How to find valuable resources for the Early Years
One of the worst occurrences of the working in the early years is the thought of looking around my setting and feeling bored with the resources that we have available. If I find myself feeling that way then the children must be too and, for me, this is a major red flag. If children are repeatedly using the same stagnant resources time and time again, chances are they are gaining little from it. To avoid this from happening we need to ensure resources are frequently updated and replaced, but how can this be done in a cost-effective and meaningful way?
There is an endless amount of resources available for the early years and it can be a confusing task determining which ones are worthwhile and which ones are less so. When selecting new resources or evaluating old ones, I would say the first thing to ask ourselves is “what are the children really gaining from this?”. Does it tie in to a specific area of learning? Have they used it a lot but can still get more from it, or is it actually rather mundane and we can find something better? Once we have determined these factors it makes it easier to refine our resources.
A good way to ensure your supplies stay interesting and, simultaneously, save the pennies is to rotate the resources in the setting. At my setting we were lucky enough to have quite a large storage room where we could store many resources and rotate them round within the rooms on a regular basis. I think a good timeframe to work with is termly; this way the children should have enough time to explore resources thoroughly and then move on to the next ones. This ensures that, throughout the year, they have a regular supply of new resources which can also link with the children’s ages and become more challenging throughout the year.
Children develop quickly between the ages of 0-5 and what they find stimulating at the start of the year will soon become dull and easy. By dividing up your resources by levels of ability you can guarantee that all age groups will be continuously tested in age-appropriate ways during their time with you. Rotating resources round in this way can also help them last longer as they would be out of the rooms for 2 terms of the year, but also children tend to be more cautious and attentive with new items, later becoming heavier handed and boisterous the more they interact with something. Frequently introducing the children to new items and teaching them how to handle such things will ensure a longer life expectancy for your supplies.
Keeping the environment fresh has many benefits for the children but also for staff. I know just how hard it can be to come up with distinct, yet inspiring, activities using the same old items, it can become extremely tiresome and can even be cause enough for some practitioners to leave. Allowing staff to access new resources can help maintain the spark in their creative thinking and, to be perfectly honest, it is just more fun! In the same way that both adults and children can get bored of the same old toys, adults and children can both benefit from having new ones. We are all just big kids and if we can allow ourselves to enjoy what we do, then why on earth not?! Keeping your staff motivated and giving them the correct tools to do their job will result in a happy team and knowledgeable children.
I appreciate toys and resources do not just appear out of thin air, but sometimes they can. Many parents will have numerous toys at home that are not being utilised and, quite often, they will pass these over to family members, friends or even charity shops. So, by communicating with them and letting them know that handing them in to your setting is an option, more supplies can be acquired for free.
Another way of gaining resources is to implement any extra funding in an advantageous way. Whether this is extra finance for SEND children or the income from EYPP funding, we can use these in clever ways which will not only benefit the children receiving the funding but also any future children with similar needs. By thinking outside the box, we can obtain items which are multipurpose and get much more use out of them. For example, this could be a toy which helps with both physical and literacy development, or one assisting sensory and fine motor skills combined; the idea is to try and get more ‘bang for your buck’, which will help the children with complex needs in the present and the future.
Just like everything else, children’s resources change as the years go by and this does not mean that we always need to have the latest, and greatest, items. Instead, we should keep on top of what we have within our settings and see if they are still relevant to the children’s learning. There is no harm in getting rid of well-used but maybe outdated toys and bringing in fresh and more relevant ones. Remember - if we are feeling bored, the children probably are too.
How do you ensure resources stay relevant in your setting? Join the conversation and share your ideas using the hashtag #mynurserylife.