Over the past few years more and more nurseries have replaced plastic toys with wooden ones, but does it really make that much of a difference? Can wooden toys support children’s development more than plastic ones?
Wooden and natural resources encourage creativity and imagination in young children. Most of the time, plastic toys can only be used for their purpose which can restrict children’s thinking skills. Natural items can help children to develop fine motor skills and express their thoughts and ideas as they manipulate and explore them.
By having wooden resources in a nursery setting, children can expand their imaginative play, encouraging them to think about how the equipment can be used or what they can represent rather than using the resource for what it looks like, due to its colour or pattern. Tree trunks and wooden planks can support children in creating structures and developing physical skills, through body movements such as climbing and balancing.
The outside environment is a big contribution to learning and development, allowing children to experience the world around them through natural resources. Allowing children to observe nature such as twigs and leaves that change throughout the seasons offers children the opportunity to make comments and ask questions, gaining a deeper knowledge of their environment. Exploring natural materials inside and out can develop children’s risk taking skills, you cannot predict what might happen, and as such it provides opportunities to experience and develop emotions, what they feel like and how to deal with them.
At Tops Day Nurseries, we encourage each setting to provide children with natural resources as much as possible. The majority of play equipment in each room is made from wood, such as role play kitchens, shops, and apparatus. We also have wooden beams and blocks for children to play with, whether it’s balancing or using them for ramps or barriers.
Children are also given the opportunity to take part in Tops Forest School. The Tops Forest School ethos strongly believes it is important for children to learn about nature through nature and that children of all ages are able to explore the outdoors. Babies can expand their sensory awareness; feel the moss and flowers in a forest or dig shells under the sand. Two year olds can build a fort out of logs and leaves to have their lunch in or have their first try at making a tyre swing or climb trees. Three year olds can broaden their problem solving skills by building a log bridge to get over a stream.
Research has proven that being in a natural space increases wellbeing, builds self-worth and reduces stress. Young children are naturally drawn to living things and the natural world; natural resources offer a great deal of open ended play, with the children using them to fit the play that they are working through at the time, rather than the play materials dictating the play.