Recently at kindergarten we had a delivery of some hay bales which came as a surprise to many of our children. We were all excited and keen, especially the teachers to see how the children would respond to the hay; how their play might develop around it, guide it or even how they may perhaps incorporate it into their play.
Open ended resources are highly valued items at kindergarten, this includes many ‘loose parts’ for example, sticks, stumps, bones, ropes, rocks, sand and shells to name a few. The hay bales are also what we would classify as ‘loose parts’ as they are moveable, however they provide endless play and learning opportunities.
“When children have access to loose parts, it frees their creativity and imagination to change the world around them in infinite ways. The more flexible are the materials in their environment, the greater the level of creativity and inventiveness they express.” Polly Neill, 2013
The hay setup included a tunnel and initially the children explored the hay through lots of physical energy using their large motor skills to balance, climb, crawl and jump off the hay.
It was interesting to see the high energy physical play move aside when the children started to use their imaginations to think of different ways to use the hay in their play. Through using their imagination the children were able to transform some bales of hay to create endless play opportunities including a princess castle that had enough room for the kings and princes, a barn and also a pet food shop.
“The presence of loose parts also promotes a wide variety of play: exploratory, constructive, and dramatic play as well as games with rules. Loose parts lend themselves to innovation and a sense of unique that will encourage more symbolic play – a higher level of play.” Polly Neill, 2013
With the addition of fabrics and cushions the hay bales have been useful to create a lovely outdoor retreat, somewhere to relax, take in a deep breath or a place to enjoy a book.
Something else I noticed about the hay is how it seemed to be a great conversation starter and a topic to discuss with each other about where it comes from and what it can be used for. Here are some of the children’s comments:
Tanner: “I have hay in my big trailer we feed it to our calves.”
Amaya: “Mmmmmm it could be a bouncy castle.”
Ben: “I’ve seen lots of people feed hay to horses.”
Ruby: “Sometimes my dad feeds hay to the chickens.”
Mercia and Nethra: “Let’s make a princess castle.”
Ahmad: “Smell the hay Max.”
Max: “It smells like strawberries.”
Ahmad “Nah it smells like hay, or is it straw?”
I’m looking forward to seeing how the play continues to evolve around the hay bales, I’m sure it will continue to spark the children’s curiosity and their imaginations. Oh the wonders of hay.
Mā te wā