drive to their store in Box Hill North. I'd love to go and have a poke around.
- You can read more about loose parts in my Theory of Loose Parts post
Which books do you recommend?
You can read my Reggio-inspired book recommendations on my Reggio-inspired books page.
How did you introduce natural materials?
We spend a lot of time outdoors. I think the best way to connect with nature is to be in nature. I have never been too concerned with Jack and Sarah picking up and exploring all different kinds of natural treasures. We talk about poison berries and look closely at ant nests so as to understand and respect them.
How do you introduce an invitation or provocation?
There are a few ways I introduce an invitation or provocation:
- Through our environment: I display our materials invitingly on our playroom shelves or outside in our art area
- I will set up a table exploration for Jack and Sarah to discover
- I will set up an art exploration and demonstrate how to use any new materials
- I will remind them of an interesting question they asked previously and show them an invitation I have created to help explore that further
What types of activities do you recommend for babies and toddlers?
Both of my children were very engaged by sensory activities. They enjoyed open-ended explorations of interesting materials including:
- interestingly textured scarves
- natural materials like dried leaves, flowers, sticks, sand, dirt, water
- materials which sound interesting like real percussion instruments, pots and spoons, bells, wind chimes
- rainbow prisms for exploring natural light
- colour paddles
- materials which have a cause and effect like:
- opening and closing containers
- pouring coloured water into different containers
- ball/coin drops
- velcro strips
What does your day look like?
How do you set up an activity?
You can read more about setting up a Reggio-inspired activity on my Setting up a Reggio-inspired Activity page.
What kind of art materials do you use?
We use a range of authentic art materials including:
If you have any questions at all that you would like to ask, please don't hesitate to contact me.