Junk Modelling (non directive play)

Last week on a particularly wet and miserable afternoon, I thought I would get out my junk modelling box full of bits and pieces I have been collecting for a while now.

I started out with the two youngest (23 months and almost 2!). I put the box on the table and let them have a good rummage through the items to see what they made of them all. It was a lovely heuristic play opportunity for them and they both really enjoyed it. They loved exploring the long poster tubes, the kitchen roll tubes and the shorter toilet roll tubes, the corrugated card and all the various sized boxes.

Later on when we had collected the 2 after schoolers we invited them to join in and do some junk modelling. They both jumped at the idea and I was surprised at how something so simple ignited their interest and they both got stuck in to making their creations whilst the younger two buzzed around stealing any spare tubes and unreeling lots of masking tape!

I found this article on junk modelling which explains the benefits of non-directive play such as this:


Child development and junk modelling –

Non directive toys, materials, props, equipment and so on leave space for the child to exercise their creativity and inventiveness. Combining disparate materials, for example toilet rolls and a shoe box to make a robot is problem solving. More to the point, it is divergent problem solving, which is a higher level  thinking skill. We also understand now that play is about process much more than it is about product.The adaptability of junk, and the fact it can be used for different purposes and in different ways, helps support infinite process opportunities. The non-directive nature of junk means what is needed to make a robot one day, may be the exact same thing used to make a space station the next.

Skills that non directive play supports –

Settings that provide junk provide variability, flexibility and adaptability. When children can engage with environments and resources like this in their play they can express their creativity, innovation and cognitive ability. Children can create and solve problems, and as a result generate feelings of motivation and reward. This in turn supports them to develop self confidence, Self concept and identity. With these materials they practice complex skills from fine and gross locomotor skills to higher executive functioning; skills such as sequencing, hypothesis testing, analysis and evaluation.The immersion and ownership of their play is increased and therefore children are more likely to try to resolve problems for themselves.This will help develop intra psychic capability (self reliance)and support the development of a growth mind set (a belief in one’s self as a learner and thinker).Junk modelling, loose parts play or heuristic play all work on the principle that non directive materials support a greater degree of flexible behaviour and as such support innovation and creativity.



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