Other Natural Materials

There are many other raw materials which can be introduced for occasional use. Try sawdust or wood shavings in the sand tray sometimes; dried peas or beans or other seeds provided they will not be toxic if eaten; a large quantity of conkers or dried leaves; some of the polystyrene packing materials which can sometimes be begged from various sources; or a large bowl full of shells. These are also useful for sorting, weighing, grading and making patterns. Handling potting fibre when planting seeds is a short-term pleasure young children enjoy even if the time taken for the seeds to come up exasperates and disappoints them.

Mud is a natural material which most children enjoy but which adults often prohibit on the grounds of the mess involved. It is not necessarily very messy if properly controlled – it is the impromptu mud games that are inconvenient. It helps if children are properly dressed with old clothes and Wellingtons, understand that water supplies must be fetched before, not during, the game and appreciate that they must keep to a defined area. A defined area’ could well be a mud pit rather like a sand pit. If there is a splinter-free plank to put across it mud pies can be placed on this rather than the edges of the pit, where they will be sat on. For children at home it is wise to find out which playmates’ mothers would object because some have very definite views on this. In the nursery group a supply of nursery clothes to be used for this purpose and adequate facilities for cleaning up children before they go home should suffice.