Exploring the possible ways items can be used in the preschool classroom

The beginning of a new preschool year is just less than a week away for me and so I have been putting into place all the final pieces before school begins. One thing I am not short on this year is lots of creative ideas for open ended play in my centers….

I have tried to think outside of the box and anytime I have come across something that is affordable and might be interesting for children to explore, I pick it up. I don’t always know exactly what I will do with the items but I usually have some idea of what I would like to try…

Because school is getting ready to start, I have seen lots of these cork boards for sale and so I bought a few. I thought I would use them for one of my walls but then decided they would make a great tool for play…

My nephew, Wy, is a great help when it comes to figuring out what will work or not work once school begins. WY is kind of like my “center tester”. Once he starts to play with something, I can begin to evaluate whether the center will be manageable or interesting or in much need of tweeking. I also can see where I need to proceed with caution 🙂 …

Wy loved sticking the over sized tacks into the cork boards. The tacks are so big though that I had to put two cork boards together so the tack would stand up nicely once he pushed it through the boards. Wy liked looking at tacks from all angles as he pushed them through the boards…

Wy also liked feeling the pointed end of the tack. Before letting Wy have the tacks, I sat down with him and showed him how the ends were sharp and would hurt if he poked himself. Wy was very intrigued by the pins and played with them very responsibly..

What I learned from this activity is not to put out too many tacks at one time and to set them out on a tray rather than in a jar. When we would reach into the jar, it was hard not to get poked. By having out too many, it was hard to keep track of one that might have fallen on the floor.

This is definitely a must do activity but a must “proceed with caution” activity too! This is something I wouldn’t just set out and then totally walk away from. Instead, I would want to check in to make sure no tacks are on the floor and that the children are using them in a safe way…

After Wy got the hang of putting the tacks in the cork boards, then I sat out some rubberbands. I showed Wy how to stretch them across the boards and wrap them around a tack. Wy spent quite awhile exploring this process….

For now, Wy is still exploring all the new materials I have been preparing for preschool. This will be what most of my students will need to do as well. Wy wasn’t interested in making patterns with the pins or making shapes with the rubber bands. His focus was solely on exploration…

I am very excited to introduce all the things I have prepared over the summer to the children next week. I wont bombard them with it all at one time and I wont structure the materials into any formal learning plan. Instead, what the children will need to do is learn about the things that are in their classroom and then we will go from there…

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By |2011-08-17T02:10:32+00:00August 17th, 2011|

About the Author:

Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. has been working and teaching in the field of early childhood education for over 30 years. Deborah currently owns and teaches in her own part-time, private preschool called The Children’s Studio. Deborah’s deep passion for teaching and working with young children is documented and then graciously shared with millions of readers around the world through her blog and other social networking communities. Deborah believes that young children learn best through play and exploration and embraces this belief in all that she does in her own classroom so that she can effectively and passionately share rewarding, real- life, tried-and-true practices with other teachers, parents, and leaders across the field of early childhood education.


  1. Scott August 17, 2011 at 8:07 am - Reply

    This looks like fun…and it’s an idea I haven’t seen before.

    (And it’s a little “dangerous”! Always appealing to those boys.)

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. August 17, 2011 at 9:02 am - Reply

      Yes – a little danger is appealing for sure!!

  2. Nadia August 17, 2011 at 10:38 am - Reply

    I wish I could find the jumbo push pins here in South Africa. This child looks like he is really enjoying the activity and concentrating so hard. My daughter would LOVE this. I tried previously but I dont think my push pins were of a good quality. They kept breaking UGH.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. August 17, 2011 at 1:20 pm - Reply

      Yes – these are very sturdy pushpins. You don’t want to step on them! LOL!

  3. Amy August 17, 2011 at 11:32 am - Reply

    There is a center similar to this at our local Discovery Museum. Instead of using tacks they use golf pins and a board with holes in it. If you wanted to take the risk factor out that would be a good substitution but would preserve the point of the activity 😀

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. August 17, 2011 at 1:19 pm - Reply

      I have seen that Amy – I was thinking about putting something together like that too. I think Wy liked the “risk factor” and he did quite well but for days when I don’t like the “risk factor” this would be a good alternative:)

  4. Andrea August 17, 2011 at 12:52 pm - Reply

    I love this! And this is why I love coming to your blog – always such interesting ideas. I will have to keep this in mind for the days I have my assistant in my classroom!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. August 17, 2011 at 1:18 pm - Reply

      LOL – it is a good idea to have that assistant helping out with this one!

  5. Natalie August 17, 2011 at 10:56 pm - Reply

    Love that they can make their own geoboards! We do a similar fine motor activity that we call push-pin art. We have small pieces of paper and/ or sentence strips on the carpet and they can push the pins in the paper to make names, designs… We also have out clip boards and writing utensils in case they want to draw it first. They think it’s magic when they place it up the the window.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. August 17, 2011 at 11:22 pm - Reply

      Great ideas Natalie! I will keep them in mind this year for more to do in my class 🙂

  6. Patricia August 18, 2011 at 1:19 pm - Reply

    The risk factor is too scary for me, but what do you think about using the jumbo push pins and gluing them in place? I’ve seen DIY boards done elsewhere on the Internet, but using nails, but those push pins are so colorful.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. August 18, 2011 at 6:11 pm - Reply

      If you want the pins to not be moveable – then you could certainly glue them in place. Just keep thinking out of the box!

  7. Lisa February 11, 2012 at 10:53 am - Reply

    when i was in grade school we were given a small square of wood embedded with nails. the nails were arranged to form a grid, and teacher gave us rubber bands in a similar fashion. we learned about squares, rectangles, trapezoids… etc. etc.

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