‘It’s not anti-plastic, it’s anti-pretend’: School lets four-year-olds play with hammers and saws

Rockland St Mary School are trailing a new teaching approach with its younger children allowing them

Rockland St Mary School are trailing a new teaching approach with its younger children allowing them to play with real household items and tools to enhance their real world experiencesTeacher Zoe MarsdenByline: Sonya DuncanCopyright: Archant 2019 - Credit: Sonya Duncan

Many teachers would baulk at the idea of children playing with hammers or knives in their classroom.

Rockland St Mary School are trailing a new teaching approach with its younger children allowing them

Rockland St Mary School are trailing a new teaching approach with its younger children allowing them to play with real household items and tools to enhance their real world experiencesTeacher Zoe MarsdenByline: Sonya DuncanCopyright: Archant 2019 - Credit: Sonya Duncan

But this is all part of an innovative approach adopted by a rural primary school in Norfolk.

Since the start of the new school year, Rockland St Mary Primary School near Norwich has been trialling the 'curiosity approach' with its youngest pupils.

Rockland St Mary School are trailing a new teaching approach with its younger children allowing them

Rockland St Mary School are trailing a new teaching approach with its younger children allowing them to play with real household items and tools to enhance their real world experiencesTeacher Zoe MarsdenByline: Sonya DuncanCopyright: Archant 2019 - Credit: Sonya Duncan

It involves letting them play with 'real' objects, from adult clothes and tea cups to butter knives, saws and spirit levels.

Its premise is to give children more real world experience compared with plastic toys, while encouraging them to be more creative in how they use the objects to play - from filling a saucepan with chopped apples to building a restaurant out of wooden blocks and bottle corks.

Rockland St Mary School are trailing a new teaching approach with its younger children allowing them

Rockland St Mary School are trailing a new teaching approach with its younger children allowing them to play with real household items and tools to enhance their real world experiencesTeacher Zoe MarsdenByline: Sonya DuncanCopyright: Archant 2019 - Credit: Sonya Duncan


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Teacher Zoe Marsden said staff were inspired following a visit to Loddon Nursery School, where the curiosity approach is already being used.

"We were really inspired by the very young children using the real equipment and giving them a calming but purposeful learning environment," she said.

Rockland St Mary School are trailing a new teaching approach with its younger children allowing them

Rockland St Mary School are trailing a new teaching approach with its younger children allowing them to play with real household items and tools to enhance their real world experiencesTeacher Zoe MarsdenByline: Sonya DuncanCopyright: Archant 2019 - Credit: Sonya Duncan

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"It is about creating links. For example if they use a real teapot and drop it off the table it will smash whereas with a plastic one it won't, or if you're cutting real fruit it could start a conversation about healthy eating.

"Even our dressing up clothes are adults' clothes and shoes, not princess outfits. Some of our children have just turned four and want to clomp about in mummy's shoes so why not give them real ones rather than plastic ones? They can reenact what they see in real life."

Rockland St Mary School are trailing a new teaching approach with its younger children allowing them

Rockland St Mary School are trailing a new teaching approach with its younger children allowing them to play with real household items and tools to enhance their real world experiencesTeacher Zoe MarsdenByline: Sonya DuncanCopyright: Archant 2019 - Credit: Sonya Duncan

She added: "It is not an anti-plastic movement - it is anti-pretend things."

The school's sponsor, Sapientia Education Trust, has supported it to implement the new approach - which is already reaping benefits.

Mrs Marsden said the children were more focused and that the new approach was having a positive impact on other areas of their development.

She added: "In the curiosity approach they talk a lot about the environment being the third teacher.

"As children are exploring they are making links that pretend things don't give them. If you give a child a plastic house or plastic kitchen, you are directing the play for them."

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