unconventional containers

Christina Kerns Unverferth‎, LSP teacher at Overland Park, KS, used colored tape in an activity to help students sort objects by color and learn shapes.

Using creative and unconventional containers is one way to implement the Reggio Emilia philosophy in the classroom. Adults may think of a container as something that merely holds objects, but children see containers as part of the activity or something to build with. Containers, when used properly, can help invite children to engage with objects and spark their imagination. They can build with containers or use containers to sort objects by color or shape.

Cathy Harmon, education and safety coordinator at Little Sunshine’s Playhouse & Preschool™, said different kinds of containers are beneficial in helping engage children in further exploration.

“That’s what I think about when I think of Reggio Emilia- having different types of objects available to let students freely explore with their creativity and imagination,” Cathy said. “The Reggio Emilia philosophy emphasizes the teacher is there to observe and ask questions about what the child is doing and what the child is envisioning with their creation rather than directing the activity.”

The best kinds of containers allow children to see what is inside them, inviting the child to engage with the objects they contain. Students can even make their own containers as part of a classroom activity.

“I love it when the children can see learning where we can’t. I learn from THEM through Reggio [Emilia]. I set this up as a general cognitive/fine motor provocation. We turn around, and they are using the pieces like instruments and making music!” – Janie Sheehan, LSP teacher at Lakeway, TX

“I like the idea of containers made by children because they can help create elements in their own environment, which enables children to feel a more personal connection to their community as well as develop a sense of accomplishment when they and their peers use their creations,” Cathy said.

Some terrific examples of creative and unconventional containers can be taken from Little Sunshine’s Playhouse (LSP) teachers where the Reggio Emilia philosophy is being implemented daily. Leslie Bauer, a teacher at LSP in Southlake, TX, uses muffin tins to sort objects during a classroom activity. Nicole Pierro, a teacher at LSP in The Woodlands, TX, uses refillable, versatile window blocks to sort loose parts.

Need help selecting containers for your classroom? Check out the 4 Cs of Container Selection. The post also shares some ideas for DIY containers that can be tied in to a classroom activity.

We would love to see your own creative and unconventional container ideas. Feel free to share in the comments or tag #LittleSunshinesPlayhouse on Facebook or Instagram.

window box containers

Photo by Nicole Pierro, LSP teacher at The Woodlands, TX

picture frame containers

Central Michigan Child Development Lab Center (Mount Pleasant, Michigan)

Photo by Leslie Bauer, LSP teacher at Southlake, TX