Thursday, July 10, 2014

Drool-worthy Reggio Inspired Products

What is Reggio-Inspired? When it comes to products for the classroom, Reggio-inspired means sustainable, aesthetically pleasing toys that encourage children to be creative and use the items many different ways.  This list includes some of my favorite products for the classroom, it also includes some toys that I would love to have...if money wasn't an issue.  Reggio-inspired doesn't mean expensive, on the contrary rather, Reggio principles encourage using what you have available and re-purposing, but many of the products on this list are handmade and very high quality.  This means that they are often worth the price because they will outlast years and years of students, which is not something that I can say for their mass-produced counterparts. In keeping with Reggio Philosophy (creativity, and hands-on), all of these products can be found on Etsy.


The first two items on my list are from Smiling Tree Toys. To be honest, I could've created an entire wishlist from their store.  Everything is gorgeous, engaging, and all of their materials offer opportunities for differentiation, which increases the value because they can be used for a number of years to practice many different skills.  In the end I chose the Smiling Moon Balancer and the 22 Piece Math Block Set.

The Smiling Moon Balancer is an awesome problem solving activity. Children have to figure out how to make the circle blocks balance on the top of the moon while it is rocking.  Very young children can explore cause and effect by trying to figure out how to balance the moon on it's own, and then make it rock back and forth.  Older children can see how high they can balance the circles, and how many different ways they can place the circles to successfully complete the puzzle.

My favorite thing about the 22 Piece Math Block Set is that each number block also has the corresponding number of shapes on the opposite side, so that even young children can count the shapes and figure out what the number is.  The fact that this set includes mathematic symbols needed for creating equations makes this set perfect for older children who are just beginning to add and subtract, as well as for children who have experience with equations, but need a more tactile activity to engage them in math practice. 

This Vermont Branch Block Building Set from the Vermont Branch Company is one of my favorite things. Ever. I have a set made from locally sourced wood (read: someone cut down a tree and I got the pieces) and my students LOVE them.  Their shape makes them different from typical wooden preschool blocks - which are generally rectangular and triangular.  Using cylinders introduces an entirely new set of building challenges.  The flat pieces can be turned into nearly anything by a child's imagination - the most popular creations in my classroom are pens for zoo animals and plates to eat dinner off of.

Speaking of animals... Oh. My. Goodness.  Are these not the cutest things you have ever seen?! These animals are from Mielasiela and I think I want to play with them just as much as my students would.  I have a problem with plastic animals from the toy store, they do not hold up to the beating that young children can inflict. After one or two uses the animals have no noses, are missing feet, and the paint is wearing off.  That can make for a pretty sad looking zoo, and children don't like to play with toys that look old and worn.  This would not be a problem with these animals.  The beauty of wooden toys is that dings and scratches add character, without taking away from the aesthetic value of the toy.

Another shop that I love is Busy Being Me.  I could buy everything.  These Wooden Peg Dolls are perfect for block play and dramatic play, AND they're multicultural.  The lack of expression and gender allows children to fully create any story or scenario that they can imagine, without being influenced by the way the doll looks.

I would love to hear about some of your favorite children's toys. Stay tuned, because next week I'm going to share my never-ending list of favorite natural items and loose parts to use in the classroom!

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