HQELE Key Element: Materials
Materials: Real-life instruments and tools, genuine artifacts and natural materials that can be used in a variety of ways (including wood, stone, glass, fabric and wire).
The choice of what materials to include in the early childhood classroom reflects the beliefs that teachers hold about children’s capabilities as learners and their own role in provoking and supporting children’s interests. These materials ought to go beyond the traditional items associated with preschool programming (crayons, markers, puzzles, books, dress-up clothes, etc.) and also include collections of interesting objects, loose parts and open-ended materials (5.3 MB PDF) (scraps of paper and cardboard, bits of plastic and fabric, twine and ribbon, buttons, bottle caps, and natural materials such as twigs, leaves, bark, shells and rocks). Children themselves and their families can be invited to offer their own valued materials to the classroom. In turn, teachers can provide the spaces and means of organizing, sorting, classifying and distributing these materials within their classroom in support of a wide range of projects and investigations.
Consider the ways in which the materials you incorporate in your classroom provoke interest ("What’s that?"), create conversations ("What can we do with this?"), affirm culture ("We use this at my house!") and develop competences ("I can do this!"). Create more possibilities in your classroom and you will increase the probability of learning new ideas, concepts and understandings.
The hot spots represented on the panoramic tour represent a sample of this particular Key Element. Explore the Video Clips in this section to learn more.
- Materials Overview
Examples of using a variety of engaging materials within a classroom
Director/ Teachers share examples of material adaptations
- Activity Sample: Crates & Boards
Learning Together with Young Children—A Curriculum Framework for Reflective Teachers
by Deb Curtis & Margie Carter
- Beautiful Stuff: Learning with Found Materials
by Cathy Topal and Lella Gandini (1999). Davis Publications, Inc.
- Assistive Technology Solutions in Minutes Book II: Ordinary Items, Extraordinary Solutions
by Therese Willkomm
- Effects of Play Equipment and Loose Parts on Preschool Children's Outdoor Play Behavior: An Observational Study and Design Intervention
by Maxwell, Mitchell and Evans
- Technology and Interactive Media as Tools in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth through Age 8 (321k PDF)
NAEYC / F. Rogers Position Statement
- Early Childhood Natural Materials
- Let the Children Play - The Use of Natural Materials in the Classroom
- Head Start ECLKC: Loose Parts on the Playground
Learn how to reinvigorate outdoor play spaces while sparking children's creativity. This video and materials promote nature-based learning.
- Preschool Learning Environments: Materials
This online course lesson helps teachers choose developmentally appropriate materials and ensure they are available in the classroom. Includes videos of children at play and how the materials support learning.
Many strategies and elements included throughout this site are applicable to all students and their families. Additional information/resources related to students with disabilities and family engagement can be found within the HQELE Online Tool Overview.
*These slideshow images are being used with explicit permission from MiraCosta College and their families for the sole purpose of the HQELE professional development online tool. All images remain the property of the California Department of Education, Special Education Division, SEEDS Project, A Special Project of the Sacramento County Office of Education and may not be published, exhibited, broadcast, posted on the Internet, sold, traded, shared, or used in any way not specified without the written permission of CDE- SEEDS Project.