Open Ended Materials



These pictures were taken on one Friday. Entire Lin Learning Center crew got involve making ice igloo. With Anna’s guide, Vera and Weiam were harvesting ice. Paul and Louis were cutting or shaving ice into shapes. Felice and Spencer mend or patched any wholes. Jonathan and Andrea pinpointing the area that needed patching. Michelle were finding the decoration for igloo.


Open Ended Materials

Children develop power when they build individual relationships with materials. When children have the chance to notice, collect, and sort materials, and when teachers respond to their ideas, the children become artists, designers, and engineers.” Weismann Topal, coauthor with Lella Gandini of Beautiful Staff


We presented to the children many different natural or manufactured material found in the home or outside, such as sea shells, pine cones, bubble wrap, pipe cleaners, and toilet paper rolls. To help the children in sorting these items, we read the book Sort It Out by Barbara Mariconda to see how Packy the Packrat organized her things into so many different categories. For example, in the story Packy discovered a string bean couldn’t be sorted in a green, nature, food, flexible, or long category.

The children were very excited about this activity! They were familiar with some of the materials, but many they had never seen before. This activity promotes literacy as we prompted the children to describe the objects and express their observations. What do you think these materials are used for? Is this item flexible or rigid? Is this thing found it nature or is it manmade? Is this plastic or metal?


Uncertainty of these materials provide children with freedom or unlimited possibility of building things. And because of these uncertainty, children really have to play with materials and understand what each materials can be used. Playing around with these materials, children becomes like scientists who are constantly conducting experiments, testing ideas, and building their understanding of the world according to National Creative Center for Aging.

Knowing your materials is the absolute basis for both science and art. You have to use your hands and your eyes and your whole body to make judgements and see potential.” The Having of Wonderful Ideas: And Other Essays on Teaching and Learning by Eleanor Duckworth

Many of the children came up with various creations, some fashioned individually and others in groups. Often the students’ creations inspired each other and they would copy each other or come up with something that worked even better. Also, they discussed among each other how to improve their creations.


Andrea has created spider, over the cradle hanging toy for the baby and a person.

Omar has created dumb bell.

Louis has created sea monster.

Paul has created pirate ship.


Sophia has created miniature animals and their stage.

Spencer has created a sling shot


Vera has created a bow and arrow.


Feliche, Omar and Spencer together they have created a marble run. A lot of discussion, trial error and also input from Paul helped to make a run where marble doesn’t fall off and stay on the track.

Andrea and Spencer together, they created a basket ball court.

Feliche was trying to create a car that moves on life saver candy wheel.

Julia was trying to create a hot air ballon.


Weiam and Vera together, they created artificial a snow machine.

As teachers, we made an observation that when one child stated his frustrations about not being able to create what he wanted, many of the children encouraged him with comments such as, “New inventions are made that way. It takes trial and error. You just have to keep going.” They understood their peer’s troubles and supported him. Together they recognized persistence is the key ingredient for creation.


  1. Sort It Out by Barbara Mariconda
  2. Beautiful Stuff by Weismann Topal and Lella Gandini
  3. Ashley Bryan’s Puppets: Making Something from Everything
  4. The having of Wonderful Ideas: And Other Essays on Teaching and Learning by Eleanor Duckworth

One thought on “Open Ended Materials

  1. These kids are so creative,and all the inventions are amazing! You can never know what’s going on in their minds and what they may create next time.
    I’m proud of the kids!

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