Young children are fascinated with exploring and the outside environment. One of the most important ways our children learn is by getting out into the world and exploring! Using real objects as toys is a great way to encourage creative exploration. Children of all ages can benefit from – and really enjoy – using real objects as toys, but when children are in the initial stages of learning to identify and name objects, it is especially beneficial. 
Real objects give your child so much opportunity for child-directed exploration and creative play. We all know the typical cardboard box and pots and pans toys that children love, but there are far more options in addition to those! Here are some great examples: 
 
• Tents 
• Tape Measures 
• Magnifying Glasses 
• Mittens/gloves/hats 
• Backpack with school supplies 
• Firewood 
• Old cell phones/cameras/iPods 
• Instruments 
• Tooth brushes 
• Pinecones 
• Spray bottles 
• Tree stump rings 
• Socks 
 
Exploring the world enhances your child’s development and doing so outdoors allows them enough space to use their whole bodies, to work on a variety of scales and to make sense of a wide variety of different materials…without parents telling them no!  
Soil 
Soil is an inexpensive natural play resource and in many settings is readily available. Adding water changes its consistency, making it ideal for squelching hands and feet into! 
Just take a look in your garden, how many worms can you spot? How may bumble bees are landing on the flowers? Can you hear the birds singing? The garden and woods are a paradise for children of all ages! 
Reading stories about outdoor adventures such as The Gruffalo and Jack and the Beanstalk will get their imaginations running wild. Give your child some beans or flower seeds and a magnifying glass. What colour are they? Are all seeds the same? Try planting seeds outdoors and observe them growing. Give your child the responsibility of watering their little part of the garden each day. 
Sand 
Sand can be sprinkled, patted, moulded, dug and poured; dug up and transported from one place to another; or turned into a landscape for small world play and offers multisensory experiences to children as they can immerse their whole bodies when exploring it. 
The sandpit also allows children to play together and collaborate using their social and team working skills. The sandpit is an amazing exploration experience for all children. 
Natural Resources 
From sticks and leaves to rocks and flowers, natural resources offer plenty of opportunities to be used in many different ways. 
Your child will use their imagination so much more with natural resources than manufactured toys, and they also allow your child to understand more about the world we live in. 
 
Collecting different wild flowers, different sized rocks and twigs from trees is fascinating for your child. Build a den from twigs and branches in the woods and pretend to be the three little pigs from the story. Would your den be strong enough to withstand the wolf’s efforts to blow it down? 
 
Please encourage and support your child’s interest to explore the world around us. Give them plenty of time to really explore and make discoveries to help their development and growth. 
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