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  • Skribentens bildSuzanne Axelsson

Construction... AnjiPlay


This is another post inspired by my time in China and my visits to the AnjiPlay settings.

This post will focus on the construction materials... and really part of me has kind of been putting this post off because there is JUST SO MUCH to write and share about this...

So I know that this post is not going to really be able to do justice to the materials and how they are presented and used...

I think the first thing that really hits you is the sheer amount of materials that are made available for the children aged 3-6. They are in plentiful supply no matter the location - a city setting or a rural setting. The idea is that there is an equality of standard... that ALL children have the right to good quality materials in plentiful supply, not just the big city schools. For me this is incredibly important... this fundamental value of children and childhood and that the right to play should not be decided by where you are born...

The size of the construction materials were another thing that struck me... there were not just the usual small blocks and construction materials but also massive ones - so children could not only do the usual block building on a grand scale, but also construct their own play-space on a daily basis - allowing them time and experience to understand engineering, the limits of design and materials and also how they can be adapted, re-designed and invent new possibilities... creativity and problem solving... science and technology and art and maths... and of course lots of relationships... I have been writing about STREAM (Science, Technology, Relationships, Engineering, Art and Maths... you can read more here ) and I could see STREAM being actively engaged with all over the AnjiPlay settings...

When the construction materials are big the children get to interact with them in a totally different way... instead of putting small figures of animals etc into the houses they build with blocks (small world play), they can climb in themselves, walk on them, sit on them... they don't need to just live vicariously though the toy to experience their design and construction...

I saw some fixed climbing frames in the outdoor spaces but there were much more loose parts that could be used to construct their own climbing frames and slides and whatever their imaginations could design to meet their play needs and exploration and experimental needs... in fact at one setting a climbing frame set had been disassembled and turned into loose parts...

As several of the speakers said at the conference - a climbing frame is new for a short time, but after a while you see the enthusiasm dwindle... while if you can create your own play equipment then you can build the same one over and over again until the need to create something new arises to challenge play.

The largeness of materials also means that not everything can be done on your own... the very size encourages collaboration, which encourages communication, because to collaborate you need to share ideas and understand where are you taking materials and how they should be placed, and why...

Materials are selected, tested and evaluated constantly by the staff... how can they challenge and enable the children's play and learning... how can they be stored to enable the children, and also another area that was important to the educators in Anji was how can they maximise the time for play - so that routines like tidying up, walking from one area to another (especially in the very large schools) do not rob the children from the precious play time...

So strategies are developed to make these routines as effective as possible

The materials are stored with easy access for the children... of course the style of storage they have in AnjiPlay will not work the same in all cultures... here in Sweden, for instance, all the outdoor materials need to be locked away every day as outdoor spaces are available for public use in the evenings and weekends... this of course is great way to share play spaces, but it does add additional wear and tear, and even more sadly there are a few that have absolutely no respect for children, or other people's property and things get destroyed... so materials behind a curtain that works so well in Anji would almost be an invitation for things going missing in Sweden... blocks and construction materials are just so expensive that I fear the temptation would be too much.

The settings I saw in China were walled and gated and had a small police station connected to the entrance... these were clearly not spaces for people to come and take things... and I also like to believe that the culture is also one that sees the value in young children in having the materials they need for play and learning and out of respect of children do not consider to take them or destroy them.

Of course, as I share all these posts about the materials and the environments, I want to make it clear that this is only a PART of the play and learning process... in the future I will start sharing the process of documentation, dialogue, reflection that are also essential elements of the AnjiPlay approach...

I also want to point out that the settings in Anji did not start with all these materials - they have built them up over time, adding more and more. This allows the educators as well as the children to become confident with the materials, in how to store them, how they can be used and also to feel at ease with the risk... I will go into this more in a later post Now for some photos... (and after the photos you can find the link to the ladder post, art post and clay post that also explore the environment of AnjiPlay schools)

Actually it has been REALLY hard to choose which photos to share... I was going to share some films... but then decided that is a whole post in itself... as I feel they need more explanations about the process... so these photos I have decided to share some examples of the materials stored, in action... and indoors and outdoors...

To find out more about AnjiPlay - check their website out

there is not just an ample supply of various sized blocks... but also barrels, pipes, ladders, tires, planks etc etc etc

building their own play equipment

the play outside could be big and small...

The next few images show how the children built their own climbing frames and assault courses... challenges for their physicality..

to test theories about rolling and how much force was needed to push them up and over...

Above you see Rigamajig...

Is a construction system designed by Cas Holman with the intention of creating a product that allows children to use their imagination, to stimulate and challenge them. She has collaborated with the children and educators at AnjiPlay testing rigamajig and tweaking it based on the children's interactions as the played and learned.

above... a construction to hang out and chat - the child is holding a piece of paper with the house design on it... Some constructions were built by the children specifically for role play

And now I will stop sharing despite the fact there are many many many more amazing constructions I would love to share... you will just have to ask me about them...

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