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What is this website about?


This is a website about using everyday objects to help children explore, share ideas and have some fun learning new things, without spending much money.


We believe that good teaching, whether at home or in school, does not need expensive resources such as the latest technologies. With a bit of imagination, everyday objects can become ideal teaching aids. And we have known this for centuries. If you want to know more about this see Did You Know? 

Despite the huge efforts to encourage people to recycle, we still waste huge amounts of money on things we never use.

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But the good news is that in every household, you will find things that can inspire children to think and learn. Take a rummage with your child through your attic, in your garden shed, under the staircase or even under the bed.  If you count yourself as among the 3 in 10 Britons who describe themselves as hoarders, you might be quite busy.  Still, a purge is always good for the soul. And you should have some productive fun.  So start digging out those CDs you will never play again (but which are potential mirrors, jewelry boxes and coasters).  

And it is not a myth that children sometimes prefer wrapping paper to the expensive presents that you may have bought them. You can read this article if you want to know why. 

Be honest, which would you choose..

Holiday Presents


Crying Doll

Who is this website for?


The website is intended mainly for the growing number of home educators who face the joys and challenges of trying to enthuse and engage their young children in learning without perhaps a formal teacher training background. Early Years practitioners and teacher educators may also find the website of value. By young children, we are referring to the under-sevens although many of the activities will be enjoyed by older children. 

The Independent, 23 January 2019

Child with Slime

Where do the ideas come from?


Most of the ideas come from our experiences of working with many hundreds of teachers over 25 years, as well as our own suggestions and research. You can read lots more ideas in our book and by visiting the suggested websites in the Find Out More section.

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Where do I begin? 

1. Spend time with your children playing with objects

By playing, we mean... exploring and imagining.  What happens if you add something to the object, or take something away? Or suppose you turn it on its head or look at it up close or far away?  What if you paint it a different colour, change its shape by squeezing or flattening it, or extend/shorten its length?  


Take the humble cardboard box. How many different uses can you think of?  You might be hard-pressed to think of 501


If you want to be imaginative, why not...

  • build the tallest tower out of boxes around the house

  • create a mini-golf course out of cardboard boxes

  • collect small cereal boxes and label with numbers and letters of the alphabet







2. Model learning for children e.g. ask questions

One of the important things you can do as a home educator is to model the skills and attitudes you expect from your children. And so if you want them to be inquisitive, build on their natural curiosity by asking questions aloud. 

You can ask questions about the object's size, shape, age, and so on.  Most important, you can ask questions about the people behind the objects - who uses them, why, and how.


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Cardboard Dog
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And you can use the question stems that journalists use - who, what, where, when, who and how.  If you want to know more about the kinds of questions you can ask, download the pdf file. 

3. Think about how objects can help children's all-round development 

Objects can be used as a stimulus for children's development in many areas, including:

  • language and literacy development e.g. sharing ideas, learning new words, telling stories using natural and artificial objects 

  • mathematical development e.g. counting, sorting and matching, 2D and 3D shapes, measurement, capacity, and volume 

  • physical development e.g. skipping, jumping, throwing, running with/over objects, making obstacle-courses, building towers

  • knowledge and understanding about the world e.g. telling the stories behind people who invented objects, comparing everyday objects from around the world, talking to grandparents about how objects have changed or the equivalent ones they used

  • personal and social development e.g. exploring objects which have special meaning or sentimental value

  • expressive arts e.g. drawing and painting objects, using objects in role-play.







Eagle Shape
Shapes Puzzle

4. Give children feedback on how well they are doing and what they might improve

We know that the right kind of feedback is one of the most powerful ways of improving learning. You can give feedback in an informal way as you are observing or playing alongside your child. Some teachers use what is called the BAG method which you could adopt.

  • Begin with a positive - e.g. 'I like the way you included...'; 'The best part is...'; 

  • Ask your child a question - e.g. 'Why did you choose this?'; 'Do you think you could improve this in any way?' 

  • Give your child a suggestion - e.g.  'Don't forget to...'; 'I think you should...'; 'Next time try to...'

Smiley Pool Balls

5. Explore the outdoor environment 

This may sound obvious, but simply taking children for a walk in the local park or woodland, along the beach, to the supermarket, in the garden, to a museum, gallery or quayside, offers wonderful learning opportunities. Children can experience the sense of natural objects - throwing and catching autumn's leaves, using a magnifying glass to look closely at a spider's cobweb in a winter morning, or splashing water at any time of the year!

Jumping in the Leaves
Splashing Water
Glistening Spider Webs

If you want to know more about using the outdoor environment, you may be interested in our book published by Bloomsbury. 

We welcome feedback on the ideas. You can send any pictures to and we will upload the most interesting in the Gallery section.

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Copyright Notice

If you intend to use any material on this website other than for home use with your children, please seek permission beforehand.


The wonderful sketches on this website have been provided by Les Evans (courtesy of Crown House), whose artwork is used in Teaching on a Shoestring. The photographs have been supplied by Wix.Com unless otherwise stated in the hyperlinks. If inadvertently there is any copyright infringement please contact me.  

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