Choosing Work


At the beginning of the school year, the children were invited to create a self-portrait using paper plates, fabric, string, markers, googly eyes and tacky glue.

As school-age educators we often plan activities for children that fill a theme or we think children will enjoy. Our heart is in a good place, but the child’s heart is into exploration and wondering, so these types of activities often have few participants and the children use the material in their own creative way.

After the materials were presented immediately the children talked about using the materials to make different creations. They created monsters, clothes for stuffed animals, abstract designs, jeans for a doll, and much more. There was not much excitement for making a self-portraits but the energy for creating their own idea was contagious.

Children love using recycled materials to create. The open-ended nature of the materials invite children to explore and dream about what is possible. The freedom to create invites innovation. As they work, the children engage in deep discussion with each other about their work and the outcome they desire.

The work session lasted until the materials ran dry. The children expressed a desire to continue creating with fabric.

Running out of recycled materials is a rare occurrence. This being the beginning of the school year our donations from parents was growing, but not a rate to keep up with the desire of the children to create. I keep a stash of back-up materials at home and brought them in to the program the following day.

The next day, we offered more materials so the work could resume. As the work session began, other children expressed interest in the work and asked to join the original group. The influx of children created some negotiation over materials, but the children negotiated this with caring words and actions.

Their acceptance of others joining the work allowed other children to join in the conversation and the exploration of materials. Offering open-ended work invites children to practice social skills as they share materials and share ideas about the creative process.

The days moved along and the demand for recycled materials slowed as the children looked to explore other mediums. A core group of children always enjoy creating with these materials daily, and all of the children come back to recycled materials when they have a desire to create with limitless possibilities.