During Play-Based Centers the objects at each center are referred to as “materials,” and not as “toys.” There are two reasons for this.
First, most items at the centers would not actually be categorized as toys. For example, magnifying glasses, scissors, dry erase markers, yoga mats, and books are not usually labeled as toys. The word “materials” better encompasses the wide range of objects that might be used during PBC.
The second reason that the term “materials” is recommended, is simply because the word “toys” has a common association with experiences that are frivolous and have no value or purpose. This bias is especially true in schools, where it sometimes feels like every minute is scheduled and every experience must have a defined objective and predetermined purpose. As though no learning is possible unless it has been planned ahead and rigidly controlled by an adult. (Yes, this is sad but true. And better left to another blog post. . .)
Consider these two sentences that describe the exact same action:
- Mari played with toy flowers at the Imagination Center, during our daily playtime.
- Mari explored with materials at the Imagination Center, during our daily PBC block.
See the difference? The words we choose matter. And unfortunately, until the play-instinct is better recognized and valued in education, we must choose our words carefully or jeopardize the credibility of our efforts.
At the Imagination Center, where students have created a Florist Shop, Mari carefully arranges silk roses. And yes, to Mari they smell just as sweet, whether we call them toys or materials.
Play on, my friends!