Christmas trash to early years treasure

December 30, 2017

As 2017 finally draws to a close, we often find ourselves looking to the new year and starting to think of all the new things that we want to add to our early years settings. The internet and papers are full of sale offers and when we return next week the new resources catalogues will be falling onto our door mats (if they haven’t already given the postman a hernia!!)


Before Christmas there was much made in the press of the impact of glitter on the environment yet we will still all probably be throwing away loads of materials from the big day that could be repurposed, recycled or reused. After this month of celebration and excess, there is much that we can do with the remnants of the festive period to enhance and enable our settings for the potential of play, exploration and learning. I decided this year  to gather up some of the many piles of  this "stuff" from around my house and attempt to find new and exciting uses for it all. I have been amazed at how much I have been able to liberate from both the bin and the recycling box!






Every year I see appeals on social media for advice on how to recycle the millions of Christmas cards we all collect. Shops line up to offer boxes to offload your stash, yet early years seems the most natural place to recycle your cards. If you take away the side written on you are left with a perfect picture postcard for all those notes and letters the children want to send to each other. Smaller pieces can be cut with pinking shears into shapes and tags for even more invitations to write.




I found that unused cards are great for making little books for writing. Folder plain paper up and attach with either staples, string or remnants of Christmas ribbon. I’m working on the basis that the more versions of writing surfaces you can provide the chance there is of getting all your children writing as they play. I also looked at recovering clipboards with unwanted wrapping paper and adding bulldog clips to coffee coasters to make mini clipboards!





Ribbon and bows


The implements of our wrapping are often tossed aside or, like me, left in the bottom of a bag until next year when you forget you have them and go and buy more anyway!! Save all your bows and use as loose parts in setting so that children can sort, match, count, pattern and create with them.



So much maths language can come from exploring something as simple. Offcuts of ribbon again give opportunity for matching, measuring and sorting as well as exploring shape and colour. A basket of different coloured, widths and lengths of ribbon can act as a really engaging resource all year long.





Beads and baubles


Its worth remembering that children learn best with what they know and therefore having Christmas materials available for exploration after the big day is a great way of allowing them to revisit the events they have experienced in recent weeks. Keeping a selection of Christmas baubles is a great way of adding the potential for maths language and learning with a mathematical twist and there is no reason why they have to be taken away just because it’s January. Or why not try adding your baubles to a shiny shelf or a sparkle and shine area for lots of reflection, light and dark exploration?




Lengths of christmas beads are readily available in sales at this time of year if you cant get away with liberating them from the decoration box. Initially they are brilliant for encouraging cutting skills with children and then the remnants are brilliant as loose parts for transient art, maths exploration and measuring month after month. I particularly like using lengths of beads in water play to add a fine motor and co-ordination element to the play.




Boxes and bags


Don’t throw away all those present boxes and bags. They are exciting and engaging ways of exploring size, shape and capacity in play and brilliant for encouraging enclosing and transporting schemas in our young children.

Keeping your packets and boxes from all the food you have bought and consumed is a great way of adding “real” text to your home play provision and gives children a good way to “read” familiar texts as well as recreating the cooking process in their play.



Gravy tubs and coffee tins are really good for adding in a few loose parts for an extra dimension to home play. Don’t forget to add in some full tins (without ring pulls) for talk about weight and size.




Even those bigger boxes and the wrapping paper tubes can be turned into an exciting structure for exploring scooping, pouring and tipping with pasta, rice or sand. Great for building hand-eye co-ordination and problem solving. Build yours as a stand alone or as an addition to your sand tray.




Make sure you keep the extra tubes to add to your block play provision as another open-ended resource for exploration.



Bits and bobs


And finally, don’t forget all those other extra bits and bobs that can be added to loose parts or creation stations for additional  excitement and creativity. Save Sellotape, tinsel, paper chains, sticky labels, tissue paper, mine pie tins, gift tags and ties, pompoms, pegs and packing straw or paper. Just try to remember that what is most peoples trash is our treasure ……and is free!!! Now I don’t think we can knock that in these times of austerity and tight belts (not just because of the mince pies!). Get writing your list of things for parents to donate and ask away…..if you don’t ask you will never get!!! Happy New Year everyone. 😊




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