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How Does That Work?

This fun activity enables children to be more curious and investigative. It is best suited for smaller groups of older children.

Follow our simple step-by-step guide to have a go at this activity today:

What you will need:

  • Screwdrivers and other tools, suitably sized for little hands.
  • Tuff Spots or trays.

As well as selection of resources which involve some kind of relatively simple mechanism:

  • Old fashioned door bell/shop counter bell
  • Door handle
  • Empty salt/pepper grinder
  • Cafetière (filter mesh removed as these can be quite sharp)
  • Even bigger things like old pushchairs

Preparing the activity:

Lay the items out on the table, on the trays/Tuff Spots (to catch small parts) with the tools nearby, so children can choose what they wish to play with or inspect.

Photo by Gabby K from Pexels

Doing the activity:

Encourage the children to take a look at the items and try to take them apart to see how they work. Some prompting questions such as “What do you think this part does?” may help inspire conversation but keep your input to a minimum to allow the conversation to flow between the children as they discuss the items.

Younger children may need help with the use of tools and manipulating the objects, while older children should be enabled to work things out for themselves. The less input from the practitioner, the better, as the children learn to be inquisitive and exploratory.

Your Early Years should enjoy working out how to take the items apart and finding out how to use the tools; for example, that only certain screwdrivers fit certain holes. There are also multiple opportunities for children to use positional language “this little bit was inside this bit”, descriptive language “this is hard to do”, “this makes a ding noise” and interrogatory language “why doesn’t this come off?”

Tracking the activity:

22-36 months

Personal, Social and Emotional Development: Making relationships: “Interested in others’ play and starting to join in.”

Physical Development: Moving and Handling: “Shows control in holding and using jugs to pour, hammers, books and mark-making tools.; Beginning to use three fingers (tripod grip) to hold writing tools.”

30-50 months

Personal, Social and Emotional Development: Making relationships: “Keeps play going by responding to what others are saying or doing.; Demonstrates friendly behaviour, initiating conversations and forming good relationships with peers and familiar adults.”

Communication and Language: Listening and attention: “Listens to others one to one or in small groups, when conversation interests them.”

Communication and Language: Understanding: “Understands use of objects (e.g. “What do we use to cut things?’); Shows understanding of prepositions such as ‘under’, ‘on top’, ‘behind’ by carrying out an action or selecting correct picture.”

Communication and Language: Speaking: “Beginning to use more complex sentences to link thoughts (e.g. using and, because).; Uses talk to connect ideas, explain what is happening and anticipate what might happen next, recall and relive past experiences.; Questions why things happen and gives explanations. Asks e.g. who, what, when, how.”

Physical Development: Moving and Handling: “Uses one-handed tools and equipment, e.g. makes snips in paper with child scissors.”

40-60+ months

Personal, Social and Emotional Development: Making relationships: “Initiates conversations, attends to and takes account of what others say.; Explains own knowledge and understanding, and asks appropriate questions of others.”

Communication and Language: Listening and attention: “Maintains attention, concentrates and sits quietly during appropriate activity.”

Communication and Language: Understanding: “Responds to instructions involving a two-part sequence. Understands humour, e.g. nonsense rhymes, jokes.; Listens and responds to ideas expressed by others in conversation or discussion.”

Communication and Language: Speaking: “Extends vocabulary, especially by grouping and naming, exploring the meaning and sounds of new words.; Uses talk to organise, sequence and clarify thinking, ideas, feelings and events.”

Physical Development: Moving and Handling: “Uses simple tools to effect changes to materials.; Handles tools, objects, construction and malleable materials safely and with increasing control.; Shows a preference for a dominant hand.”