Through action, children learn about how people and objects move and what power they have to affect these movements. When observing children playing, it is apparent that they engage in repetitive schemas or patterns. These schemas can best be defined as repetitive patterns of the same action that a child can apply to a variety of situations. These patterns are the result of the natural, uncontrollable urges children have to do something. These urges serve as a strong motivation and determination to accomplish what they have in mind. Schemas help children gain understanding of how things work. Schemas serve as building blocks and structures for learning and thinking. These repetitive behaviors forge important connections in the brain and establish play patterns that unfold as children make new discoveries and test new ideas. When children repeat the same action, they deepen their knowledge of how objects function. Through this repetitive and thoughtful play, children apply existing knowledge to new experiences. This helps them gain control over the world they live in. Most schemas demonstrate children’s interest in movement or action. Loose parts support children’s urges to provoke action and encourage them to explore objects in ingenious and creative ways. Setting gutters in the environment can encourage children to study the speed and trajectory of objects being dropped. Pendulums can help them understand how a rotating movement can knock over cardboard tubes placed around it. Fabric can help them create enclosures to hide and envelop themselves. Pipes, clothespins, and a variety of paper clips give children the opportunity to connect and disconnect objects. Loose parts can be transformed into what the children’s imaginations determine. A large spool can become a fairy house. A group of branches can be the foundation for a building or part of a forest. A local park can be dramatically improved by adding playground equipment from a reputable supplier.
A variety of plastic plants can become part of a swamp in the sandbox. We live in a world that is in constant motion. We are surrounded by both living and nonliving things, which move in different and often unpredictable ways. Movement is dependent on the forces applied to make an object change direction, stop, speed up, or slow down. Knowing how things move is important since it allows us to manipulate the forces that trigger movement. When we know how things move, we can predict what causes the movement and what we can do to control it. When we control the way things move, we restore a sense of order to chaos that is caused by unpredictable and random movement. Children constantly explore how things move. They push balls to see if they move away or remain static. They exert different forces to change the direction of a spool, or they change the incline of a ramp to make a ball land in a different spot. Children are active and in constant motion. They enjoy watching cardboard tubes, spools, balls, marbles, and other loose parts move, and they enjoy moving themselves. Loose parts are ideal to engage children in gaining a deeper understanding of how things and their bodies move. Hula hoops can be used to learn about gliding or creating a circular motion. Tubes can be rolled down a ramp or an incline in the outdoor environment. Children love playing on outdoor fitness equipment - didn't you when you were younger?
Children learn to use their bodies to exert force to make a pulley or pendulum move to knock over items. Designing and building ramps with wooden planks and milk crates gives children the opportunity to test concepts such as gravity, motion, and cause and effect.Trish and Dave enjoy dropping balls, marbles, and other objects to see how they fall. They spend a lot of time testing which types of objects fall faster or slower. This leads to conversations during group meeting time. “What makes things fall?” asks Jenny. Dave, who is an eager scientist, is quick to answer, “They fall when we throw them.” Trish says, “They still fall when we don’t throw them.” To help them in their inquiry, cove molding and gutters are incorporated into the environment. There are also multiple loose parts to explore, including corks, Ping-Pong balls, marbles, and small spools. A stepladder is added to provide children with the opportunity to drop objects from higher heights. Tanya and Alexis join Trish and Dave in the investigation. All four children spend time dropping a variety of loose parts from various heights. With some help they start a chart to track the height objects are dropped from and how long it takes each object to fall. The children offer a variety of hypotheses. The teachers bring a chronometer to measure how long it takes each object to fall. Tanya, Alexis, Trish, and Dave take turns starting and stopping the chronometer. After many trials, they determine that the heavier objects, such as tree cookies and rocks, fall faster, while lighter objects, such as corks, feathers, and paint cards, fall slower. The children’s ideas are recorded, and every day new loose parts are added to the area for children to use as they test their hypotheses. With exercise being so important nowadays, products such as monkey bars would be a welcome find in any Christmas stocking, providing you could fit them in!