We have an old bakers table that we use in the kitchen for just about everything. It’s used for family meals, hosting guests, extra workspace and sometimes even baking. It serves as a gathering place for the house. Like many bakers table it has a drawer, probably meant to keep baking supplies, but ours is used for just about everything. We keep a deck of cards in there, a connect four game as well as a Scooby-Doo themed “who am I?” game left over from a happy meal years ago. It has a few more junk drawer standards: paper, pens, scissors, glue, paperclips, odd buttons, string etc. and it has a rotating collection. Years ago, my mother told me to hide random interesting things in strange places around the house to be “discovered” by my daughter. She told me the finding of interesting things in nooks makes them far for interesting than being given things. Perhaps she learned about it from architect Simon Nicolson’s proposal of “loose parts” to inspire creative play (1972). In our junk drawer I stash all manner of things, these are not particularly thought out- they are found items. For example, in fall it might contain chestnuts and pine cones picked up from a walk. It might have a collection of wrapping paper odds and ends from Christmas in January. Or it could contain a jumble of coins or beads. It’s rare that I purchase something for the collection, its almost always literally junk. But the junk comes alive on the table. I think everyone in the house pulls the drawer open and finds something to play or rather create with.
The big trend at the moment is fidget spinners, but honestly I’m not a fan. I prefer the drawer, encouraging creative fidgeting, with playdough or the construction of something from the miscellaneous items while talking or listening to whatever conversation is happening at the table. Most Reggio inspired classrooms use this technique. These classrooms are equipped with shelves full of miscellaneous building materials that can be used and re-used for imaginative play and building. Good loose parts collections have three key features: they have no predetermined use, they are accessible without permission and they change regularly so to there is always something new to imagine.
So throw away your fidget spinner and open your junk drawer- you probably have a world of creative play in there.