Most nursery groups regularly provide a special activity or project. The main function of this is to give the children information and start them thinking about some specific subject. Some groups have a ‘special interest’ table, others try to include a specific theme throughout all the activities during one week, some do both. Unless these themes are carefully thought out, prepared and carried through they are not particularly useful, but properly presented they can be both enjoyable and stimulating. One simple example would be a theme of a particular colour. The interest table would be set out with various objects in this colour to focus the children’s attention. They would be asked to bring things from home or find objects within theroom to be shown to everyone at story time. One or two of the stories during the week could centre on the colour. Any craft materials or the ‘ dough’ could be planned with this colour in mind. Coloured milk shake instead of ordinary milk goes down very well. One adult who arrived during a ‘purple week’ wearing purple everything including nail varnish and eye shadow got a very good reception.
When setting out an interest table there is a lesson to be learned from good shop-window dressing. A dusty diswhich is there too long loses its effect. Suitable height to be able to see properly, careful attention to varying the height of objects, not too many objects, each being interesting in its own right, a suitable backing and framing arrangement are all important. A display does not have to be huge to be effective. The adults soon learn to remind children, ‘Just bring one thing tomorrow and then you can bring something else the next day if you want to’, otherwise helpful parents and enthusiastic children turn up with carrier bags brimming with different objects.
Students preparing an interest table for the first time often worry about whether children will come and look. If every collection includes some kind of toy or, better still, something edible they need have no fear. Nevertheless the best part of an interest table is the adult who sits by it to talk with the children and who, with care, can extend their language and knowledge.
As a starting point the following subjects have worked out well: specific shapes; specific colours; specific materials such as metal, leather, wool, wood; specific objects such as bottles, tins, leaves, flowers, vegetables, different foods, fabrics, garment fastenings, shells, polished stones, shiny things, footwear, hats; things which smell; different things which make noises; improvised musical instruments.